Hey, cool idea, just throwing it out there -- how about a metal band with Colin Stetson's sax and Greg Fox on drums? Sounds wacky, let's do it. The definitely cacophonous Ex Eye are an instrumental quartet dual wielding its member's signature mix of elegiac and aggressive compositional work, and their debut is exceedingly likely to stomp down on your heart.
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Some records just decide they’re going to blow you away, and ‘Ex Eye’ is chief among them. Predisposed to its magnitude via an indelicate combination of brutal saxophonist Colin Stetson, experimental drummer Greg Fox, plus legendary artists Shahzad Ismally and Toby Summerfield, this record begins in a valley and climbs the mountains. It’s huge and passionate, but most significantly, it is a decidedly metal concoction.
Makes sense. Given Stetson’s recent, earth-scorching trajectory, this record could only have been one thing. Having recently crafted an ensemble reimagining of Gorecki’s lamenting ‘Sorrow’ -- with Ismally and Fox counted amongst his number -- Stetson has made a point of turning his classical virtuosity towards noise and black metal. With his auto-navigated circular breathing coming alongside a wind torrent of teeth-sinking guitar riffs, mechanical synths and Fox’s immensely technical drumming, ‘Ex Eye’ sounds off as calibrated euphoria.
Stetson trills and trembles his way through “Opposition / Perihelion” against Ismally’s fanfaring synth and Summerfield’s oscillating chug, the band collapsing as a unit onto Fox’s huge hits -- it sounds both gnarly and exhibitionist, the band proving how loudly and proudly they can assemble and crash. Their dynamics are impeccable -- they move through swathes of doom and black metal on “Anaitis Hymnal” while sparing room for an almost symphonic backdrop, their slow ceremonies climaxing with destructive gusts of sound.
If you’re wondering whether or not a saxophone can surmount the extremities of metal, may I kindly ask you to google Stetson’s saxophone? It’s very big. The march of “Anaitis Hymnal” is met with devastating roars of his bass, emulating the sound of a human voice in mourning. It’s a unique, unprecedented sound many listeners are by now used to, but here it’s met with three ferocious players who make every moment as intense as the last, creating techy music so full of life you wonder how anyone could think to make it from mathematics.
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