In terms of symphonic death metal Italy has FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE. Greece has SEPTIC FLESH and now it seems France has the energetic, bombastic and fun EXANIMIS. Here they have channelled the spirit of those that came before, and blended it with equal parts Batman Returns and The Lord Of The Rings to create an experience like no other.
Marionnettiste (English: Puppeteer) begins with Prélude du Songe Avant le Cauchemar (English: Prelude to the Dream Before the Nightmare). Prélude is a staggeringly beautiful piece that seems almost more at home elsewhere. As an introduction to the album it does it’s job well but to only consider it as an introduction would be doing it a huge unkindness. Within the confines of it’s two minute and five second run time there exists some intricately beautiful melodies and beautifully simplistic themes. A dream exists and you are bound by the magic of adventure before all turns sour and a great foreboding form comes for you. And then…
Behold The Wrathful Beast! Shaking and turning, it bounds into your presence with intent for angered violence and wicked revenge. Listening to the rhythm of this track is like being repeatedly punched. It’s brutal but in such a way that it feels like whatever means to cause you harm is doing so in a very real, animalistic way – taking a moment to breath and rest before the assault begins again.
And then we approach The Throne of Thorns. A grand and menacing and pained track. Each note in the solo feeling laboured, pained, and so much more but crucially aspiring to be great. But what we hear next is something of an incredible nature, The Stampede of the 10000.
A single galloping force pulsates and strikes. The air around them becomes heavy and thick, oppressing your desire to breathe freely before they pause and they are addressed. This song seems to be very much inspired by the Uruk-Hai army from PETER JACKSON’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Even going so far as to use a quote from it within the song. The band cites HOWARD SHORE as an influence and here it becomes readily apparent. Long drawn out strings, emphasis on bursts of vocals from the choir and whilst keeping you spellbound really closes in around you.
I could gush on further about every song on this album but there’s one I must address in depth.
Cathedral begins as an almost sweetly played religious lament but this is not to last. Slow twisting and mighty spires raise themselves to the sky, built out hellish chords and heavenly vocals. A reckoning is due, and this is that reckoning. Confess your sins now for a moment may be too late. This dear reader is a sermon of fire and brimstone, it is a baptism of blood and a communion of the underworld. Do not misunderstand me, this is not like technical death metal, or brutal death metal. No, instead this worked its way inside me like black tendrils examining every misdeed I ever did. I think that the most apt description I can give of this songs at moments is “waterboarding by means of devotion”. A break occurs and then something magical happened for me.
I’ve been insufferable with my love of the Dark Souls series of games, often likening things to it and for that I apologise but this time… This time…
A quote from Dark Souls 3 appears.
“But what do you really know about these Lords of Cinder, these supposed legends?
Let’s take Aldrich, for one.
A right and proper cleric, only, he developed a habit of devouring men.
He ate so many that he bloated like a drowned pig, then softened into sludge,
so they stuck him in the Cathedral of the Deep.
And they made him a Lord of Cinder. Not for virtue, but for might.
Such is a lord, I suppose. But here I ask. Do we have a sodding chance?“
And then it becomes clear why I’ve become so captivated. They’ve tapped into the spirit of a series that I hold in such high regard, that I have written about helping me cope with anxiety and depression and made it come to life in a new and interesting way.
I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a contender for my album of the year, it’s brilliant.
A EXANIMIS, mes félicitations
Words: Jacob McCrone
Marionnettiste is out now.
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