Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this evening’s Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Exit to Eden, a compelling four piece rock outfit that released their second studio endeavor earlier this autumn. Released on September 25, the aptly titled ‘II’ is a romp through nine eclectic and rocking tracks, all compiled together beautifully with some elegant press content and materials. Let’s dig right into it.
Now, I’m a sucker for a well-packaged effort. All too often, I’m sent reviews with an ambiguous SoundCloud link and a four line bio. That’s not only a detriment to the artist, but to any critic attempting to dig into their material. Exit to Eden is a breath of fresh air in that sense; their materials are wonderfully organized and intelligently designed. I dramatically enjoyed reading through the album’s liners as I immersed myself in the experience. I think that is something incredibly relevant to an all-encompassing review. Very few artists offer this nowadays and its a luxury well-suited to ‘II.’
Now, though, we can dig into the actual material of ‘II.’ The production of the album is a bit of a double edged sword. For such a complex and layered sound, the group does a masterful job capturing themselves in the studio. The production accentuates the instrumentation incredibly well and I found myself consistently intrigued by its intricacy. Listening to the album on actual studio monitors was a treat. With that said, there are very noticeable areas that said production falters. The angsty opener, ‘Vampire Vice,’ is something inhibited by a production that drowns out the vocals during certain segments, especially choruses. Without those aforementioned liners, I’d have no idea what’s going on.
I particularly like how the band accents the banter between the bassist and guitarist. That’s exemplified on ‘Vampire Vice,’ but definitely noticeable on ‘Fade Away (Sarah Pt. 2.).’ The sound of Exit to Eden isn’t really anything new - There are a lot of bands like this in the indie scene that strive for the dark, gothic-esque sound hinging on metal. The tinges of screamo are apparent through tunes like ‘Fade Away,’ but their sparse, and often backed by more accessible, traditional vocals. I found Exit to Eden’s blend of this ‘goth and roll’ especially likable even though it's nothing brand new, perhaps mostly due to the musical prowess of the compositions.
Throughout ‘II,’ I found myself enamored with the soundscapes the group was creating. The atmospheric ‘The Calling’ is arguably one of the very finest. This brooding, sinister sound is hauntingly provocative. The backing vocals are absolutely stunningly dark. When Bernie, the lead vocalist, (I hate using first names but the group doesn’t market their last names.) dips in and out of the sound, a cacophony of terror ensues. There’s something apocalyptic about ‘The Calling’ and I love that.
‘Neon Sun’ feels accessible, which is a word I’ll use a few times in this review because I think it is pertinent. Many people hear this type of music and turn tail and run. That’s not to say it isn’t good, in fact, it’s great, but it is an esoteric style. Bernie’s Marilyn Manson-esque musings are creepily delightful, embracing classic rock roots and contemporary horror stylings. ‘Lady In Red,’ for example, sounds more like an Alice Cooper song than anything.
It may be worth noting that there couldn’t be a better time to feature this kind of music on the Spotlight. The Halloween season deserves some exceptionally ghoulish music like this. The best song on the entire album, however, isn’t at all like that. ‘Is Suicide A Way?’ is the best song on this whole record. The lyricism of the piece is somewhat sparing, but immensely impactful. Goodness, this song is poignant. The subject toys with suicide as he falls deeper into emotional turmoil and depression. Eventually, though, he climbs out of the hole he’s fallen into with the resolute notion that his lost-love will one day fade, and he’s got a whole bunch to do without her.
‘Face to Face’ is a good romping rocker; I especially like this song for jamming loudly. My studio was really rocking with this tune. Again, I think the likability of Exit to Eden is rooted pretty deeply in their exceptional musical skill. Man, David (Urgh, first names) is one hell of a guitarist. Hernan and Werner, bass and drums respectively, are top notch, too.
Let’s wind this record down to get to a conclusion. ‘Shake Your Hips’ is the best rock song of the bunch. It feels like a rockabilly-infused goth horror piece flying like a bat out of hell. ‘Dreaming Weird’ continues Bernie’s jaunt through emotional crooning, proving his strongest moments are those when he’s whispering softly into the microphone in a dark, scratchy voice.
I’m not a huge fan of this type of music, and often, independent acts embracing it are kitschy and ridiculous self-parodies. Exit to Eden, however, is the real deal. These guys are writing terrific songs that are engaging, fairly accessible for someone like me outside of the clique, and amazingly produced and performed. My only quip the whole record was when Bernie was masked a few times here and there by the instrumentation. So with that said, make sure you don’t depart on this journey without the booklet. It’s a killer little addition to an excellent studio effort.