Australia’s I Exist follow in the tradition of bands like The Birthday Party and The Saints in the sense that they’re dark, morbid and tough-sounding. Their particular idiom, though, is more steeped in American sludge metal and hardcore. The band’s newest record, From Darkness, melds these two influences into a powerful, hard-hitting record that combines metal’s churning riffs with hardcore’s feral intensity while avoiding straying into the dreaded netherworld of metalcore.
For the first song and a half of From Darkness, you might think you were listening to a Terror record: there are blast beats, guttural tough-guy vocals, vicious guitar riffs and a pounding hardcore backbeat. And then, with about a minute left in the second track, “Heal Me In Smoke,” right where the breakdown should be, we’re given an extended treatment of slow, sludgy metal riff. They drag the riff out, grooving hard, pulling the tempo back. You’re left wondering what’s happened and then the third track, “Sorrow on Hill 105,” begins with a mid-tempo swampy riff straight off of Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven before dropping into a melodic (albeit crunchy) chorus, a psychedelic instrumental section and an outro riff which could’ve been lifted off of a Crowbar record before returning to the intro and verse riff.
Like so many of their American peers, I Exist don’t recognize the boundary between hardcore and metal. From Darkness borrows from both—Terror’s frantically violent guitar parts, Integrity’s evil rhythm section, Baroness’ occasional flights of psychedelic fancy and Crowbar or Down’s occasional swamp-drenched sludge. What’s impressive about From Darkness is how convincingly they move between all of these influences without sacrificing coherent arrangement or listenability. I Exist haven’t made a difficult record, just a diverse one. The arrangements have a surprising cohesion despite the disparate influences at play in their songs. The album flows together nicely and they manage to keep their bearings within some of the knottier, shapeshifting tunes. “Eternal Reign” stands out in this regard—a metal song that just hints at some of hardcore or thrash’s hard driving tempos without sacrificing the head-nodding quality of the riffs augmented with a tastefully wah-wah inflected solo.
I Exist manage to avoid the trap of metalcore because, thankfully, they’re proficient musicians with a solid vocalist who knows how to use his throaty bark and his melodic bite (the latter being far more infrequent). The songs have multiple dimensions and are far more intricate than the formulaic-hardcore-with-bigger-amp-stacks-and-bro-out-breakdowns that makes so much modern metalcore unappealing and inauthentic. From Darkness is a solid hybrid metal record that is unafraid to show off its Sick of It All tattoos. It’s an impressive release and highly recommended for fans of any of the aforementioned bands.