REVIEW: From Concept to Chronicle – Ex Animo [2016]

Ex Animo

Artist: From Concept to Chronicle 

Album: Ex Animo


The process of creating music gets taken for granted on a daily basis—if you don’t believe me, bear with me for a second. It takes one (or often times, many) individuals working in harmony with their surroundings just to give birth to an idea—an abstract, fleeting principle. Before it diffuses, the artist—or artists—much grasp it, wrenching down with a vice-grip and conform it to their whims. They must take an idea and break it down, just to rebuild it with notes and rhythm, making sense out of strife and noise. The end process is just as much a living, breathing thing as the men and women that craft it. Perhaps this is where From Concept to Chronicle draw their name—as they begin with a goal; dissonant, frantic progressive metalcore and strive to accomplish it over the course of twelve tracks. Ex Animo, while lengthy and densely packed with driving, powerful music is a testament to the process of creating an album—both the good and the not-so-good, as these Twin Cities Titans make a full, fun album that hits several highs, but does trip itself up in the process.

Instrumentally, From Concept the Chronicle’s Ex Animo sounds like a collaboration between Norma Jean and After the Burial. Blending punchy progressive aspects with raw, frantic chaos, this quintet successfully craft their own style in a sea of sound-alike peers. Percussionist Chad Illikainen serves as a steady heartbeat and strong spine for the band’s guitarists, giving steady, strong patterns that neither steal the show nor sound underwhelming. From the first punishing groove of “Nuntius,” throughout the scalding, heavyweight anthem “Dead Weight,” Illinkainen plows forward like a steamroller, keeping things simple and effective, working with bassist Walter Crisp to create a fluid, bouncy low end that occasionally deviates into spastic, snappy fits (“Extremist” highlights this). For a band with so much of their influence coming from juggernauts of progressive metalcore, one might accuse Crisp’s bass playing of being a bit low-key—as, indeed, he rarely is audible above the colorful crash of Illinkainen’s cymbals and the fretwork from guitarist Mitch Sierra. Where Crisp might stick to the background, Sierra does no such thing, dominating tracks like “A Calling” and the instrumental “Ignotorum.” While Sierra does a solid job keeping the heat high on the listener, his chugs and grooves often stray into monotonous territory. Moments where Sierra lets loose furiously fretted riffs and more technically-prominent passages are good, bordering on great—but his breakdowns quickly become predictable, perhaps in part to Illinkainen’s relatively mundane percussion. Overall, Sierra is no doubt a talented guitarist—and Illinkainen and Crisp are by no means bad—but eleven lengthy tracks and an intro just seem too long to keep the listener fully invested in the band’s instrumental efforts.

Where From Concept to Chronicle’s musicianship leaves a little to be desired—especially in the way of variety—the band’s vocal element is much tighter. Frontmen Cory Gazda and Tyler Nelson attack the listener with a strong dual-vocal dynamic that even features clean vocals from guitarist Sierra from time to time. Gazda and Nelson—aided by an army of guest appearances (including The Color Morale’a Garret Rapp)—take turns annihilating the listener with screeching highs and roaring lows, keeping patterns fresh and engaging while also keeping the listener on the edge of their seat when it comes to styles and ranges employed by the dynamic duo. While several songs see the duo’s high screeches mixed a touch too loudly, a majority of the tracks are tasteful—especially the one-liner filled “Dead Weight” (which fans of early deathcore and metalcore will no doubt love). Sierra’s clean vocals—while a rarity—follow a similar theme, showing up only when they are needed. True enough, they falter at times, but never to a point where they are cringeworthy (with “Product of Your Design” coming closest). Overall, the band’s greatest strengths come from their vocal arrangement, pulling through with variety that the band’s musicians can’t quite seem to mirror.

The single biggest pitfall likely falls on Ex Animo’s length; while the rough and gritty production isn’t doing them any favors, the album’s almost-an-hour run time is just too much. By the time “Dead Weight” is done, the listener is right there with it, ready to put the release to sleep. While the band still manage to pull some punches to keep the listener awake during the last couple songs, one can’t help but keep a careful eye on the clock, watching the numbers run down. On a track-by-track basis, however, From Concept to Chronicle are enjoyable and unique, providing a new take on progressive metalcore, replacing clean, smooth tones with grit and crunch, adding plenty of dissonance to the mix. No doubt that creating an album is a taxing process—especially one this long. While the band make some missteps, they ultimately come out with a solid release that becomes better when picked apart and enjoyed in a more diffuse manner—meaning anyone who is withdrawing from thall (with-thalling) can definitely get a fix from this five-piece.



For Fans Of: After the Burial, Structures, Evergreen Terrace, Upon a Broken Path

By: Connor Welsh