Jun 082022

(On June 17th Unique Leader Records will unleash a new album by the French technical death metal band Exocrine, and in advance of that we present DGR‘s extensive review.)

French tech-death group Exocrine‘s 2020 release Maelstrom landed pretty hard with me here at the site. Up to that point the group’s albums had always been a particular highlight of the given year of their release but Maelstrom really felt like the stars aligning for them. Their combination of head-spinning songwriting and sheer musical heft mixed well with the group’s experimentation throughout the album with varying synth lines, clean backing vocals, occasional brass and trumpet section solos for scene-setting, and atmospheric works, which oftentimes was more excessive than necessary.

It all worked for Maelstrom though, and made that album into an adventure, more than just the latest headspinner from a group known for making headspinners. Once you reached “Wall Of Water” on that album, you’d essentially reached the top of the roller-coaster and were now ready to accelerate downhill into whatever Exocrine had in store for you. That’s why the announcement of the group’s newest album, The Hybrid Suns – nearly two years later – was an exciting one.

Even though they’re a musical whirlwind, the core of Exocrine is as reliable as you can get, which is why part of the adventure of diving into each album is seeing how they accentuate the already blindingly fast and relentless music within, what they’ve chosen to carry over between albums, and what, in the case of The Hybrid Suns, may have been left behind.

Long-time listeners of the band may be interested to know that The Hybrid Suns shares more with the group’s third album Molten Giant than it does with its immediate predecessor. You’ll hear it from the start but Exocrine are making a concerted effort on The Hybrid Suns to avoid just creating a direct sequel to Maelstrom. So a lot of the elements that made up that album aren’t evident here. A lot of the more off-the-wall insanity of that album has been left to the side in favor of ratcheting up the intensity on the musical front.

There’s also more hooks present within The Hybrid Suns, and a few moments where people will note the band channeling fan-favorite “Hayato” from Molten Giant. That doesn’t mean everything got left to the wayside in the two years between albums, because the group will still use whatever weaponry is available to them to create some of the most densely-packed music out there. It’s just that if you enjoyed the strange otherworldly noir crashing headlong into eldritch horror atmospheres the band were playing with in between each song on Maelstrom, those have been replaced with a renewed focus on batshit musicianship.

A few other things that did stick around, surprisingly enough, are the backing clean vocals – in almost the same location song-wise – and the dancing synth lines that seem to dart in and out each song, weaving themselves around the band if a section is leaning too hard into faceless brutality territory.


However, you can still note the similarities between The Hybrid Suns and its older sibling when it comes to how the album flows. Much like Maelstrom before it, The Hybrid Suns doesn’t really plant a solid foot on the ground until its third song. That means that once again we find ourselves with an album that opens with two pretty solid songs but the actual meat of the album comes in the third song on.

Opener “The Hybrid Suns” is like a tech-death masterclass in listening to the Exocrine machine spin up and launch itself into space. It’s full of wall-to-wall groove that makes a hell of a first impression, but it’s a testament to the rest of the material within the album that this song becomes the ‘foundation layer’ of the record, whereas a lot of the overall impression of the disc derives from later tracks. “The Dying Light” brings back the clean-sung vocals that appeared early on within Maelstrom as well, once again placing those within the first two songs of the release.

That second track comes up three seconds short of being the longest song on The Hybrid Suns but “The Dying Light” is four minutes and forty-four seconds of note waterfall. It’s the song where you get to hear how sleek Exocrine can be when they’re not bringing down the weight of a mountainside upon you via bass drum and low tunings. It’s one of a very small collection of songs on the album that reach ‘ethereal’ status at times, given how much high-end is in play.


But let’s be honest, at five albums in, you’re coming to Exocrine for the world-ender songs. The ones that are white-hot and destructive from beginning to end. The inhuman feats of strength that pass by quick enough to leave burned track marks in the ground. That’s what Exocrine have made their bread and butter and that is what The Hybrid Suns has plenty of, especially once you reach songs like “Horns” and early-album highlight “Watchtower”.

“Horns” can be appreciated on a two-fold front; one because it’s got some of the more violent guitar-chugging work in its opening minutes that The Hybrid Suns has on it as a whole, and two, “Horns” actually opens with a big horn blast. The trumpet soloing may be gone but that doesn’t mean the whole orchestra got left behind, not when you can go for a big and apocalyptic brass hit in your opening move a la SepticFlesh.

“Watchtower” is the first song that really gives listeners whiplash though, because up to that point things have been surprisingly traditional for Exocrine. Each song has been an unrelenting bulldozer and while things start to change within “Horns”, “Watchtower” is the neck-snapper since it goes through so many movements so quickly by about the halfway point of the song. The segment resembling a brief chorus with the huge wave of double-bass pedal behind it is almost welcome given just how quickly “Watchtower” clips through everything. That’s the song that’ll catch people by surprise, if just for its opening being the most different thing on display by that point.

It’s hard not to be drawn into a song like “End Of Time” because in an album of relentless songs by a band known for that sort of things, “End Of Time” ascends to a complete other level for its first minute and a half. You’d think the song named “Blast” – which is a glorious reading of the room by song title by the way – would be the one where it sounds like a drumkit is getting the crap kicked out of it for three minutes, but “End Of Time” is mind-boggling in just how much work is done by a hyperactive rhythm section. If things aren’t being kicked clear across the room by that song, the massive groove that makes up the rest of it – save for one brief quiet moment with a tasteful guitar solo – will assure destruction by the end.

When there is discussion about Exocrine doing the most insane and head-spinning thing possible at any particular moment, stuff like what happens within the confines of “End Of Time” or the back half of “Blast”, which goes from the most blindingly technical and oddball shit they could think of into the dumbest breakdown possible, is what is being referenced. Though “Burning Sand” does have a nice opening as well with its acoustic guitar piece.


The Hybrid Suns is one of those releases where you want to talk about every song on it. At nearly thirty-five minutes long and nine songs, the music is as densely packed as Exocrine could make it. While there’s less out of left field than before, there are still just as many head-turning moments, it’s just that most of it happens with the traditional core instrumentation this time. Everything else just amplifies the gigantic wave of sound crashing down upon you.

The Hybrid Suns is a tiny bit more tasteful in its ‘why the fuck not?’ approach to adding stuff to the songs, meaning you have more time to notice just how terrifyingly good the four-piece behind the band in general is. The Hybrid Suns is a little more of a ‘known factor’ this time, but that doesn’t change that Exocrine are still a monstrous band with a massive release on their hands. It’ll just be easier to try and hold on for dear life once the death metal centrifuge spins up and tries and throw you off because there’s less ‘what the hell was that’ going on this time.


  One Response to “EXOCRINE: “THE HYBRID SUNS””

  1. I wish they didnt use female vocals in that second song. It is a grating distraction (and out of tune) to the otherwise good song. Exocrine’s first album was very good.

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