Canadian quintet Expain clearly don’t like genre confines. Their debut album, Just the Tip (Self-Released), takes all your thrash expectations and throws them out the window. Consisting of Daniel Brand (vocals), Eric Morrison & Pat Peeve (guitars), Nikko Whitworth (bass) and Ryan Idris (drums), Vancouver’s Expain bill themselves as “the perfect band for those lovers of shredding guitar solos, lightening-speed kick drums, bloodcurdling vocals and pant-pissing comedy.”
Clearly not bashful, the description isn’t far off. The band have taken elements of pretty much every extreme metal style going and put them in a blender, and the results are pretty unpredictable. There’s lots of jazzy interludes shoe-horned in, but mostly it’s just intricate high octane riffing and furious drumming. There’s too many jumps in style to really pin down Expain, but from the off it is clear that the band are technically very good.
Instrumental opener ‘Bacchus’ feed into the full throttle of ‘Aggression’s Progression’, a headlong charge of melodic shredding with Brand’s rasping screams over the top. ‘Phoenix Writhing’ and ‘Don’t Worry, The Worst Is Yet to Come’ continue the thrash/death/prog chaos with gusto. The melodic interlude of ‘The King’ and jazzier moments that intersperse seemingly at random show the band can change things up, but for the most part Expain are about wedging in as many riffs and solos as possible in as few songs as they can.
While the “everything and the kitchen sink” approach entertains to start with, it grows tiresome before long. Relentless riffs and endless song changes often merge into one, and while Brand’s range of growls and screams are impressive, it does all become grating after a while. There’s nothing wrong with the carnage of ‘Allegiance to Pain’ or the slower ‘Manatee,’ but with so many style and speed shifts in every song there’s little to offer after a few songs.
The band may not be a joke outfit but they have tried to throw in a bit of humour into what they do. It’s easy to have a childish smirk at the album title and the band don’t mind poking fun at metal tropes with some of the other song titles. ‘Eating a Beating Heart’ and ‘Headbang Your Head Off’ are good examples of this, though if the lyrics are meant to be funny the humour’s lost in translation.
With Just the Tip, Expain have shown they’ve got a sense of humour and are a bunch of really technically skilled musicians with a lot of ideas. However they’ve not shown how to write a memorable tune. Still, an impressive debut nonetheless.
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