Belgian death metal epitaph
-- Exoto --
Review written by Stijn “Metal Shredder” Daneels.
[METAL SHREDDER REPORTING]
I’ve known Exoto for about half a decade now ever since their frontman Chris Meynen introduced me to his band back when Exoto was having a big comeback. Since then, I’ve seen the band live a few times and one of our former Shredders had written an interesting review of Exoto’s 2019 EP “Absolution In Death” (read it here: https://www.belgianmetalshredder.be/reviews/152). A few months ago, Chris invited me to check out Exoto’s final album “The Final Festering.” Back then, I was suffering from a major burnout but now that I’m gradually getting back into the Shredding game, I’ve decided to keep my promise to Chris and check out the final release of his beloved band.
“The Final Festering” is the fourth and final album of the Belgian old-school death metal act Exoto and is released independently. This full-length kicks off with “Crusade of Deceit,” a fast-paced opener that starts with melodic guitar solos and gets nicely thrashy as the song pounds on. A very good starting track, but I think a bit more guitar solo work somewhere in the middle of the track could’ve made it even better.
Next up is “Haunted Head,” a song that has a slower pace (for the most part), focusses more on melody and has a dark and suffocating feel. Things speed up in the song’s middle part and that gives the tune more finesse compared to the preceding track. Then comes “Postnatal Abortion,” and I can already say it’s one of my favorite songs on “The Final Festering.” Despite it’s runtime going well past the 5-minute mark it remains engaging thanks to its complexity and sudden but effective tempo switches.
“Intertwined Souls” is nothing special in my opinion. It has the typical Exoto ingredients of death, thrash and an oppressive atmosphere but that’s about it. Fortunately, Exoto comes back swinging with “Mountain of Pain,” a song which features quite catchy melodies and cool marching rhythms. I also really like the song’s echoing finale.
Then it’s time for the album’s sixth track, “My Frozen Savior” and I certainly love the opening part with the sweet and crunchy bass lines. In fact, the whole track is very bass-oriented. Other than that, it’s still a very solid Exoto tune that jams along very nicely. Next up is one of the fastest tracks on the album and it’s called “Zombie Zero.” This song features more of Exoto’s thrash metal side, I like it a lot and its intense beats will certainly evoke some moshing.
The next track, “Lit from Within,” didn’t leave any big or lasting impression on me but fortunately, the succeeding track, “Dripping Blood,” was much more intense with some deep drilling riffs. And finally there’s the title track of “The Final Festering” album, kicking off with some moody guitars that gradually intensify and then the track gets going at full-speed. There are a few rhythm changes throughout this track, but you do feel the band building up more and more tension as the track and the album and Exoto itself for that matter return to the depths of Hell.
The main thing that makes Exoto tick for me are the balance between thrash and death metal with a huge emphasis on melody. Also I really dig Chris Meynen’s vocal style, he has a clean voice that has a suffocating quality to it, as if he’s constantly gasping for air. Combine that particular vocal style with the roaring riffs and you get a dark and claustrophobic setting. Exoto’s style isn’t all that vicious, but their power lies in their subtlety and that makes their style all the more intense. And the crisp production on display on “The Final Festering” tops it all off.
The cover art of “The Final Festering” features a bunch of skulls, some with their spines or ribcages attached to them, that together form a pentagram. I like the expressions the skulls show (for instance, the skull that faces the camera looks like its laughing). And the hellish background’s many shades of red make the artwork quite colorful.
[SHARPEST SHREDS & BLUNTEST BLADES]
“Postnatal Abortion,” “Mountain of Pain,” “Zombie Zero” and the title track are my clear favorites. They showcase Exoto’s death & thrash metal versatility at its most beautiful. Weakest tracks for me are “Intertwined Souls” and “Lit from Within,” they aren’t bad tracks per se, but they did feel like filler compared to the killer tunes that come before and after them.
8 Belgian death metal spines out of 10. Exoto’s final festering is a beautiful epitaph of one of Belgium’s hidden death/thrash metal gems. The band’s career is near its end, but with an album like this, filled with killer tracks, crisp mixing and a hellish, choking atmosphere, this is one full-length I can highly recommend to old-school extreme metal fans.