Exhalants – Atonement | Album Review

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Exhalants new album Atonement is out on September 11th via Hex Records.

So, as I sit here with my arm in a cast from a dislocated shoulder, self-isolating because of COVID symptoms, I’m giving Exhalants album Atonement, from Hex Records, its first entry into my brain. I hear the first riff, roll my eyes into the back of my head and just say “BLOODY HELL”.

You’re hit with the biggest McChuggington of a riff in ‘The Thorn You Carry in Your Side’. There’s a huge bass that the strings sound like they’re going to fall off of, lush, scatty, accenting drums and some classic angry man vocals that syncopate and accent the riff. Maximum impact, straight at your face, like being read your own eulogy as you’re born. And then, the mood switches to this lush dreamy landscape like it never happened and back again for a more violent assault of noisy doom and crushing crescendo. It’s great, a big Melvins grunge element, all this wonderful rich noise and a tempo that would make even Mona Lisa nod her stupid head. And that’s the first song. Great start.

After a ten or so minute ear fuck from the cacophony of expansive noise and big ol’ riffs, things slow down in ‘Definitions’. The inevitable walk home after the fight. You’re invited into a delicious soundscape and dragged into a pit of unrelenting noise tar that doesn’t stop cratering into your ears for an uncomfortable amount of time. The inertia is mantra-esque and gets you in the feels.

The musicianship and song structure on this album are both violent and experimental. Exhalants take the slow, noisy grungey elements of The Melvins and Crowbar and finger in the playful, more experimental, characterised parts of The Jesus Lizard. There’s some standout bass playing that really brighten up the album. Some great rhythm switches that make for an interesting listen. The disjointed guitar and feedback parts that float away from the firm aqueduct of the songs are well thought out and sound pretty disgusting. There’s even some entry-level Nick Sadler (Daughters) esque playful parts that take me back to Canada Songs. They piss and froth at the seams and push this album above average. The vocal delivery generally lean into the clenched fist of hardcore and power violence and are quite far back in the mix, so there’s not as much impact there as I would personally like but I feel like I understand the move. For them to be more of a texture than a leading role. It works, don’t get me wrong. They still hit with the raw venom you’d expect from the verisimilitude of the songs.

The standout track for me is the single off the album, ‘Bang’. It’s sharp and straight to the point, a little faster than the rest of Atonement. It comes rolling at you in a way that is reminiscent of early Mastodon. There’s an urgent ferocity and is a unified attack. It gives the impression this band want be heard, right fucking now. And they should. Halfway through the song, the guitar takes a noise tangent that makes me want to put my hand on my hip and give it some of the ol’ razzle-dazzle. And that is something I welcome.

Pre-order Atonement here.

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