E x | I s t is a harrowing beast. The vocals and lyrics tell a tale of crushing hopelessness, chronicling one man's descent into sickness, despair and the void of insanity. The music tells another tale altogether. The word 'epic' has been overused and abused as a metal adjective, but every once in a long while it's the best descriptor for an album. E x | I s t earns that distinction. E x | I s t is grand in scale, possessing the dynamic character of a symphony without employing any of the Stilton-streaked devices of “symphonic” metal. Infestus unfurl a warm, nuanced and swarming breed of black metal that's utterly engrossing. E x | I s t plays out in diverse, memorable movements of melancholy, misanthropy and rage, marked by an abundance of mind-melting riffs. Melodic themes are visited and revisited, revealing a deep attention to compositional detail and a fount of songwriting skill.
Improbably, E x | I s t is composed and performed entirely by one man. Andras plays every instrument on the album with eminent skill. He draws from diverse influences to manifest this master-course in interesting music. Tireless, teeming tremolations are accompanied by constantly distinctive, purposeful leads. Blastbeats and outre arpeggiations evoke the stranger aeons of Bergraven or Deathspell Omega. Opethian leads ride over stuttering, dark, thrashing polyrhythms and plodding dirges. Clean guitars are broken out in good measure, reminding me specifically of Opeth's early forays into progressive music. The album is crisply produced, featuring the the wide-open, resonant sound-field of a classical recording.
I've had E x | I s t in rotation for months; I'm repeatedly drawn into its disturbing and satisfying grasp. Infestus conjoin a unique, tenebrous atmosphere to the timbre of absolute madness; never has a psychological hell-ride been so enjoyable. E x | I s t is certainly one of the year's more astounding and disconcerting musical journeys.