Painted In Exile
Sometimes you want to bring it back old school. While the Meshuggah-ization of progressive metal is perfectly fine by me, but the type of prog pioneered by Between the Buried and Me (and the swarm of their disciples) will always hold a special place in my progressive heart (it never beats in 4/4). That version involved long-form, spontaneous songwriting, jazzy interludes, and a heavy influence from death metal and hardcore. It’s definitely fallen out of favor of late, unfortunately. Long Island group Painted In Exile were among that group with 2009’s excellent Revitalized EP, which showcased the groups eclectic, dynamic style very well. The band’s style really runs the gamut from gorgeous, glowing jazz/prog rock to galloping, guttural death/prog/hardcore. There’s an unpretentious amount of classically-inspired compositional skill akin to The Human Abstract, as well. Plus, you can tell right away that OG prog metal production God Jamie King was behind the boards, as the record sounds wonderful with just the right amount of punch and clarity.
Painted In Exile’s full-length debut has been a long time coming, and it’s absolutely worth the wait, though it’s important to note that two unexpectedly major issues plague an otherwise astounding release. The record feels like it should work as a conceptual piece; however, it totally lacks any sense of cohesion. “House of Cards” and “The Bazaar” are masterclasses in the type of progressive metalcore of yesteryear, yet they lead into a wonderful jazzy ditty, “Jupiter”, which feels completely random. While random songwriting was the hallmark of the Between the Buried and Me era of prog, that was often within the same song. It really feels off on The Ordeal. Plus, between the odd transitional track, “Transition Wow” (OK, I laughed) and the horrendous rapping in “Not For Nothin'”, with the unnecessary closer, “My Keeper”, the record feels cheapened by these three needless tracks that mess with the album’s flow. I can’t understate why this is problematic, because aside from general issues of thematic flow, The Ordeal really is one of the best examples of mid-to-late 00s prog metal I’ve heard in a long time. Painted In Exile have a keen understanding of when to go all out (“DM” and “House of Cards”) and when to ease off the gas a bit. Were it not for these awkward transitional tracks that cheapen the experience, this would be a more special release.
As it is, we’re left with a heaping dose of top-notch progressive metal, and that’s perfectly alright. The fact that Painted In Exile refused to self-edit (the excellent massively outweighs the bad and would be more than enough for a full-length) makes The Ordeal a resounding success, even if the problems are so damn maddening.