Rarely does a promising band actually exceed expectations, but when a band used the book of Exodus for inspiration, maybe they got a little extra help. Russian-based progressive deathcore band Shokran showed quite a bit of potential with 2014’s Supreme Truth. With some fantastic guitar playing and a tight rhythm section, the band were clearly talented, but were definitely held back by an average vocalist and some minor sonic growing pains. The band’s follow-up has been a bit delayed due to member changes and deciding whether to continue on as an unsigned band. Humorously, Shokran have their own “G.L.O.S.S. moment” by saying they were in negotiations with Sumerian Records (which would’ve fit like a Sphinx-shaped glove).
Regardless of the delays, it’s important to point out two things right away. First, the album sounds fantastic, so it’s clear the band took their time to make the added orchestral heft (which fits the Biblical narrative aptly) sound authentic rather than hokey. Second, and more importantly, Exodus blows Supreme Truth out of the water (no pun intended). Hell, it blows away just about everything but maybe the new Periphery and most recent Monuments when it comes to the progressive groove/djent/deathcore style. Shokran have really found their own sound, finding a great balance of styles. There’s a strong dose of Monuments’ love of off-kilter melody offset by punishing groove, and a definite mid-career Born of Osiris influence. However, Shokran really hammer home their love of Middle Eastern melodies, whether that be vocally, from a guitar, or in the more prominent synths. Doubling down on approaching a tale set in the Middle East, Shokran does a great job of making the Middle Eastern influence feel essential rather than just somthing to take the listener’s mind away from mindless down-tuned chugging. Fortunately, there is more than enough going on musically to keep things interesting; this album is as dense as a Trump fan (different definitions, clearly). Take the album’s centerpiece, “Disfigured Hand”, which features an incredible shredding sequence, among one of the album’s strongest riffs, and showcases new vocalist Andrew Ivashchenko’s impressive pipes and range.
I’m often reminded of the spirit (and technical ability) of The Human Abstract as well, as Demyanenko’s arrangements are certainly neo-classically inspired. Each song here has its own voice, yet they all work together to create a stellar, cohesive picture. Even if you aren’t religious, there’s a reason the story of Moses freeing the Israelites have stood the test of time: they’re incredible and fascinating. It’s a huge credit to Shokran that the music feels weighty enough to match the subject matter. It’s a further credit to the band that the album gets better with each listen, allowing new layers and wrinkles of each song to become clear.
Another reason Exodus is reminiscent of The Human Abstract? Just like THA’s opus, Digital Veil, Shorkan keep things succinct, so that not a moment feels wasted. Too often djent and progressive deathcore bands, especially unsigned acts, will release way too much music at once just to get everything out there, and it ends up diluting down the good. That far from the case here, as Exodus is easily the best thing I’ve heard all year, and it’s a true treat for fans of the style.