exit A head are a German progressive rock band with an excellent debut album – would this simple sentence be enough to entice you into discovering this for yourself? For these firm believers in the self-discovery of music, they have one simple request: ‘stop trying to figure out what exit A head might sound like’. In the spirit of this, and in respect of the unique sound they strive for, I will convey to you the excellence of their debut album ‘VOID’ without comparing them to the well known prog bands and without compartmentalising them into a sub-genre of progressive rock as this would not do justice to the varied musical ideas that make this album well worth listening to.
The trio is made up of Daniel Chagnon (guitars, vocals), Julian Schlitzer (bass, backing vocals) and Paul Sinkemat (drums, backing vocals) and it comes as no surprise that they have already reaped the rewards from their debut album, receiving two silver medals at the Global Music Awards (Rock & Album). Spurred on by this success, exit A head were planning to take the award winning ‘VOID’ to the stage – but then the inevitable happened and I’m sure you don’t need me to spell out what that is. Despite not being able to perform, they are currently working on new material for when the glorious time comes and live music is re-birthed! But for now, let us appreciate the genius of their debut album!
We gradually descend into the void with ‘Desafinado’, a two minute piece of elevator muzak with a very cliché jazz sound. A sat nav in the background of this guides us towards the void – the mystery of what is to come next is exhilarating. Unexpectedly, such easy listening is obliterated by the metal-inspired ‘Broken’ which in complete contrast to the content sound of muzak, presents the listener with a purposefully ugly sound. Ugly does not infer that the music sounds bad but quite the opposite; this trio are not afraid of discordant harmony and chromaticism, employing these to great effect in the hellish, doom-laden ‘Broken’. Chagnon’s cold and monotone singing style works really well with the mood of the song. The next piece is a perfect example of exit A head’s varied musical palette as ‘The Ocean Awaits’ lends itself to a more contemporary influence. Characterised by lush, clean guitars, consonant harmony and catchy melodies, this songs provides some needed relief from the evil ‘Broken’.
The 8 minute centrepiece of the album, ‘Rise & Fall’, is split into two distinct sections; the first part is fast-paced and mostly instrumental, a melange of chugging riffs, changing time signatures and chromatic passages. The second half is much more ambiguous and can only be described as a developing wall of noise. It is again purposefully ugly, perhaps motorised and robotic in sound, as if some sort of machine is gradually powering up – whatever it is meant to be, it’s intrusive. The nature of this two part structure fits really well with the song title: it ‘rises’ in the first half and then ‘falls’ in the second. The 1 minute long ‘Void’ is a haunting solo piano piece that cycles through a variety of chords played over a pedal note; sometimes these chords fit, sometimes they don’t, making for a very strange piece of music that sounds both gothic and romantic in nature. The final track, ‘Octopuss’, begins with the bass and drums establishing a groove. Chagnon adds some gorgeous guitar decorations over the top of this, doused in reverb and delay. As the groove progresses and musical parts develop, a clear Spanish flavour arises. The sudden entrance of a huge climactic section changes the mood entirely before then once again suddenly returning back to the Spanish style to end the track and the album.
Some weird and wonderful sounds to be digested here! The album is nicely varied and is guaranteed to surprise the listener on more than one occasion. Whilst we await for exit A head to gift us with more eclectic sounds, ‘VOID’ is sat there waiting for you to discover it!
Written by Dominic Sanderson
You can find exit A head on Facebook and Instagram! Their debut album is available on Spotify, Apple Music and Youtube!