"some music was meant to stay underground..."

70000 Tons of Metal - The World's Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise

Exxiles - "Oblivion" (CD)

Exxiles - "Oblivion" CD cover image

"Oblivion" track listing:

1. A Better Legacy
2. Hopelessness
3. Anthem Of Lies
4. Page Of The Night
5. Introspective
6. Dictator Of Trust
7. Llorona
8. Entropy
9. Awakening Part 1 (Dark Renaissance)
10. The Messenger
11. Rise

Reviewed by on May 28, 2015

"...the overall ideas will be familiar and perhaps even welcome territory for fans of Reign Of The Architect, Iced Earth, Savatage. Manowar, or Symphony X. If you fit that bill, 'Oblivion' may be worth checking out."

It was a long road to “Oblivion” as Exxiles is a project this reviewer has been following for several years now. Put together by Mauricio Bustamante (ex-Reign of the Architect, another global collaboration), this first outing from Exxiles has a huge cast of people involved from very different parts of the world, so many so that listing them out would take up a paragraph of review space. Fans of power and prog metal will no doubt get their engines revving however at the prospect of Spiral Architect, Symphony X, Ayreon, and Stream Of Passion members all coming together in one album.

Reign of the Architect was all over the place musically, and Exxiles has a similar pattern. The first half of the album pulls strongly from hard rock, classic metal, and power metal with a dash of the symphonic. Things then take a turn into very different territory at seventh track “Llorona” (more on that below) through the end of the disc. The music is varied and filled to the brim with differing ideas and styles, while the vocals lean exclusively towards the clean side, ranging from cock rock to power metal in their delivery as the vocalists swap off between songs.

While all that sounds like it will be awesome (and to be fair, a good deal of it is awesome), there's a noticeable lack of staying power with this album caused by a couple of major issues. First up is the mix, which consistently sounds off. The instruments do not mesh perfectly and frequently sound muted, with the symphonic elements ending up particularly low and overshadowed by all the other sounds. Unfortunately, the only track where the mixing actually works is the clean ballad interlude, “Page Of The Night.” While there is a lot going on with the music, not much of it sticks out and distinguishes itself as any different from anything else offered by these genres. With a couple of exceptions, not much occurs outside the norm, and the album as a whole feels restrained and sort of by-the-numbers. One has to wonder if perhaps there were too many cooks in the kitchen on this collaborative effort.

The focus on the album is firmly on the overarching story concept, so the lyrical delivery is really front and center, and if you dig classic or power metal, there will be plenty to enjoy. A couple of segments do break out of the rut musically as well, like the booming drums and guitar chords opening “Introspective” that grab a listener and forces them to pay attention. That track's classic guitar solo at 3:55 also evokes a time before all the sub-genrefication of metal.

Instrumental song “Entropy” is an odd mix of symphonic with industrial hydraulic sounds and a whole lot of guitar shredding, while “The Messenger” is an epic meshing of all the album's styles with more of the symphonic elements coming out. The real odd man out here is “Llorona,” with its Spanish singing about the legend of its namesake. The Mexican-style trumpets and ethnic sounds are interesting, but the track doesn't really fit on the album as it has literally no musical connection to anything around it, and none of those traditional sounds were taken in a metallic direction.

Despite the odd interlude and sound quality issues, the overall ideas will be familiar and perhaps even welcome territory for fans of Reign Of The Architect, Iced Earth, Savatage, Manowar, or Symphony X. If you fit that bill, “Oblivion” may be worth checking out.

Highs: Strong classic/power metal outing from genre veterans.

Lows: Sound quality is off, there's not much that will stick with you over time, and some of the tracks don't feel like they go together.

Bottom line: A huge cast of musicians from across the prog and power metal scene come together for this collaboration.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)