Exul - Path To The Unknown

Poland’s Exul have been around since 2011, but the time it has taken to get things really going has taken quite a while. Active for a short bit then taking a break before becoming active again, 2023 is finally seeing a full length debut after a few demos, so the title “Path To The Unknown” is very fitting because listeners/ fans, and even the band itself, probably weren’t sure what the direction of the future was headed for. The result, however, is pretty good. While the album seems a bit short, there is about 30 plus minutes of pretty standard Thrash in here that borders anywhere from Stygian to Testament with a few surprises here and there, so even fans of the likes of Sylosis who play with that genre and Melodeath will find it appealing. There are the typical groove laden, punk attitude laced tracks like ‘Stupidity Regime’ and ‘Fight For Liberty’ which are anthemic and driving, though they lack the humor of a Municipal Waste album. The musicianship is tight from all three members and the production pretty clean, which is surprising because a lot of Thrash bands tend to go for that crackling garage sound. Here, Exul actually sound quite bass driven along their guitars and adds their own modern ‘thickness’ to the sound.

Tracks like ‘Rise Again’ are a little more controversial in the sense of where they seem to drive their sound. The track definitely has Metallica influence, but more of the more recent “Hardwired….” album which apparently so many people in the Thrash community generally revile. It is catchy, gives a bit more of a commercial rock touch to it without delving anywhere near Pop or tarnishing the Thrash touch, but it definitely sounds more ‘single driven’ compared to the other tracks. Vocally though, the rough bellows are more Testament than compared to typical Slayer barks or Metallica sneers, so Exul at least that that going for them to push away any nay sayers who think they might be going the ‘sell out’ route. Other tracks like ‘The Hunt’ have a bit more of that Speed Thrash touch with a little more melody than Overkill, but this one definitely has some more energy to it with being more guitar driven, but one cannot deny that anthemic chorus. The dual guitar work from both vocalist Bogdan and Jakub plays very well off each other, though compared to earlier tracks the bass from Maciej seems a little lost in the mix for the trade of sound. Drums are still pretty thunderous from Patryk so the typical ‘click’ or ‘trash can bang’ from ‘St. Anger’ isn’t there to create disdain (though personally for this writer, the ‘trash can bang drums’ is pretty cool).

The title track is the hallmark of the album. Not just for the title but for the way the band approaches it. Totally coming out of left field with a melodic acoustic approach that sounds like the opening of the new In Flames album which carries on a bit before delving back into Thrash territory, but like the piano from ‘Unforgiven III’ on “Death Magnetic” it really helps the track stand out and even with some of the guitar riffing we definitely get more of a Melodeath feel overall versus the typical Thrash that has been heard. With the vocal tones, Exul could very easily bring forth a sort of Melodeath Thrash combo for the future with music like this and create a very unique album that hasn’t really been seen before except from maybe bands like Sylosis. The stretch towards epic territory is nice too, but not a deal breaker for those who like or don’t like long tracks, especially since most Thrash is usually 4 minutes or shorter by average expectation. Overall, “Path To The Unknown” is well crafted, touching on various points of Thrash mostly heard from the early to later 2000s, but maybe a break from the typical late 90s Slayer/ Exodus train is what fans need these days. Worth checking out for those who like throaty music that has the potential to be multifaceted.

4 / 5 STARS

1. Stupidity Regime
2. Rise Again
3. Lose All Control
4. The Hunt
5. Fight For Liberty
6. Path To The Unknown
7. Weaker Ones