Album Review: Exit Calm – The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be
This month sees the release of The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be, a new album from British rockers Exit Calm. The record seems to have antecedents in the work of alternative groups most active in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, however, Exit Calm provides a take that is fundamentally modern.
The album deals lyrically with transcendental matters, from final resurrections to Faust, which is suggestive of a band that is trying hard to associate itself with the word ‘epic’ and the large-scale acts that also proudly wear that badge. The stadium quality of Exit Calm’s sound ensures that the band’s largeness thematically is matched by its music. A good example is the album-opening Rapture, which builds to a vehement dynamic peak at which singer Nicky Smith states ‘the rapture will come’ with a kind of strained growl that I associate with the voice of Dave Grohl.
Smith’s vocals, however, generally have a timbre that more closely resembles that of Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, an element that is partly responsible for my previous assertion that Exit Calm’s influences can be traced back to the ‘80s and ‘90s. In addition to this though, the tunes Fiction and Albion in parts remind me of the jangly guitar rock of the Stone Roses, as does the vocal melody in the chorus of Glass Houses. Also harking back to that era is Holy War, which features ominous grungy undertones that are typical of Alice in Chains and, as a trivial note, is thematically similar to the Stone Roses’ Breaking Into Heaven – both songs deal with some sort of obstruction to getting into heaven, before concluding that the kingdom is inside of us.
Whilst Exit Calm play with elements of grunge and, to a limited degree, the psychedelic, the extent to which they diverge from the mainstream should not be overstated. For instance, both When They Rise and Higher Bound have a feel that could easily find favour amongst listeners after more radio-friendly rock; they deliver an experience that is perhaps less epic than what the majority of Exit Calm’s catalogue will provide. This observation is not meant to disparage the band but simply suggest that, melodically and texturally, these tunes are of a nature that will compute more easily with the average pop music listener.
Part of what makes When They Rise and Higher Bound a bit more palatable is the fact that they are of a shorter length than the rest of songs on the album. They both clear four minutes, but the average on The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be exceeds five. In the modern music climate, songs that are getting up towards, and going beyond, six minutes tend to be reserved for those which have a lot to say, or a lot of ideas going on. Whilst with a song like Holy War I can see the need for a bit more time, as the song shifts between some very unique and interesting moods, not every song on the album needed the kind of length that it was given. This causes problems when listening to the album as a whole, regardless of how strong the music itself may be – by the time I got to the closing number, the six-minute Open Your Sky, I was struggling to keep focus.
With The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be, Exit Calm has produced a set of songs that are simply big in every way, which in certain aspects can be a little overwhelming. However, the largeness of their sound, combined with an interesting array of influences, makes for an album that is both energetic and inclusive, giving the sense that they’d be the type of live act to get people going regardless of the kind of crowd they’re playing to.