Light one up and bang your head until your neck is sore

Somewhere out in the mystic bong-smoke it was foretold: meld the crushing sound of hardcore with a slow burning stoner/doomy edge.

I Exist followed the prophecy and delivered a slew of mighty tunes in the form of I: A Turn for the Worse and all was good in the world. Now, the I Exist crew have returned to lay waste once again with their second offering of hardcore and stoner doom in II: The Broken Passage. So it’s time to turn off all that so-called music that poses as hardcore, light one up and bang your head until your neck is sore.

With feedback leading into a slinky riff which leads in turn a tasty groove, “Winter’s End” sets the pace and if your head isn’t banging or your foot isn’t tapping, you aren’t human and you should stop pretending right now. Still with us? Great. It is hypnotic at times and vocalist Jake Willoughby’s shout leads you in with a sudden stop before the right hand of “Ghost Of a King” hits you like a ton of bricks with a loaded hardcore assault.

There is not a a dull moment throughout II: The Broken Passage, for there is plenty going on. There are the hard,fast no-bullshit kind of tracks like “Acid Strain”, the D-Beat march of “Wyvern’s Keep”, “Fleshold” and the grind and pound of “Blade’s Ruin”. The dark sludgy, doomy side surfaces in “Lungs Of Mire”, the woolly “Mammoth Falls”, “Wretched Earth”, “Return to Cosmos” and the looming shadow of “Black Unicorn” that shares similarities with guitarist Josh “JJ LaWhore” Nixon’s other outfit Pod People with its groove and winding solos. They also turn off the Marshalls and put aside the Gibsons for “The Rider’s Ode”, a brief acoustic instrumental journey in the middle of the album that provides a bit of relief from the sonic smash and sludge. You could say it is their ode to “Planet Caravan”.

With seven members in the band, there is a whole lot going on and it could sound muddy and dissonant if placed in the wrong hands. Fortunately, I Exist enlisted stoner/doom rock figurehead producer Billy Anderson (Melvins, Goatsnake) to keep everything under control and it shows. Every instrument breathes within the mix without fighting another into a dark oblivion.

Let’s face it, mashups and crossovers can be a trainwreck when it’s halfarsed. On II: The Broken Passage, Canberra’s I Exist do it well and set a standard that a lot of bands won’t reach on their best day. If you like stoner rock/doom, it would be hard to ignore. If you like old hardcore before it was shaken up and became a trend, this album will keep you happy. II: The Broken Passage will make you proclaim “The power of the riff compels me!” while watching out for the oncoming hardcore dogpile at the same time.

1. Winter’s End
2. Ghost of a King
3. Wyvern’s Keep
4. Blade’s Ruin
5. Black Unicorn
6. The Rider’s Ode
7. Acid Strain
8. Lungs of Mire
9. Fleshold
10. Mammoth Falls
11. Immortal Mare
12. Wretched Earth
13. Return to Cosmos