Canadian quintet Expain came together via the wonders of Craigslist, and aside from the incredibly high level of musicianship that becomes apparent the minute you begin to listen to their debut full length, 'Just The Tip', the other thing that strikes you is the humour. They are very serious about their music but not taking themselves too seriously which is always a good thing and apparent with titles like 'Don't Worry, The Worst Is Yet To Come' and 'Headbang Your Head Off'.
Sound wise they are a superb and well balanced blend of progressive and technical with a strong leaning towards thrash/death with some jazzy elements in the mix for good measure, a potent combination that sets them aside from pretty much everyone else.
The only band that they give me the vaguest reminiscence of, in a few places, mainly the first few tracks, is Sadist, for that catchy, proggy, jazz edge, although, on the whole, this is less exotic and much more ballsy, also Daniel Brand's vocals reminded me a little of Trevor Nadir (Sadist). It is the most tenuous of similarities and to the greater part Expain sound pretty unique.
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Lyrical inspiration comes from a broad range of sources; everything from overcoming adversity, to partying hard, living in an ever-changing city and the state of today's society as a whole, but done quite tongue in cheek and endeavouring to keep a positive slant on difficult or unpleasant situations.
The album consists of eleven tracks that will fully engage your ears and mind from the short opening intro, 'Bacchus' which momentarily carries you on a heady cloud of reminiscence to the 70s and thoughts of progressive greats like 'Yes' before dragging you back to the twenty-first century again, all the way to the superb and intense, thrash rich closer, 'Eating A Beating Heart'.
In-between, the remaining tracks are equally superb, so it comes as no surprise that I find it impossible to choose a favourite; 'Aggressions Progressions' has great bass lines and as well as a fabulous duelling guitar section. 'Phoenix Writhing' has a more classic thrash feel but the progressive element re-emerges in the latter part and Daniel really stretches his vocal range here.
'The King' is superbly tight and at times impressively fast but the tempo switches regularly to keep it fresh and interesting.
'Don't Worry, The Worst Is Yet To Come' builds like a ballsy thrash monster, complete with an extended vocal scream, capped off with a superb solo in the latter part of the track while 'Idol Worship' has one of those catchy guitar repeats that stays in your mind and lyrically is a track that sits well with me, pointing out the importance of waking up and seeing the truth and accepting responsibility for your own actions.
'Allegiance To Pain' is THE thrash anthem!..., but with a groovy twist. Intriguingly vague lyrically, 'Manatee' also has some super sexy bass work. 'Headbang Your Head Off' is short, sharp and it doesn't give a f**k! and 'A.T.M.' sees the return of more great bass lines.
'Expain' comes recommended for those who like bands such as Black Dahlia Murder, Revocation, Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, I think it would certainly appeal to fans of Municipal Waste or even Sadist; it's a great debut release.