Atmospheric rock is a genre that is rarely attempted but it’s the best way that I’d describe Barnsley foursome Exit Calm. Wonderful soundscapes full of guitar patterns that create beautiful pictures in your mind are what makes up most of the songs and it’s this creative slant that makes it so intriguing.
They’ve already played at V Festival and supported the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen and Modest Mouse. Q Magazine has said of them: “Exit Calm have a penchant for all things epic” and this is something that I couldn’t agree with more.
The album begins with its lead single Rapture which begins with a dark rolling riff and echoing vocals. It’s a mellow alternative rock song with a singing guitar and a dreamy hazy feel. It’s almost like a cross between Coldplay and Funeral For a Friend and this strange, spaced out feeling fronted by guitars is the main recurring sound on the album. It goes into Albion, a dreary vocal with monotone twangs. It’s mellow rock with a stony feel to it which makes it quite eerie. It’s repetitive but basic which creates an atmosphere but there isn’t an awful lot of interest.
Exit Calm love songs that remain on one level throughout and Fiction is another of these. Steady drums and a ringing guitar that plays a climbing riff before sliding back down at the end, set to the dreary vocals seen in the previous song. It’s a middle of the road dream-rock number which has a resonating steel theme. The Promise is similar in that it has that smoky atmosphere and remains in a dream-like state. However, it is a lot more colourful with epic soundscapes and the various textures of the drums and guitar sliding over each other. A peaceful swaying rhythm differentiates between mellow and boring.
On a few tracks, the band venture into acoustic as seen on When They Rise and Higher Bound. The former is chilled, guitar-led pop with long drawn out strums and more melodic vocals than what we’ve seen before. Higher Bound has a laid-back summer approach and the melodic vocals are sustained. Simplicity seems to be its motto but it still manages to create some pretty impressive riff work. Again the dreamy haze is still very prevalent.
Holy War, however, brings us back down to Earth and reality with a bump. Resonating dark riffs tinged with blues create the sinister edge that the track has. Militant drums sound throughout the song whose vocals seem to lament a lost one. A faint Eastern influence is detected in the back with wispy swirls which decorate the otherwise damning instruments. The darkness returns in Glass Houses which features a sad guitar and a resonating chime which adds a ghostly feel. It’s a repetitive dream-rock track again but it has the air of being a great live track, which is the first time I’ve felt this on the album. Some really beautiful harmonies are there and this continues into the last track Open Your Sky, which is another collection of great atmospheric soundscapes. The title of the album The Future Isn’t As It Used To Be is in the lyrics, ending the record with the overriding theme of growing up and living a future that hasn’t necessarily gone to plan.
It’s an album that features a few really great songs and a few that seem to fall by the wayside. I wouldn’t say it’s a record for everyone but it certainly does have its moments. Exit Calm are masters at epic instrumentals and they have the ability to create an atmosphere that will no doubt mesmerize a room. Skip the songs that don’t really go anywhere and enjoy some real magic in the ones that do.