There comes a time in each genre when it reaches a certain point. The point where it seems like the genre is just done. That one album releases which encapsulates everything the genre tried to achieve, and then takes it a step further. Sometimes this is the birth of a new genre, but sometimes it’s simply one excellent album. Shokran‘s debut full length Supreme Truth was not that album for progressive deathcore. It was a great album, one of the best in the genre. Combining elements from Within the Ruins and Born Of Osiris‘s sound, Middle Eastern influences and a more grandiose sound; it was a strong play from a band looking to put themselves on the map. Two years, a guitarist departure and a vocalist change later, we have Exodus. Does this album qualify for that description? Maybe it does.
Exodus is such a step up from Shokran’s already-great debut Supreme Truth that it’s almost surprising. In some sense, the DNA is still there: the middle eastern influence, clean singing and screaming over tight, memorable riffs. However, here we see them doubling down on everything. Exodus is a concept album about, well, The Book of Exodus. This also shows up in terms of musical influences, increasing the prominence of synths to make the sound a lot denser. Guitarist and founder Dmitry Demyanenko has also vastly developed his writing and playing. The album flows as a perfect whole, and every moment is incredibly memorable. Each song has its own character, its own moments that define it and set it out. Yet, somehow, they all complement each other, becoming essential parts of a whole. It feels like every niche of the sound has been covered, from slow ballads to energetic chugging fests and technical, grandiose showstoppers. Instrumentally, Shokran have always been solid, but the jump in quality is notable. The album is chilling from the first note to the last, rarely do albums feel so calculated. Not a single note is wasted, and every note that is there feels like it’s the only possible choice.
Talking about only the instrumental work doesn’t do Exodus enough justice, though. New vocalist Andrey Ivashenko absolutely steals the show here. If anything was a weaker link in Supreme Truth, it was the vocals. They were fine, but not top notch. Here, just as it is the case with the rest of the band, they’re vastly improved – more so than the rest of the band even! His clean singing has so much range, so much emotion and so much power. As many moments are there on the album where the rest of the band shines and creates something incredible, there are moments where he alone carries that weight. And there are also many when all of it comes together. His screaming is a lot more emotive as well, hitting strong highs and deep lows. Long story short, the vocal performance on Exodus is nothing short of phenomenal. It’s not just the voice either, as the lyrics are full of well-crafted moments and one liners that hammer the point home.
On the structure front, the album really is full of creative and unforgettable moments. The intro track sets the stage very powerfully, and the way it transitions into “Creatures from the Mud” is full of anticipation. Said song has a great oriental intro and a chant-along chorus that works perfectly. “The Swam” has a slew of tough riffs, culminating in a climbing series of harmonics that just get the blood pumping, and of course a ridiculous chorus. “Living Arrows” is just non-stop energy. “Praise The Stench (..of your Fallen Idols)” does Born of Osiris like the band have never been able to. “Disfigured Hand” is an incredible masterpiece full of variety, including a blazing fast solo, one of the more impressive repeating lines in the album, and an acoustic interlude that gets woven in perfectly. “And Heavens Began To Fall” is the ballad with Andrei showing off his singing chops, and Lauren Babic of Red Handed Denial closes off the song with a well-placed guest spot. “The Storm And The Ruler” is a masterful mix of everything the album has demonstrated so far. “Revival of Darkness” is perhaps the most impressive track, with the vocals breaking the bank with the performance over Within the Ruins-esque riffing and keyboards. Finally we close the album with “Firstborn”, and again it’s variations on the formulas established so far an abundance of moments. It really is accurate to say every track on Exodus is full of instances of creative, top-of-the-line writing that is unforgettable.
In the end, Exodus is about as perfect as a progressive deathcore album can get. Incredible vocals, aided by creative and masterful writing that flows together as a masterpiece. The album truly needs to be experienced in full, as it will constantly give the listener chills. There really is not much else to say. Shokran have raised, if not destroyed the bar for the genre.