Coming out of the void of potential and inactivity, Painted in Exile released one of the more powerful and emotional progressive metal albums of 2016. Drawing heavily on many clear influences within progressive metal, The Ordeal (which you can get right here by the way) nonetheless also contains much of the theatrical, the jazz-y and more. Thus, inviting the band to write an “Anatomy Of” article for us was somewhat obvious, an organic attempt at delving the musical depths which we recognized behind their release.
What resulted is a fascinating exploration of how certain musicians construct their influences and what they each look for in albums which influence them. The most interesting thing is how their choices not only differ in genre or style but also how their takeaways from each albums vary. From inspiration, through emotional capacity and right up to technical ideas, music plays many different roles for the different members of the band. Therefore, without further ado, we invite you to momentarily dive into the musical background of Painted in Exile!
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Jacob Umansky (bass, backing vocals) – Between the Buried and Me, “Colors”
The one album that I always find myself coming back to is Colors by Between The Buried And Me. I know this choice may seem predicable by the progressive metal world, but I think that says a lot about its impact on it. I love how the album can be viewed as one song. It has the ability to be extremely dynamic and its structure is progressive, but still gives you the feeling that it’s building up to some epic grand finale, that finale being “White Walls”. In my opinion, the fact that the album is bookended harmonically speaks a lot about how the band saw the big picture while writing it.
Every time I listen, I find something I didn’t hear before, whether it’s a motif or quote used from a previous song, or just an instrumental layer I missed because of the albums density. When I was 14 years old, all I knew about metal bass playing was that most of the time you’re doubling and/or playing a simpler version of what the guitars were doing. As soon as I heard this album I was blown away by the bass player’s ability to write these insane contrapuntal lines over what were already extremely technical guitar parts. I think I speak for most of the metal bass community when I say that Dan Briggs completely changed the way I view writing on my instrument.
Putting all the musician talk aside, this album truly means a lot to me. It’s just something I’m always happy to listen to. I can honestly say without it, I have no idea where I would be regarding my bass playing, the music I compose, and even where my career may lead me.
Ivan Chopik (Guitars) – Robert Cray, “Some Rainy Morning”
When were invited to participated in this ‘Anatomy Of’ feature, the album that immediately popped into my mind was Robert Cray’s Some Rainy Morning. There are a number of records I like to revisit that really shaped my musical views and this one’s among the top of them – it still feels as relevant to me today as when I first heard it as a kid in the late 90’s. It’s a blues/R&B record; the songs are well-crafted and the production sets the bar for me in this style of music – it feels really clear and tight, but also tasty and real.
Robert’s voice and guitar really shine on this record and I admire how well-connected he is emotionally to his instruments. My musical tastes are kind of all over the map, but the common thread running through them is that I like it when there is a strong (even extreme) expression of emotion – the thing that we consider ‘heavy’ and exciting that makes you move. Metal very clearly and outwardly demonstrates this notion, but to me Robert’s performance on this record is just as ‘heavy’ – the way he digs into those bends and tells his pain-filled blues stories connects with me in a similar way as a ripping shred solo at the climax of a progressive metal opus, or a well-executed breakdown with brutal gutturals that take it over the edge. I aspire to be able to have that kind of connection and expression with my instrument, regardless of style and aesthetic, and Some Rainy Morning always fuels that pursuit.
Alan Hankers (keyboards, piano) – Aphex Twin, “Drukqs”
Aphex Twin’s Drukqs is an album that I constantly find myself revisiting. From start to finish, it is a source of interesting sounds that have heavily influenced my musical aesthetic. I think one of the most fascinating elements of the album is how timbre takes a more formal/structural role. To illustrate this through a human sense (other than auditory), a certain smell can often take us back to somewhere very specific in time (to a place one has seemingly forgotten about). Drukqs employs very unique sounds that I call referential timbres, that have the same phenomenological effect in that they transport us back in time to significant moments that occurred earlier on the album. These timbres can be as simple as a particular high-hat, or as complex as a saturated texture. Either way, the experience is a powerful one and creates a sense of evolution as one listens to the chronological track order.
Marc Lambert (guitars) – D’Angelo, “Voodoo”
D’Angelo’s Voodoo album (Brown Sugar as well) has had a pretty profound effect on my musical career, especially in recent years. Being a bit of a late bloomer to it, it actually hit me at a perfect time when my responsibility as a Music Major was to constantly question and analyze everything about music and the way I was playing it. Although I’d say they’re much more funk, R&B, hip-hop, and neo-soul than they are jazz, what I’d also dare to say is that both of these records are most commonly recognized for their incredible sense of feeling and groove that they communicate. At a time in my career when music (especially Metal) was becoming more and more quantized and doctored to this sense of “perfection” and less and less human, these albums would become a heavy revelation for me, and they’ve absolutely had a huge influence on Painted In Exile’s material. They reopened my eyes to the memory that imperfection could, in fact, be so perfect.
What I’m referring to is how “imperfect” or “wrong”, as some would hear it, is actually perfectly appropriate in certain cases because it creates a specific kind of groove where everything might not be 100% metronomic. Some things might be pulled far back “behind the beat” with a more relaxed feel, or pushed ahead of the beat, or even right on the beat and “in the pocket” (sometimes all at once), but one simply wouldn’t be able to translate the same artistic message if it was what most of us learn as “correct”. The kind of groove that makes your knees buckle and your whole body feel like liquid (let the stank faces and “WOOOOOOHHH-ing” ensue…)
Oh, and there IS also plenty of Jazz harmony that’s brilliantly used in there on top of all that, so dig in!