There was a time, not so long ago, when ‘prog’ was a dirty word. These days, bands like NYC’s Painted In Exile are not just reasserting the enriching, imaginative power of progressive music, but audibly pushing it into uncharted territory. The band’s debut album, The Ordeal, is a staggering piece of work that gives the likes of Between The Buried And Me and The Faceless a run for their money while gleefully hurling all manner of unexpected elements into the band’s dizzying maze of riffs and rhythms.
“We’re a metal band and love heavy music, but we also draw inspiration from non-metal sources, like jazz, hip hop, blues and pop,” says guitarist Ivan Chopik. “Every once in a while, combining those worlds leads to something fresh with its own identity. It’s those moments we try to capture. At the same time, we try not to take ourselves too seriously! We make music that we enjoy listening to and playing. If it sounds good, it is good.”
Although currently unsigned and an entirely DIY proposition, Painted In Exile are generating a significant buzz in metal circles, not least because The Ordeal is such a detailed and immersive musical journey. Not a concept album per se, it hangs together beautifully: a collection of strange stories, bound together by music that’s as wildly cinematic as it is insanely ambitious.
“During one of our weekly Google hangouts, we put the pieces together,” bassist Jacob Umansky recalls. “In almost every song, the protagonist goes through some form of painful experience, and no matter how grim their choices may be, in the end, they come out completely changed. After that discussion, we realised we had literally just defined the word ‘ordeal’… and we’d found our album title.”
Now The Ordeal has been released into the wild, all that remains is to see exactly how this ridiculously talented bunch can recreate the densely layered splendour onstage. Fortunately, Painted In Exile are anything but ponderous musos. This time, prog likes to party.
“It’s important that the audience is as much a part of the live shows as we are, because we react to each other’s energy,” says guitarist Marc Lambert. “That’s not to say that we won’t still play just as hard for five people as we would for 5,000. It just feels like we’re all partying and celebrating together!”
THE ORDEAL IS OUT NOW VIA BANDCAMP AND ITUNES