Sound — 5
Painted in Exile was the most promising progressive metal band you've never heard of. An extremely talented group of kids released an EP called "Revitalized" back in 2009 that turned many heads. Since then, the band has gone through numerous line-up changes over the years. In 2014 they released a single, titled "DM," with guest vocalists that was absolutely crushing and reminded their fans just how colossally talented the group was. After a crowdfunding campaign the band finally recorded their debut full-length release, "The Ordeal," with Jamie King, who has done numerous albums with Between the Buried and Me at his studio in North Carolina.
I was so excited for this album that I contributed to the crowdfunding myself, believing it impossible for Painted in Exile to do wrong. After giving myself a week to process it, I have to admit that I was wrong. Very wrong.
"The Ordeal" contains incredible virtuosity from every member involved. When it's heavy, it's heavy. When it's beautiful, it's beautiful. When it's atmospheric, it's atmospheric. But the sum is not always greater than its parts. "The Ordeal" is already on the short side of what a progressive metal album should be, clocking in at a mere 47 minutes. And of those 47 minutes, perhaps 10 of them are absolute filler. It is not "bad songs" filler, but much of the filler material is just synthesized chords that never go anywhere and disappear into the void from which they emerged without leaving much of an impression on the listener. Though the album claims 10 tracks, it's realistically just 5, which is pathetic for something that took 7 years to write. On top of that, the production is quite terrible. The guitars are muddy and incomprehensible, the vocals are absolutely buried in the mix, and it just lacks the punch of the "Revitalized" EP (which had fantastic production). It's so bad that I prefer to listen to the 2014 version of "DM" rather than the album version, because the production is just that much better. There are some highlights to the album, like "The Bazaar," "Jupiter" and "DM," but they are overshadowed by all the flaws of the album.
Lyrics — 7
Progressive metal is not a genre known for the best lyrics and Painted in Exile seems like no exception. There are "cool sounding" phrases strung together here and there, but it's nothing you haven't heard before. That is, if you can pick up the lyrics at all due to the vocals being absolutely buried in the abysmal mix. It's quite a shame, because Rob Richards is one of my absolute favorite vocalists. He's incredibly versatile moving seamlessly from guttural growls to high pitched screams, to soaring cleans. Aside from these problems, there is also a distinct lack of catchy vocal melodies on this release. The chorus of "DM" is about the only one that comes close to the quality of melodies on their "Revitalized" EP.
Overall Impression — 6
Painted in Exile promised the world and gave us a pebble with "The Ordeal." I have never been so let down by an album I had such high expectations for. I wanted to love this album. I wanted it to be the best progressive metal album I've heard since Between the Buried and Me's "Parallax II: Future Sequence." To my dismay, the album suffers from poor production, an overabundance of filler material, and just a general lack of direction. Perhaps in another 7 years they can release something on par with "Revitalized." Until then I imagine I'll listen to the album a few more times before I move on to something else. I would say that they tried, but I'm not even sure of that.