Some albums take longer for me to appreciate than others. I’ve been listening to Existentia’s debut for a couple months now, and recently it has really been clicking with me. The record is called The Planet in the Universe, and it is quite the thrill ride.
Existentia hails from Russia. The lineup includes Anton Mityugin on bass, Igor Drozdov on drums, Alexander Sidelin on guitars, Miroslava Mirova on keyboards, and Maya Gitsina on vocals. For my money, these musicians produce a much bigger sound than might be expected.
The band plays progressive metal, yes, but they have a sense of groove and style that isn’t often found in the genre. The rhythm section oozes “cool”, if I can say that, and Alexander’s riffs are dark and richly composed, especially in the instrumental portions. I would also mention Miroslava’s keys, as she has something of a retro rock vibe to her sound, almost feeling surreal at times. Maya brings it all together with her voluptuous vocals that feel full, soulful, and luxurious.
When the band reached out to me at first, I was in the middle of moving my family to a new home, and so my review list was already lengthy. As I spent some time on this record, however, I could start to sense the band’s love for the craft, their passion for the subject matter (saving Mother Earth), and their exceptional ability to write both catchy riffs and choruses. Much of what they do might sound unconventional on the first listen, but I promise you will warm to it quickly.
The Planet in the Universe has a sense of melody that I love. Some of the songs have vibrant keyboard melodies or accents that are really effective, sometimes feeling rather New Wave, even. I think the track “Mother Earth” is a good example of this. It has a great chorus, burgeoning riff, and a fantastic groove, but the bright keyboards really bring it to life.
The album begins and ends with instrumental tracks. “Prelude” is guitar-heavy with Derek Sherinian guesting, and it sets the vibe for the whole affair. The title track ends the album, though, and by this time the record has become more emotional and cinematic, and so this song follows suit. It tends to be more about the keyboards and the passionate plea being offered, and so it makes for a memorable ending.
The songs in between are all great, too. I’ve mentioned “Mother Earth” already, but the other four songs may be even better. “Black Swan” is groovy and stylish, a great first vocal track. “Ghost Valley” might be my favorite overall with its building atmosphere and incredible instrumental in the second half. “Cool Summer Rain” is quite proggy, really digging deeply into the finger work on both guitar and keys, and it has plenty of transitions. Lastly, another favorite would be “Alexandria (The Winners Are Not Judged). This song has a hypnotic central melody that weaves its way around the song, and I love how Maya leans totally into this melody at certain points.
Existentia has produced a completely legit, often astonishing debut. This is one of those albums where I pinpoint something I love, but then I realize that I love pretty much everything about it. From the dark guitars to the lavish keys to Maya’s strong vocals, this record continues to grow on me, and it has been receiving more plays than many of my other favorite 2021 albums.
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