Exalt Is Ontario’s Hidden Metalcore Gem

The Kitchener dudes speak on their new album and what sacrifice means to them.

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Oct 14 2016, 2:24pm

No band quite fucks up ears like Exalt does. With riveting and bone shivering live performances, the Kitchener, Ontario band features extremely dark and aggressive tones that have continued to run throughout the life blood of metal and hardcore. The Canadian four-piece recently signed to New Damage Records and released one of their most anticipated album The Shape You Took Before The Ache. Their bone crunching yet minimalistic tones make Exalt a band that'll not only define their genre but bring new elements to the table. From the raw and bare bones record of their first record Breach False Minds in 2012, to 2014 when they released Pale Light, and The Shape You Took Before The Ache in 2016, Exalt has taken their time to hone in on their strengths and refine their sound. The new album is the eventual outcome of Exalt's constant grinding and polishing of their sound. Tracks like "Sacrifice to Purify" are characterized with certified rage inducing, heavy, head banging riffs and downtempo sequences. All these elements are done masterfully with signs of maturity and a certain poise.

Exalt's unholy metal is dark and twisted tones paired with lyrics of adversity and imprisonment. The album slaps listeners in the face with wave after wave of fast distorted rhythms fixed with lyrics of freedom, betrayal and suffering. Slow and melodic songs like "The Shape", "The Ache" and "I Dove Into The Sun" reveals a more malleable and vulnerable side to the record. This gives the Exalt record a dynamic that was unfamiliar to most listeners before. These concepts were slightly experimented in in their previous record in 2014 Pale Light but have not been fully actuated. The hollow singing of "I Dove Into The Sun" paired with Exalt's sinister tone creates a refreshing side to metal and hardcore. Exalt does this balancing act through the album, seemingly pacing themselves before continuing to unleash their now extremely polished and shady metal. However within the barrage of beating metal that The Shape You Took Before The Ache gives, Exalt surprisingly gives listeners songs to breathe in. Exalt vocalist Tyler and guitarist Ben talked about the evolution of the band and their new album below.

The Shape You Took Before The Ache was not a conventional Exalt record, What has pushed you guys to expand your repertoire?
Tyler: We lost our second guitarist in the earliest stages of writing this record. I think this forced us to right in a way that was much more focused. We all talked very heavily about musical direction and bringing in influences from other places of the musical spectrum, separate from hardcore or metal, while trying to also play Exalt songs. It was a consciously focussed effort while still writing with spontaneity in our style.

I hear you guys listen to everything, do you think this affects the way you guys write?
Tyler: I definitely think it affects it. We all definitely pull influences from various styles of music, from blues to hardcore, from trip hop to black metal, I think it allows our creativity to flow in a different way than having an absurdly one-sided creative outlook.

I've seen you guys a handful of times and you guys have always impressed with great live performances. Is that something that you guys actively think about when writing records?Tyler: Well hey, thanks! To answer the question, yes and no. There are certain songs we write that aren't currently making their rounds in our live sets. I'm sure they will be integrated eventually, but new territory has to be treaded on lightly if we can't pull things off perfectly live, we won't play them live. But for the most part, we write the songs with the intention of playing them live. Creating an atmosphere in a venue, and something that will be fun to play for a couple years.

How do you think this album will translate live?
Tyler: We have been playing some of these songs for about a year now. But some of the slower songs, songs with more melody and dynamics, we worked on very heavily in the studio to build them as opposed to writing them as a band in a jam hall. Those songs will be shocking for us, and people who are used to our regular live set. It will take some getting used to, but I'd rather be pushing ourselves to be better and attempting new things, than just letting ourselves become sterile.

Ben, does having your sibling in your band play a role in writing music or anything?
Ben: I mean, sibling or not, it is what it is. Tim is my best friend beyond being my brother and my family, and through our close relationship we've been able to share a lot of life and a lot of our passions together which is something I don't take for granted ever. This band has been a success to me because we can make the music we want to make, together with Tyler and Mitch, and spend that portion of our life together. I wouldn't make music with anyone else and that's always how it will be for me.

There are a lot of lyrics about sacrifice and suffering, is there a place this all comes from?Tyler: There is less of a personal connection to this than some people would like to hear, I'm sure. But the idea of sacrifice to gain knowledge, or suffering to gain strength is something very intriguing for me. There isn't too much brightness in my writing, just have to look for the silver lining I guess.

The first song on every album always bangs the hardest, is this intentional? If so, why?
Tyler: Have to come out with something that sticks out. It's not super intentional at all, we try to carefully arrange our songs in a logical, flowing order for our records. I guess it turns out like that sometimes.

What's the next record going to sound like?
Tyler: Probably different. Probably the same. I don't know anything in this world, really.

​Photo by Steph Mill.​

Byron Yan is a writer based in Toronto. He's on Twitter.