Post-metal attunes itself to wild and progressive interpretations; the expressions therefrom jet out in all directions, some more strongly than others. On paper, it sounds like total creative freedom. In action, though, furious competition takes over, and the lust for innovation overpowers all other expressive desires. Post-metal philosophizes that conformity weakens us so consistency can waylay us (it all leads to boredom, the absolute opposite of what you should experience when listening to music). By doing so, though, post-metal resigns the concept of familiarity along with the mathematics of similarity, resulting in try-hard bands who engage in wanton experimenting with limited to no direction or framework. In a world where anything goes, identity does too, and then it's all just notes on paper.

One approach would be to infuse post-metal with a stabilizing agent. In the case of French outfit Decline of the I and their upcoming full-length Escape, they've solidified the core, stretched the midsection, and scorched the edges of the subgenre with black metal ointment. As a balanced blend of two styles, Escape can pinpoint synchronies while eliminating discrepancies -- it comes down to both clever artisanship and comprehensive context. This positioning allows Decline of the I to act as embedded analysts, or, if they dare, experimenters, and it's doubtless that frontman and multi-instrumentalist "A" felt especially adventurous across Escape's six cinematic tracks. Check out an exclusive stream of the entire album below before its Friday release.

Between the immediate chord strike opening "Disruption" to the caustically eerie vocal outro on album closer "Je pense donc je fuis," Decline of the I deliver everything from mind-numbing blast beats to mind-dissolving synthy atmospherics. The breadth of Escape presents the immediate danger of an idea glut; however, the band's razor-focused approach to each element plays out over an aggressive (but exciting) pace across seamless transitions and expressive undulations. As such, Escape remains freshly melted over its runtime, resisting the natural urge to mix itself into a solid-color sludge. Still, the album remains heavily saturated and stew-like: lots to taste and digest, and especially fulfilling.

It's not that you can listen to Escape once and achieve infinite satiation, though. Repeat listens always glean new details; here, Decline of the I have embedded micro nuances and touches to sharpen and realize the picture. The encapsulating, multi-layered nature of "Negentropy (Fertility Sovereign)," for example, dissolves slowly into fuzzy keyboard-led melodies as the song outros into a full minute of silence before the climactic closer. The band has built important keystones as such throughout Escape to better situate your mind relative to the music and the experience of listening to it -- essentially, to keep you as present with the album as possible. The album thereby releases any difficulty inherent in its consumption despite its complexity; as always, there's nothing wrong with an easy (albeit thick) listen.

For some, the post-metal in Escape will ring more truly than the black metal, and vice-versa for others. This is nothing but a good sign for the band, and not because of any popularizing genre controversy or debate (always a waste of time). Rather, it's positive certification that both worlds were tapped for inspiration; and luckily, the album remained within the genres' shared atmosphere. Newcomers should therefore find much to relate with, guiding them toward the esoteric details woven throughout Escape which seasoned listeners can immediately jump to -- more importantly, though, this album serves as a bridge toward new insight for those peeking over their respective horizons.

Escape releases this Friday on Agonia Records. Preorders are available here. Follow the band on Facebook.

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