Although they’ve changed significantly in sound and feel since 2011, Miles From Exile have always been a band that Hated One Metal Reviews feels a great sense of personal gratitude and appreciation toward. Consequently, the need to write this review was tangible.
Ten years, three lead vocalists, and an original lineup ago, Chicago's Miles From Exile released their debut EP, a self-titled, five-track ripper that literally sent electrical impulses coursing through the veins of yours truly upon first listen. This EP was so personally effectual that it rekindled a long-dormant love for local, live music to such a degree that when the website Rock in Chicago put out a call in 2012 for volunteer journalists to help fill out their content, you-know-who answered and discovered one of his own passions in life.
Progressive, thrashy, growling, and melodic in all of the right places, the original Miles From Exile EP contained just the right mix of raw energy and unbridled talent that made many locals turn their heads and take notice.
Roughly a year later, another three-track EP entitled Malcontents & Machinations was unleashed and introduced Miles From Exile’s burgeoning fanbase to the band’s ever-growing progressive, melodic leanings. Doing away with the thrash and ushering in fresh melodic elements like keyboards and even more mind-bending mathematical riffage to the mix, Malcontents signaled the beginning of a new chapter for the band – and the end of the line for original vocalist D’Andre Payne.
Payne was quickly replaced by Bart Kozlowski, and Kozlowski subsequently featured on the 2014 Borrowed Eyes and 2016 Transcend EP's. These efforts presented Miles From Exile fans with another new direction in sound for the band, as along with Kozlowski’s powerful pipes also came the opportunity to push the band into even further melodic realms à la one of their favorite influences, Protest The Hero...and push it in this direction, they did.
Enjoyable to be sure, Borrowed Eyes and Transcend were also a big enough departure from their previous releases, though, that Hated One felt the time had come for an official change to the band’s genre classification. No longer were Miles From Exile progressive thrash...they had officially become a progressive metalcore band (insert dramatic movie score snippet here).
Now, Hated One’s disdain for metalcore bands has been well documented over the years; but every so often, some can be talented and unpretentious enough to be highly enjoyable, and ever since Cynic came along, progressive bands have represented the proverbial monkey wrenches tossed into the gears of the “normal” metal genre machinery. Hell, even Between the Buried and Me once had the term slapped upon them, and they are one of the best bands to form on the planet since the turn of the century (and anyone who’s ever heard BTBAM knows that it’s impossible to specifically categorize them as anything other than “progressive” and “metal” anymore).
So, in other words, the labels writers use can be loosely applicable at times, especially regarding bands that don’t seem to fit easily within the usual subgenre parameters of thrash, death, black, power, or doom. For better or for worse, Miles From Exile are another one of these bands that ultimately defy true classification; and, also for better or for worse, progressive metalcore hits closest to the mark right now, just as it did once for some of their influences, too.
And regarding Miles From Exile’s first LP to be released in their decade of existence, Miles From Exile? Well, firstly and admittedly superficially, it is confusingly titled (or untitled, depending on how you think about it) seeing as the band’s first EP was also self-titled. Giving the LP its own unique name would’ve permanently eliminated any confusion, so it still bears mentioning, superficial or not.
Foundationally, though, Miles From Exile contains even more change. After Kozlowski left the band in 2016, Miles From Exile were officially on the hunt for a new vocalist for more than three years. They even considered going instrumental for a time (not a terrible idea considering how talented each player is on his respective instrument), but eventually, founding guitarist Justin Lesko decided to step up and take over the bulk of the vocal duties himself.
Backed by fellow founding members Tony Notardonato (lead guitars) and Mike Ludwig (bass), Lesko and company form the new, in-house vocal platoon featured on Miles From Exile...and that’s not the only change. After departing the band in 2013 for personal reasons (and replaced admirably on Borrowed Eyes and Transcend by Michal Swiercz), founding drummer Edirin Ibru has returned to the fold and, in essence, has made this new LP a reunion album as well (minus Payne, of course).
Musically, it should come as no surprise by now that Miles From Exile are trying out yet another new direction. With a new lead vocalist, the sound and feel changes naturally, of course, but the music upon which Lesko and Co. are laying down said vocals is jazzier and noticeably more progressive than anything the band’s ever attempted before. Clearly unafraid to venture out on a limb and try something new, Miles From Exile’s latest effort represents the grandest of varied releases in what is now a long line of varied releases to be issued from this ever-evolving Chicago act.
Due out independently on February 1st, 2021, the Miles From Exile LP from the band of the same name should appeal to a wide variety of listeners. Fans of Protest the Hero and old The Human Abstract should have no problem getting down on this, and certain lovers of Cynic, Scale the Summit, and BTBAM just might take a shine to these Chicago veterans, too.
To hear “In Absinthe(ia)”, the opening track on Miles From Exile’s latest effort, simply press play below, and preorder yourself a copy if you dig what you hear! \m/
Rating: 89 / 100 (B+)
Release Date: February 1st, 2021 (Independent)
Genre: Progressive Metalcore/Progressive Metal
FFO: Protest the Hero, The Human Abstract, Cynic, Between the Buried and Me, Monuments, Periphery, Tesseract, Norma Jean