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Excel - Split Image Review

by Matt Hensch

"Split Image" is the kind of record that would have been a late-day hit had one of its songs been included on an early installment of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Big on the thrash metal/crossover motifs of Suicidal Tendencies, Cro-Mags, D.R.I., and Cryptic Slaughter, "Split Image" created ample room for Excel to stand up next to the big boys, although the band's legacy seems to have mostly fallen by the wayside. The first of Excel's three full-length albums, the group's debut is a neat little fossil left from the deluge of thrash/crossover groups from the 1980s who commonly fell into extinction during the creative wasteland that was the 1990s. Hell, "Split Image" was even produced by Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies fame, and with a name like that attached to its rump, one should have at least a reasonable inkling as to how this sounds.

Excel put this sucker out in 1987-a time when the thrash/crossover sound was in its golden days. Safe to say it isn't too shabby overall, though its biggest drawback is that it is way too dependent on the groundwork carved into stone by Excel's cohorts. But on the other hand, the personality disadvantage is mostly nullified by hardy riffs and solid tunes, in part because the paralleling of Suicidal Tendencies et al. is done very well. Its parts do not transcend the imagination in any way, as musically the roots of "Split Image" dig deep in thrash riffs and bouncy punk-laden sections that are smoothly intermingled-no surprises here. The organic cross-pollination of sounds comes off like a kickflip in a circle pit; they pull off the merger effortlessly.

Big portions of the punky attitude come from Dan Clements, whose rowdy, light-hearted vocals and angst-ridden lyrics are a near echo of Mike Muir's work in both manner and execution. Musically, though, Excel leaves out the punk pretenses when they drop a surging thrash riff and grind away. The production is raw and beefy, leaving the natural musical ends of the riffs and the rhythm section to balance out the attack properly. Not much more to say other than "Split Image" does what Suicidal Tendencies and others did back in the late 1980s. A short thirty-four minutes of thrash metal/crossover make the piece of "Split Image," and I'd say it's a levelheaded jewel from a gnarly squad found deep within the vestiges of this niche. Come for the angst; stay for the riffs.

Excel - Split Image


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