Certain things just don't seem to go together. So when I see a band describing themselves as a mixture of death metal and progressive rock, I wonder how those two things can possibly coexist. Death metal, even in its progressive form, is all about relentless aggression, while progressive rock is focused on nuance and development. Combining the two isn't exactly a recipe for smashing success. Yet, GrandExit claims to do such a thing, and if it is indeed possible, it would be a welcome relief from the never-ending flow of boiler-plate death metal I see.
The one-minute opener “The Striven” doesn't attempt anything out of the ordinary, nor does it accomplish much of anything. The song is simply too short to be developed into a fully realized composition. There's a couple of riffs, and a few gargled vocals, but it comes and goes before I can even stop to think about what the point of such a track is. “Lost At Sea” doesn't change the structure much, still a more polished take on straight forward death metal, although done with enough songwriting that it manages to be enjoyable while disappointing me.
“Judgment Of The Wicked” is where the labels finally come to fruition, a death metal take on System Of A Down. The song is weird, a bit wacky, and infinitely more interesting than the two that proceeded it. This is the sort of thing that makes you take notice, even if you aren't sure exactly what it is you're hearing. You know you haven't heard it before, which is a leg up on the competition.
Clean(er) vocals help propel “Buried”, adding another wrinkle to the formula. It's an element the band is clearly not fully comfortable with, but I appreciate the attempt to add a bit of diversity to the album. “Box Of Glass” is the most aggressive song on the record, with its array of Bay Area riffs. It thrashes through its five minutes with more energy than the surrounding tracks.
The biggest problem with the record is the expectations I had when I pressed play. A mixture of death metal and progressive rock, no matter how ugly it seemed in my mind, would have been something interesting to hear. This record, however, is not what I was promised. There's nothing progressive rock about the music on this album, either in sound or in execution. Even the moments of System Of A Down worship fall short of that mark, because they aren't integrated with any skill. Sewing limbs together is meaningless without any tendons holding them together. The monster may live, but it will never walk.
“The Dead Justifies The Means”, the title, is the best thing about the album. There's a hint of cleverness in it that the music never manages to capture. There's no joy in this music, nor is there a sly nod to tell us there's a hidden message I'm missing on the surface. Rather, “The Dead Justifies The Means” is a pseudo-death metal album that wants to be thought of as different without actually doing anything to justify it. There's nothing inherently wrong with the record, but there's nothing to write home about either.