One of the reasons I love metal is its stern-faced acceptance of the dorkiest sci-fi/fantasy concepts. From the countless Tolkien acolytes to unique weirdos like the inter-dimensional, slug-worshipping act Slugdge, this genre is a safe space for your nerdiest expressions. But in this context, knowing how outré metal bands are allowed to be, a heavy group that opts for blunt-force directness can really stand out. On its second LP, Portland doom-thrash quartet Exclave isn’t interested in creating wild new worlds. In line with its muscular, lo-fi sound, the band is so committed to keeping things simple that it’s created an album of ironic depth. Simply by calling this release Mortality, Exclave cuts through the metaphorical clutter and gets right at what makes the best metal so thrilling and cathartic – it’s not afraid to stare death in the face. “The yearning for the great beyond / Calls to question what we know to be true,” wails singer Darrel Dennison (also of the rip-roarin’ Portland hard-rock group Apollyon), encapsulating how religion can poison our minds with breathtaking economy. Combine these hard-hitting lines with the fact these guys have riffs, and can shift between a Motorhead chug and a Judas Priest gallop with ease, and I’m inspired to be blunt, too: Exclave is one of the most promising acts in Maine metal today.