So Exumer has finally decided to dust off the denims and leathers and get back together and release a new album after thinking about it for a few years, well two of the original line up has anyway, namely Mem Von Stein on vocals and Ray Mensh on guitar.
Testing the market for a reformation of your band after 20 years of nothing is a gamble and has usually been backed up by die hard 80s fans requesting that these bands get back together alongside newer fans craving to feel what the 80s was like. In the mid 80s and despite the fact of having listened to Metallica and Slayer probably way longer than most I always preferred the dirtier German thrash/speed metal sound from Sodom, Kreator, Destruction, Deathrow, Iron Angel etc. By the time 1986 had hit thrash was in full throttle with ground breaking albums appearing almost weekly both in the mainstream and the tape trading underground. The explosion of acts grew exponentially creating a scene that was so exciting, it hit you like a hammer, goddamn (and if you don’t know where I stole those words from, then you should be breaking out into a cold sweat by now and be totally ashamed).
That same year saw Exumer release their debut at a time when anyone who could play a thrash riff got a deal even if the band was shit. Thankfully Exumer did not fit into this at all as “Possessed By Fire” still stands as a great thrash album but probably should have been released a year earlier so that it got in before the big four did at the time during 1986. The big fours influence was massive on the sophomore effort “Rising From The Sea” in 1987 but ultimately the band didn’t have sufficient capacity to compete with the glut of acts that were on the circuit at the time and folded in 1990 after one more demo.
So where are we at with “Fire & Damnation”, well I can tell you it isn’t “Possessed By Fire Part 2” in any way at all. Like Artillery in the last few years since their reformation, Exumer has gone for a modern thrash sound, a vicious guitar tone and clinical production which is, in fairness, fairly inevitable for today’s market. Even if hordes of 80s thrash zombies crave minimal productions and monophonic barrages bands need to sell albums as I’ve said before in reviews and being on Metal Blade means the stakes are high if you want to continue making metal in 2012 and beyond. The album kicks off with the title track and immediately you’d probably say it sounds like a hundred other thrash acts around today. I did like the speed metal hook towards the end and as an opener it’s solid but nothing amazing. “Vermin Of The Sky” starts with a short double bass run and following riff which is OK and again a speed metal break is inserted into the tune, which for me is always a good thing. This tune has a definite German feel of newer Destruction and even Artillery, since I mentioned them earlier. It is good that the band has thought about the leads to make them identifiable and fit within each song at the right moment. Vocally it’s as you’d expect, macho, clearly bellowed but doesn’t have that higher pitch end Mem von Stein had in the 80s which I guess is just a factor of time on the larynx.
“A New Morality” has a very familiar riff I can’t quite place and a good head nodding pace that leads to a good mid section. It isn’t overtly fast stuff by any means until “Waking The Fire” which sees the speed increased substantially after its slow start. “Fallen Saint” from the debut is re-recorded here and sounds refreshed within the new stuff with a modern production and bolstered guitar sound. The viciousness increases on “Devil Chaser” which has a savage riff and “I Dare You” is very like old Exumer, with its simultaneous pounding snare and bass kick. It is too easy to say that this band or that band has put out a better album in thrash last year or this year but when it all comes down to it IS Exumer and for that I am glad the band has put out a new album that is straight thrash, straight headbanging and straight moshing; it does what you’d expect and no more which is damn fine by me.
7.5/10 (Martin Harris)