As the comparison is always going to find its way into this review, I figured I’d get it out of the way immediately. The only reason I listen to Pantera is because I mistakenly thought a new song I heard from ‘Vulgar Display of Power’ was from ‘The Law’, as I’d never heard of Pantera at the time. I’d even made my own ‘Slaughter’ T-shirt, as there was no way we’d ever get something like that in ZA in the early 90s. Anyway, enough about me. Sure, the only reason I listened to Exhorder in the first place was the cover of ‘Slaughter in the Vatican’ caught my eye as I was browsing through the friend that introduced me to most of what I listen to’s collection. He said, I’d enjoy it and he wasn’t wrong. And Exhorder is one of those bands that I always wanted more music from, to the point of getting Floodgate to get that fix. But, it wasn’t the same.
Now this time around… Holy crap, but has the nearly 30 year wait been worthwhile. Returning are Kyle Thomas (vocals) and Vinnie LaBella (lead guitar) with former member Jason VieBrooks (bass) and new guys Marzi Montazeri (lead guitar) and Sasha Horn (drums), both with excellent credentials, and as can be heard on the album, the proficiency to back them up.
Within 10 seconds, “My Time” is blasting away and you know Exhorder are back, and in imperious form. One of my favourite features of their song structure is the speed the guitars and drums are being played, while the vocals have a pace all their own for far more emphasis and impact. Watch the video clip for the song to see what I mean, besides it’s great too.
It’s good to see that their commitment to matrimony is as steadfast as ever, as attested to in “Asunder”, but it’s really the leads on the song that are able to make your heart flutter.
What can I say about the groove that is the riff for “Hallowed Sound”? The hint of aggression in Kyle’s voice has Jason’s bubbling bass accompanying it, as the slow steady drumming brings in the double timed lead and a gentle pace increase to the riffing, but never upping the tempo.
“Beware the Wolf” has no qualms in speeding things up, with the racing guitars and drums tempered by the deep slower vocals to keep the familiar Exhorder groove in place.
Slowing things right down to gently strummed acoustic levels is “Yesterday’s Bones”, but not before 6 minutes of heavy riffs and immaculate leads have come to their conclusion, as have the angry vocals that seem even more venomous at this laid back pace.
Throwing themselves right back into the thick of things, “All She Wrote” lets Sasha muck around with timing signatures all the while keeping the tempo metronomically precise.
Kyle’s voice goes from vicious with a touch of raspiness to near melodic crooning on “Rumination”, before rushing into the verse after the lead, all without ever uttering an inaudible syllable.
The sharp snap of the snare and popping of the background bass guitar allows the guitars, littered with false harmonics, to intertwine their leads on the mid-paced “Arms of Man” where the roars have a distinctive southern drawl, but it’s the final 30s of kick drums that are awesome.
And speaking of awesome footwork, Chris Nail joins them on drums for a re-rendering of 1986’s “Ripping Flesh” and at the speed he’s playing the song, it’s blistering to say the least. His rather familiar, manic yet perfectly in control style is exactly what the song requires.
The laconic and lumbering “Mourn the Southern Skies” is perfectly paced to end the album as it oozes its bluesy meandering and gets Kyle to do plenty more than sing in anger as he displays a range of emotions, also captured by the languid leads as Vinne and Marzi run their fingers up and down the necks of their guitars.
Sure, I’m biased because I love the band, but I would also hold no punches if I thought the album was crap, which it most certainly is not.
(9/10 Marco Gaminara)