Thursday, February 20, 2014

REVIEW: the neoclassical thrash of Exmortus: "Slave to the Sword" (Prosthetic Records)

Exmortus (U.S.): "Slave to the Sword” (Prosthetic Rec.)
Did Exmortus set for itself the objective of making its own latter day “Rust in Peace”? Did the guys in the band convince Eddie Van Halen or Yngwie Malmsteen to join them for a thrash album?
Right away, the attentive listener will notice with these songs that the obvious reason that Exmortus stands out is the amount of effort taken to make a professional recording with quality instrumentation. From the start, the album overflows with neoclassical shredding; and the spirit of neoclassical metal and shredder guitar comprise a substantial portion of the fundamentals of Exmortus.
Yet, Exmortus also compiles quite an array of seemingly colliding traits. The polished neoclassical leanings, for instance, may not be the most immediate characteristic that listeners imagine when they think of thrash, a genre associated with speed and “punk” energy, not necessarily finesse. In some songs, such as “Moonlight Sonata (Act 3),” classical music takes over in the form of metal; it’s metal, but it’s classical music on guitar, too. “Neoclassical thrash” puts Exmortus in a distinct niche, apart from less skilled “street” or “crossover” thrash bands. Of course, shredding thrash has been Exmortus’ style for years, but it just seems that the planets aligned in a row for this album and the band has made the one that they will have to live up to for the foreseeable future (ever?).
Headbangers should worry not, though, because Exmortus is very much a metal band. Not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants and not rough-and-ready thrash band like Toxic Holocaust, but still very much a thrashy entity, in the live setting this music should be both entertaining and bit virtuoso, not just obnoxiously loud. As a band of contradictions, Exmortus seems to go against the stream of its own sound by employing rough growling and completely typical “metal” lyrics. Perhaps one would think that with such polished, skilled elegance goes a clean production and would necessitate melodic singing. Or if not that, then maybe it would be some of the smoother growling found in a band like Insomnium. Instead, this growling is a bit aggressive and the lyrics are all about “warriors,” “fighting” and “steel,” in a Manowar-ish lyrical style. In point of fact, the art for this work seems to be inspired by all those bands with warriors and swords on the cover, too numerous to name them here.
In conclusion, thrash listeners or guitar-friendly listeners searching for a band that has a modern, polished production and lots of shredding will find many things to smile about with this new Exmortus album. It’s also melodic and upbeat enough that the traditional heavy metal audience can find something to its liking, the only obstacle obviously is the growling. Even so, the playing and the songs deserve a chance based on the overall quality.
Now, boys, a word about those lyrics…

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