2019 is appearing to be a triumphant year for thrash metal with the return of quite a few older bands that have long since been in absence, and Exhorder is one of them. After a 27 year hiatus, the group is back with a brand new studio album, Mourn The Southern Skies, that’s being put out via Nuclear Blast Records on September 20th, 2019.
When I was a young adolescent getting into heavy and aggressive sounding music, hearing the absolute fury and intensity on Slaughter In The Vatican (1989) and the follow-up, The Law (1992) were incredibly impressionable, and those records will always have a special place in my heart. However, the ’90s were very hard on bands like Exhorder and unfortunately forced them to silence their output for many years. While they’ve reformed at least once or even twice since the inception of their hiatus, and even the talks of a new record were being entertained, nothing quite has come of it until the past couple of years. Vocalist Kyle Thomas and Guitarist Vinnie LaBella (being the only original members), decided that they’d like to go out and try it again one more time. Much to their surprise and with a newly revitalized line-up adding lead guitarist Marzi Montazeri, former bassist Jason Viebrooks, and drummer Sasha Horn, the band started touring again, and the reception was mind-blowing. Fans everywhere came out in droves to witness a long time absented group make a comeback for the ages by playing all those old songs and showing that these 50 somethings still have plenty of fire and gas left in the tank to deliver the impeccable goods. Inevitably, that would lead to a conversation of, “Are we due for a new Exhorder record after 27 years? ”
Well, Exhorder answered, and boy did they have the answer – a potent “Fuck yes!” Back in July, fans finally had a chance to check out the first taste of what Exhorder sounds like after 27 years with the release of the lead single “My Time.”
From the start of the riff, it’s absolutely commanding, and it’s undeniably Exhorder. This is exactly how I think anyone could picture Exhorder sounding like after so many years. However, the beauty of it is that the band sounds reinvigorated, inspired, and ready to grab you by the throat once again and bring you in for another round of punches. The music crushes; Kyle’s vocals haven’t aged ONE bit (which I have to admit is incredibly impressive) and are almost better in a lot of ways. If I had only one gripe with the tune, it’s the rather juvenile lyrics, but I overlooked those once I realized how potent the delivery was. Regardless, definitely not bad at all for a first taste!
This left fans like myself craving for more, and soon afterward they released yet another intense ripper of a song “Hallowed Sound.”
This song is simply classic Exhorder, and I could see it appearing on The Law (1992). Kyle’s vocals sound as good as ever here, and the riffing is some of Vinnie’s best. This was a great way to follow up “My Time” when it comes to releasing singles, as I find them overall to be the most straight forward and basic tracks on the record but still palatable.
Despite having some really fast bangers like “My Time,” “Beware The Wolf,” “Rumination,” and “Ripping Flesh” (A song that could TOTALLY be right at home on Slaughter In The Vatican!), they still incorporate a lot of their groove elements on a lot of the record on such tracks like “Asunder,” “Hallowed Sound,” “The Arms Of Man,” and title track “Mourn The Southern Skies” that can be traced back to The Law, but in a lot of ways have a sound all of their own. I can only assume the band was trying to achieve that on purpose, especially on the title track where they almost get into sludge/doom metal territory. With Kyle formerly fronting Trouble, this is rather welcoming.
However, for me, the huge standout track has to be “Yesterday’s Bones” simply because it’s very dynamic, and unlike anything the band has done before, and it’s honestly a very well written song. If this is any indication of what Exhorder is willing to do in the future, then sign me up! It’s heavy, and even melodic in parts and the guitar work is just exceptional with very nice layers happening and a sweet outro to boot.
This was a very lengthy review for me, but it’s one I was excited to do, simply because Exhorder is one of my favorite thrash bands. With this new outing, they have something for everybody whether the fans are brand new or if they’ve been there since their inception. Not that I had many doubts, but this record is really well done. There was never an instance for me where I felt as if it was a forced effort or as if it fell short, other than the lyrics on the first two leading singles being somewhat weak. However, the rest of the album’s lyrical content is a step up and outweighs the weaker lyrical themes. In a lot of ways, I even like this record better than their undeniable classics. Some may find that to be a bit controversial, but once the album comes out, I suspect that a lot of others will potentially share the same sentiment. The production is modern and punchy, and it’s got everything that you would expect from Exhorder but with new elements that add to their sound. It’s worth a listen for anyone who considers themselves a fan, or a fan of thrash metal. This one is not your typical thrash album, and will more than likely prove to be a standout for the genre this year alongside other classic Thrash comeback albums.
Beware The Wolf
Mourn The Southern Skies