Exhorder – Mourn the Southern Skies (Nuclear Blast)Friday, 20th September 2019
Metal as a music genre courses through your veins usually from childhood and continues into adulthood. Some may take brief reprieves from the culture and lifestyle – but for many musicians, the power of the music has a certain eternal calling. Returning for their third album Louisiana veterans Exhorder released two records that many cite as setting the groove/power thrash template that Pantera locked onto for their future major label success – those records being Slaughter in the Vatican and The Law. Coming out on Roadrunner at a time when they were highly engaged on pushing their death metal roster, these gentlemen developed a cult status but never achieved that ultimate commercial success breakthrough. After a few reunion attempts fizzled out, they are back again – armed with guitarist Vinnie LaBella and vocalist Kyle Thomas from that original incarnation, rounded out by guitarist Marzi Montazeri, bassist Jason Viebrooks (Heathen), and drummer Sasha Horn.
Right away, Mourn the Southern Skies gains a proper boost thanks to modern production advancement to deliver a sound that is primal, in your face, and sharp – bursting at the seams with energy and power that you would expect Exhorder firing on all cylinders. The first single “My Time” contains the working man’s drudgery and pissed off anger lyrically to match up seamlessly through ripping riffs and scathing vocals – the mid-tempo slamming transition sure to cause mass carnage in the venues and festivals where the band play. Amongst the ten tracks there are two longer songs – placed in the middle and end of the record. “Yesterday’s Bones” has that southern swagger, an extended lead break around the 4:28 mark that is very bluesy and frenetic with a purpose, evolving into some beautiful acoustic action at the conclusion, while the almost ten-minute plus title song contains some monster doom riffs to allow Kyle a chance to shine in his melodic textures. Those who want the heavy hitter mania where the music and vocals collide into this aural tornado will want to dive deep into “Hallowed Sound” and “Ripping Flesh” – the maturity speaks volumes as Exhorder will not be considered retreading what they’ve already put out there, instead serving up material that can galvanize all ages who love groove/power thrash.
Most of the time legacy bands struggle to come close to channeling that creativity they captured on the first go around and unleash a fair set of songs that are passable, but not even close to the work that made their discography special. Exhorder instead obliterate expectations – Mourn the Southern Skies a record that will be talked about, devoured, and appreciated today, tomorrow, and decades down the line.