EXA – Left in Shards (Self-Released)Monday, 5th February 2024
Berlin, Germany represents home turf for EXA, one of many new generation acts putting their own stamp on thrash metal. Issuing their debut EP Ignite in 2018 and debut album Cut the Past in early 2020, they have been fortunate to play shows with Power Trip, Nervosa, Gruesome, and Night Demon. While four years may seem like an eternity for the sophomore record Left in Shards, the pandemic probably slowed down productivity (or proper rehearsals). Continuing the DIY output including self-production duties handled by guitarist/vocalist Tom Exa, this is crisp thrash of a pristine variety – locked into many Bay Area traits while containing the right balance of fluid, sophisticated lead breaks as well as killer, musically tasty transitions that leave lasting imprints on your body.
Much of the riffing style, attack, and killer, drop on a dime transitions straddle the lines of late 80’s/early 90’s influences like Kreator, Megadeth, or Overkill, next to some modern groove metal mechanics that put Machine Head on the map. Beyond rhythm guitarist Johannes Lortz crunchy power foundation, Tom’s stellar melodic lead meets shred injections mold this material into an explosive cocktail of sounds that can be very heads down one moment, then harmony-fueled the next. Layers of stunted, rhythm-led guitars allow the double bass barrage for “King Terror” to be a perfect closer, Tom’s sadistic melodies adding that fierce edge to an already stellar arrangement. Many listeners will prefer the more conventional tones on display – beneficial in the bass/drum department for certain to lodge these songs deeper into brains on a fairly swift clip. Clean segments give chase to a larger cavalcade of progressive riffs to make “Hire to Fire” distinctive, the whispering /clean singing parts as well as the pulpit-oriented ending narrative provide dynamic touches to the good. For those that love a prominent bass presence that can be beefy as well as muscular, enjoy the work of Tamino Bosse especially on “Mind Free”, a mid-tempo outing that has a bit of modern touch in terms of the screams or supplementary chord progression choices.
Add in a killer logo / cover art combination to encapsulate EXA as a contender to keep thrash alive when the veterans die off (or retire) through Left in Shards. Tough as nails, strong as steel – beating bodies into submission one riff to next song at a time.