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Exhorder - Mourn the Southern Skies

Mourn the Southern Skies
by Chris Hawkins at 01 October 2019, 8:59 PM

It should be a given that almost all reading this have heard EXHORDER’s timeless classic debut “Slaughter in the Vatican”.  If not, it should be in your personal Metal data bank.  The band stormed on the scene in 1990 with that album and a fresh, groove-heavy Thrash sound.  Since the 1990s, there has been an ongoing debate about EXHORDER and PANTERA.  When EXHORDER formed in 1985, though, PANTERA was Anselmo-less and still a straight-forward Heavy Metal regional act so it could very well be argued that EXHORDER had more skin in the game by the time they released that mammoth-sounding monster of a debut five years later.  Despite any affiliation or persuasion, though, it should be a universally positive thing to have a new EXHORDER record now.  “Mourn the Southern Skies” is a resounding return for the band showing their chops are still razor sharp as well as upping the ante on that groove dimension.

I’ve always maintained that Metal was dealt a serious loss when EXHORDER decided to call it quits back in 1994.  Evidently, issues arose which predicated the band to dissolve and one can only wonder what they would have sounded like had they gone on.  Thankfully, with “Mourn the Southern Skies,” the band have answered any questions fans may have cultivated over the years with a resolute, high-energy release that presents a carefully crafted sound that is the combination of Kyle Thomas’s vocals and Vinnie LaBella’s riffs.  One of the major improvements the band have made is to invest in a solid recording that can really channel their live prowess.  Seeing them at the Decibel Beer and Metal Fest this past April, they certainly impressed with their set of songs taken from their last two albums.  They are like D.R.I.: to truly appreciate them, one must see them live.

EXHORDER have retained the core of Thomas and LaBella but also recruited new blood for an additional guitarist, a bassist, and drummer.  Glimpses at each’s resume is to see bands from HEATHEN to GRIP INC. To SUPERJOINT RITUAL to NOVEMBER’S DOOM, and PHIL ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS.  With such a storied, proven, and varied pedigree as presented, the band really comes alive with a well-executed, tight performance that will have a lot of players deciding they should really practice more.

From the opening moments of lead track, "My Time,” one becomes hooked with the monster riffs and pissed-off vocals.  It develops a solid groove in the latter half of the song over which a cacophony of torched solos blaze.  Ultimately, it is a catchy Thrash anthem with a guitar tone that properly amplifies the tenacity behind it.  “Hallowed Sound,” the third track, also features a heavy groove impossible to resist full of syncopated swing that really pulls the listener in.

The fourth track, “Beware the Wolf,” contains a timeless breakdown.  The riffs toe the line carefully between sheer aggression and the NOLA voodoo swagger that swims through their blood.  “Yesterday’s Bones” follows containing a dazzling melodic interlude in the middle section which really tests the elasticity of one’s imagination with soaring guitar solos over chords playing harmonic accompaniment.  That part of the song was almost reminiscent of DREAM THEATER when they cover PINK FLOYD, an organic Prog/Trippy part that dazzles.  The following song, “All She Wrote,” has a massive Southern stomp of a vibe in which Kyle Thomas’s vocals give the music an element of accessibility and appeal in the same vein as giants like Phil Anselmo, Pepper Keenan, and Kirk Windstein.

This record is a Thrash fan’s dream come true.  EXHORDER stay true to their roots and craft songs that have one hearkening back to the early 19990s, a simpler time with a ton of great music and bands really pushing the envelope.  The band does branch out a bit with the final, title track which relies heavily upon that massive NOLA Pentatonic brew of methodical gargantuan groove and crawling tempo.  It is that one song that they took a bit of a risk on, but it pays off adding flavor and color to the end result.  This isn’t the album of the year, but it certainly deserves due attention as EXHORDER paid their dues and now are flexing their Metal muscle.

Songwriting:  8
Originality:  8
Memorability:  8
Production:  8

4 Star Rating

1. My Time
2. Asunder
3. Hallowed Sound
4. Beware the Wolf
5. Yesterday’s Bones
6. All She Wrote
7. Rumination
8. The Arms of Man
9. Ripping Flesh
10. Mourn the Southern Skies

Vinnie LaBella – Guitars
Kyle Thomas – Vocals
Jason Viebrooks – Bass
Sasha Horn – Drums
Marzi Montazeri – Guitars

Record Label: Nuclear Blast


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