Exmortus - The Sound of Steel - (9/10)
Published on June 11, 2018
Neo-classical thrash conquers all!
Exmortus are a band that should be on most thrash metal fans’ radar by now. Although they have been around since 2002, they really exploded onto the thrash scene in 2014 with their third album, Slave to the Sword. The Southern California natives have quickly become one of the biggest names in modern thrash because of their unique ability to combine technical skill with creative and catchy melodies. Their fifth album, The Sound of Steel, boasts a new second guitarist and a new drummer from the same source. Chase Becker and Carlos Cruz of Warbringer have now joined Exmortus so this new album comes with some high expectations.
As you would expect, this album gets off to a flying start with “Make Haste” and “Feast of Flesh,” both of which are absolutely blistering and packed with powerful riffs and great melodies. After that, the album does slow down a little with a couple ¾ paced tunes that are even more riff-centered but even these tunes still pack a pretty significant punch. As always with Exmortus, there are plenty of wonderful neo-classical guitar leads and skillful solos. Hell, “Tempest” is nothing but neo-classical guitar work with some splendid riffing and brilliant solos. As instrumentals go, it is one of the most compelling examples out there. This may not be the fastest album out there but it still features plenty of speed as well as plenty of killer grooves. Most thrash albums tend to go one way or the other but Exmortus strike an excellent balance between the two on this album.
The drumming in Exmortus has always been great and Carlos Cruz continues that trend with an excellent performance on this album. Carlos brings plenty of speed on tracks like “Feast of Flesh” but he also displays some very solid cymbal work on tracks like “Into the Maw of Hell.” His patterns are relatively simple for the most part but they are very dynamic and he varies them often enough to keep the listener interested. It helps that these songs contain a fair amount of variation in tempo to keep the album fresh and exciting. There are a couple cool bass lines on this album but much of the time, the bass is not particularly noticeable. “A Minor Instrumental” opens with a really nice galloping bass line to complement the galloping riffs but it only lasts a short time.
Jadran “Conan” Gonzalez’s vocals are awesome as usual. His harsh vocals are unique in that he sounds like a warrior going into battle with the bear-like growls. The nice thing is that you can usually understand what he is singing pretty easily, even through the harshness of the vocal aesthetic. Conan has a couple pretty sweet high screams on this album as well, providing a healthy dose of variety. “Riders of Doom” is a bit of a changeup for Exmortus with its slow-burn heavy approach and the epic chanting and drumming, though it still sounds like them. It makes the album more interesting and Conan does a killer job with the slower approach.
This album may not sound quite as fresh as Slave to the Sword did when it came out but it still thrashes really hard and really well. The bombastic neo-classical sound is as brilliant as ever on this album and Exmortus are showing no signs of slowing down. This album is full of brilliant, high-energy thrash/death with stunning neoclassic guitar work and tunes that will kick your ass straight into next week.