If there is one upside to this seemingly never-ending circus that is the Thrash revival movement it is that the nostalgia mania of the new generation wannabes has, consciously or otherwise, caused a lot of the original acts to step up their game. Releases like OVERKILL’s “Ironbound”, MEGADETH’s “Endgame” and even something like DEATH ANGEL’s “Relentless Retribution” have provided this sagging subgenre with the shot in the arm that it needed, sending out a clear signal that there will be no instance of the tail wagging the dog, so to speak.
EXUMER, a.k.a. ‘that other great German Thrash band from the 80s’, have now also joined the fray with “Fire & Damnation”, their first collection of new material in about 25 years. I’ve been stoked for this album ever since the band reformed a few years ago, and while I harboured no expectations of the band ever topping their classic ’86 album “Possessed By Fire”, I did expect an album that would at least not disgrace their legacy. By all accounts, “Fire & Damnation” has met my expectations quite nicely.
Mainman Mem von Stein has kept his Thrash chops intact during the long interim period with SUN DESCENDS, and the other members have also slotted back into their roles with consummate ease. “Fire & Damnation” has a lot in common with the post-2000 output of bands like TESTAMENT and DESTRUCTION, insofar as it hits a nice balance between the speed and riff-heaviness of olden times and the more compact, groovy, and powerfully produced works of the contemporary era. Even after numerous listens I still cannot really pick any individual highlights (which isn’t an ideal scenario), but on a pound-for-pound basis the album is a consistent and (mostly) enjoyable effort.
The dreaded groove element only pops up here and there, though, so purists can rest assured that the majority of the album thrashes along in fine nick. In a way the album serves as a nice sonic tour of the various Thrash traditions, with some songs having a definite South American feel (“Fallen Saint”), another a more Punky Crossover vibe (“Crushing Point”), and another like “Devil Chaser” featuring a more refined melodic appeal in the vein of old HEATHEN and the like. Mem von Stein impresses behind the microphone, exploring a wide array of vocal styles – a hoarse sneer on the title track, the traditional shouted/screamed style on straight-ahead thrashers like “Vermin of The Sky” and “Tribal Furies”, a Max Cavalera-like bark on “Fallen Angel”, and even some sung parts on the excellent “A New Morality”.
Overall not a bad album at all. Due to the definite lack of truly memorable riffs and the rather safe feel of the album as a whole, I cannot really give it a higher rating. “Fire & Damnation” is simply a good album – a collection of songs intended to show that these old-timers can and still want to Thrash. It is no modern masterpiece, but I think it fits in quite nicely with “Possessed By Fire” and “Rising From The Sea”.
Oh, and is it just me, or does that album cover have a strong GRAVELAND vibe going on?
(Online March 28, 2012)