Exmortus is often labelled as a thrash or death metal band, but this description is not quite accurate from my point of view. The exceptional quartet from Whittier, California plays some really solid heavy and power metal with an epic atmosphere, gripping melodic guitar riffs, and extensive neoclassical solos and speedy buildups. Only the harsher vocals and a few crunchy riffs really call to mind thrash or melodic death metal influences. Their technically-appealing style sounds, in fact, like a mixture of Children Of Bodom, King Diamond, Megadeth, Stratovarius, and Testament. All in all, this is very intriguing and unique band in my eyes.
New album Slave To The Sword is the band’s most efficient and melodic release to date, and was already recorded and due to be released in early 2013 but for a chaotic label change that pushed the release back to early 2014. Right now, the band is touring extensively throughout North America to promote its third effort, and the Americans are a truly amazing and energizing live band – in comparison to many bands that kill it on stage but sound rather shallow on their records, or vice versa, Exmortus manages to transporits edgy live energy on this release.
The strong album kicks off with neoclassical shreds in the fast opener “Rising”. The rapid drumming, the wild bass guitar lines, and the straight guttural vocals add even more frenzy to the track before stunning twin guitar solos kick in for the bridge. I haven’t heard such a pitiless and powerful opener in quite a while. The best thing is that half of the songs on this release cut loose in just such a fashion, and the riffing throughout is absolutely merciless!
The more groove and thrash metal oriented “Slave To The Sword” shows us the band’s other face, and adds some variety to a potent album. The title song is a little bit darker, slower, and more rhythmic. Fans of bands such as Death Angel should absolutely dig this one, and the melodic side of power and thrash shown off by Exmortus is one of its real strong points. Most of the following tracks offer a balanced mixture between the two approaches in the opening duo. The band shows off its technical abilities as well in the outstanding cover of Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata (Act III)”. Even Yngwie Malmsteen and Timo Tolkki would be green with envy if they heard this phenomenal instrumental track.
In the end, the band delivers us a fast paced, exhilarating ride around fifty minutes in length, with a sweating mixture of power and thrash metal. Exmortus manages to create a balanced mixture of pitiless solos and riffs that fly straight in your face, along with technically appealing structures. With lengths between three and a half and five and a half minutes, the band offers ten strong, compact tracks without any filler material, and delivers one of this year’s early highlights.