From the bloody battlegrounds, stained by the fogs of war and the stench of battle, and forged by the fires of the true metal anvil, emerged in 2002 a group of warriors who pay homage to giants such as Beethoven, Bach and the entire concept of blood-sworn, epic and majestic heavy metal by playing…technical thrash/death?
As weird as it may seem, Exmortus’ weapon of choice of being a technical thrash/death band that relies on neoclassical shredding and well-crafted instrumentals works really well, and the Californians have been shocking the masses since their great debut ‘In Hatred’s Flame’ (2008). With ‘The Sound of Steel’, they consolidate that style even more and manage to provide us with some kick-ass moments in its +40 minute length.
Tracks like “’Make Haste”, “Riders of Doom” and “Turn the Tide” show sheer energy from Jadran “Conan” Gonzalez (guitars, vocals), who’s harsh vocals manage to give the songs a savage-like aura, and the shredding in these are especially brutal. Fast-paced songwriting and crafty musicianship mix together to form a highly frantic and energetic experience, kind of a mix between Children of Bodom, Sodom and Manowar.
“Feast of Flesh”, for instance, illustrates perfectly the bombastic and visceral performances by Conan and company. While some great riffs by Conan and Chase Becker give melody to the track, the chaotic drumming by Carlos Cruz and Philip Cody Nunez’s deafening bass completely obliterate the speakers and will most definitely make you want to tear everything apart and feast on the flesh of that dumbass neighbor of yours that bitches about how loud your music is.
While the testosterone runs high throughout the whole record, more prolific and technical tracks like “To the Ends of the Earth” and a couple of instrumentals in “A Minor Instrumental” and “Tempest” intertwine with the brute force to show even more what these guys’ influences are; “Tempest”, for that matter, is basically a metal rendition of Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 17”, while the scales used in the other two tracks reminded me of the playing style of Yngwie Malmsteen, Victor Smolski (ex-Rage, Mind Odyssey, Almanac) and – in a minor degree – Randy Rhoads (ex-Ozzy Osbourne).
As you may have noticed by now, this is a very heterogeneous album. So much so, that even some melodic death metal and some traditional heavy passages are present here, as it’s the case with “Into the Maw of Hell”. A clear Amon Amarth and Children of Bodom influence can be seen here, with Conan’s vocals being higher than usual and the guitars more virtuous and melodic. “Strength and Honor” and “Victory or Death” work as the “sword and sorcery” bits of the effort, feeding the epic metal fans with some crunchy solos, catchy leads and tales of prestige and tribute.
With some decent songwriting and bursting with technicality, Exmortus once again have succeeded on making quality metal, despite the constant shredding and the eventual exaggerated display of virtuosity slowing down the dynamic a little bit. The songs are so fun, though, that even two instrumental bits could be inserted easily without making the album lose quality, and the overdose of neoclassical instrumental is elegantly shadowed by the insane amounts of metal here; highly recommended to those who enjoy a thrash/death metal with a twist.