"In Hatred's Flame"

(Heavy Artillery 2008)Exmortus - In Hatred\'s Flame

Holy denim jackets, Batman, thrash is everywhere these days. It seems like every group of metal-minded kids that pick up guitars are finally closing the Gothenburg travel guides and opening ones to San Fran and Germany instead. But let's face it, these are impressionable young men who probably weren't even born when "Haunting the Chapel" and "Bonded by Blood" were released, and it shows. Most of these kids are content to simply mimic the OGs of thrash, borrowing riff after riff from bands like Death Angel and Kreator. So imagine my surprise when I see that Exmortus list among their influences Yngwie Malmsteen and Deicide. Wait a second, Yngwie Malmsteen?

Thankfully, Exmortus have not taken after the Swedish guitar wizard's propensity for egocentrism and ill-fitting pants, but rather his compulsion to solo like the fate of the universe depended upon it. Like a kid who just learned it feels good to touch "down there," Exmortus spurt out guitar solos with almost obsessive abandon. And we're not talking rinky-dink, sloppy jam solos; oh no, there's tapping, sweep picking, the whole enchilada. Now don't get me wrong, I love shred, but there are a few instances where "In Hatred's Flame" gets a tad too Dragonforce for its own good. Take "Axes of War," an instrumental geared toward showcasing ripping guitar technique; this is pretty unnecessary considering the flair packed into the rest of the album.

Exmortus don't allow their guitar flamboyancy to interfere with well put together songs, though. "In Hatred's Flame" is a pummeling riff bonanza from front to back, where technicality augments the breakneck but catchy assault. And while the dark undertones that permeate the album reflect its theme of war and righteous butchery, songs like "Valor and Might" are absolutely triumphant, proving that even the most blood-caked battlefields yield glory for the victors.

Exmortus are one of the relatively few bands throwing some color onto the palette of the current thrash revival. Besides the shred-fest, the guitar tone has a chunky heft that wouldn't feel out of place on a death metal album. This marries well with guitarist/vocalist Balmore's death-growl and drummer Mario's precision blasts. Exmortus may push their chops to the edge of taste, but if I could wail like these guys, I'd be showing off too.


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