Exhorder – “Mourn The Southern Skies” (Nuclear Blast)
Battle Helm Rating
Eclipsed back in the day by the rise of sludge monsters Crowbar and southern metal gods Pantera, the irony for Exhorder and their hardcore fans is that they were largely seen to inspire the very sound that made those bands famous! Formed in the mid 80s and hailing from Louisiana, Exhorder’s infamous debut “Slaughter In The Vatican” certainly turned enough heads back in 1990, but after sophomore “The Wall”, the band split with vocalist Kyle Thomas taking up the vocal helm for Trouble. Unforgotten by their fans as well as a new generation keen to learn about this pioneering act, Exhorder reformed briefly in 2008 before going into another hiatus until 2017, when they began playing special shows before signing to Nuclear Blast a year later. Still with original members Thomas and guitarist Vinnie LaBella, Exhorder now features all star line up in guitarist Marzi Montazeri (Superjoint Ritual, Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals), bassist Jason Viebrooks (Heathen / Grip Inc.), and drummer Sasha Horn (Forbidden). “Mourn The Southern Skies” is the band’s first studio album in 27 years and is clearly a statement to answer any perceived injustice over who started that famous power groove thrash sound – and make no mistake, this album burns across it’s 10 tracks! Recorded in Louisiana, producer Duane Simeneaux has done an amazing job capturing that classic sound with monster fuzz tinged guitars a la Dimebag while Thomas could give either Phil Anselmo or Kirk Windstein a run for money – while racing them both simultaneously! With clearly plenty of time to compose material over the years, the depth of the songs and in particular those NOLA power grooves is the winner here, especially when delivered through the massive twin axes of LaBella and Montazeri. However, the use of slow and fast tempos also states a strong intent to not just re-hash their thrashy past, and certainly the emotional depth of the tracks, in no small part conveyed by Thomas’s commendable vocal talents, definitely proves this is anything to mourn about – quite the contrary in fact. Opening with the single ‘My Time’, the fast jumping and dirty power riffs immediately hook you as the pistoning drums thunder in amid the rapid fire aggressive roars of Thomas delivering expletive lyrics before the cascading grooves start to smash as the solos drill your knee caps out – awesome! Slowing it down to brooding levels of brutality on ‘Yesterday’s Bones’, the thick twisting southern riffs come in aplenty as Thomas drawls melancholically ‘…just like a stab to the heart…’ made all the more powerful thanks to Horn’s drums smashing in dramatically, despite the somewhat laid back soloing and quiet spanish acoustic ending. Taken from their 1986 demo album “Get Rude”, ‘Ripping Flesh’ does exactly that, proving that not only can these veterans thrash alongside the youngsters, but like fine wine, add in their own measure to make this as catchy to match the intensity. Closing with the 9 1/2 minute title track ‘Mourn The Southern Skies’, the mix of power and twisting southern riffs creates a huge atmosphere over which Thomas’s moving southern soul makes this number nothing short of epic, graced by Dimebag guitar god runs and ending mellowly on a psych trip passage. An awesome comeback by all accounts with bountiful amounts of stored talent now released proving that the new Exhorder have what it takes to go well beyond what their original legacy had ever intended!