Exmortus – Necrophony

Californian quartet, Exmortus, are veterans of the modern thrash genre, but they never seem to leave behind a lasting impact in the global scene. Now on their sixth album, they’ve released music via Earache Records and Prosthetic Records and now find themselves on Nuclear Blast. Clearly, the A&R departments at the big heavy metal labels like this band, so why do you seldom see people wearing their t-shirts or declaring them a big influence on their music?

It’s interesting that none of the original thrash bands in the US or Germany remained as die-hards of the genre (with the possible exception of Tankard) during the 1990s. Instead, the revivalist artists like Evile and Municipal Waste made this a badge of honour a decade later and allowed the original innovators to return to doing what they do best. Exmortus are one of these modern stalwarts. As the custodians of a niche art movement, their main objective is to be upholders of quality thrash metal. This means that producing an album of fifty-three minutes should not be a problem. Are they not doing what we entrusted them to do?

Exmortus are exquisite musicians. Their love of heavy metal comes through in their music and in some of their absurd song titles (see ‘Mind of Metal’). One listen to this album shows a band who enjoy inserting Beethoven into their headbanging rhythms. Jadran ‘Conan’ Gonzalez’s neo-death metal vocals give them a menace not heard in the United States since the last Sodom tour. Any of the first four tracks could grace a classic Kreator record. ‘Mask of Red Death’ injects a dramatic Emperor aggression into its Megadeth framework; ‘Oathbreaker’ stays within the middle strings of the guitar to find its edge; ‘Mind of Metal’ is like Mercyful Fate in the hands of Destruction. All of them leave space in the songs for excessive guitar trade-offs as if reliving the alchemic brilliance of Mustaine and Friedman in 1990.

Retaining the listener’s interest during the longer compositions is the only flaw of this record.  The musicianship is stellar, and the riffs will inject you with a new wave of energy. Exmortus write good thrash metal that’s more competent than it is exciting. Eight minutes is too long for the band to surprise you with their full set of tools on ‘Darkest of Knights’. Even ‘Holy Wars (Punishment Due)’ by Megadeth ends before the seven-minute milestone, and that’s the best thrash song of all time. Here, Exmortus do nothing but show that they can master a genre that existed before they were born. The seven minutes and thirteen seconds of ‘Children of the Night’ is Sodom with a neo-classical makeover. Why they decided to waste the first minute in a contemplation of clean guitar arpeggios and slow pitch bends tells you a lot about their approach to music – everything is excessive. ‘Beyond the Grave’ jumps into ‘Hangar 18’ mode within the first minute as if the aim is to demonstrate shredding guitar abilities rather than showcase thoughtful songwriting.

Exmortus are too good at what they do to attract harsh criticism. Necrophony is how thrash metal should sound in theory, but its lack of originality gives you little impetus to give it a regular spin once the fifty-three minutes expire.



Release Date: 25/08/2023

Record Label: Nuclear Blast

Standout tracks: Mask of Red Death, Oathbreaker, Prophecy

Suggested Further Listening: Sodom – Genesis XIX (2020), Ensanguinate – Eldritch Anatomy (2022), Last Legion – Metall, Blod & Aska (2023)