Thursday, August 12, 2010

Exmortus - In Hatred's Flame

Oodles and oodles of noodles

And what a delicious soup we get! In Hatred's Flame is essentially ruthlessness defined, and so far stands as a prime contender for the "Best of 2008" award. The combination of modern thrash, melodic death metal, and Bodomesque wankery all meld into one cohesive and overwhelmingly impressive whole. The three styles mentioned above seem to be scorned and looked down upon in a lot of high profile metal circles, but believe me when I say that the sheer mercilessness of the record and masterful cohesion turn the three lumps of coal into one big sparkling diamond.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that nearly 60% of the record is dominated by constant fretboard wizardry and extremely fast melodic lead work. All of the riffs here are a top notch blend of Swedish melodic death and Germanic thrash metal, and a complex harmony is almost always layered across the top, making for a never ending showcase of over the top musicianship and unrelenting intensity. And the best part about that is the fact that the band never comes off as merely a collection of music instructors battling to grasp the listeners attention with unending frills and technique. They instead combine themselves into one giant being; all of the Zords were cool and unique, but they meant jack shit until they made the Megazord. And with the strength of a giant mechanized war machine and the heart of the five young saviors of Angel Grove (the enormous mutant attack capitol of the world), Exmortus proceeds to relentlessly murder Goldar over and over and over again, each way more fanciful and choreographed than the last, but never losing it's savage edge that comes naturally with the form... Excuse me while I go throw myself down a flight of stairs for that analogy.

I usually find vast amounts of praise purely for the melding of styles, regardless of quality, to be foolish, so keep in mind that it takes one hell of an effort to truly win me over if a band tries to play that card. Understandably, most seasoned metalheads would be weary when hearing about an extreme melding of neoclassical shredmeister wankage with Swedish melodeath and thrash, a horse whose carcass I thought was decayed and eviscerated to the point that there was in fact no meat left to beat (pardon the innuendo). When these four Californian thrashers discovered the corpse, they indeed beat the dead horse, but they beat it with such determination and in such a maniacally stylish manner that one can't help but stare in bewilderment at the spectacle. Take, for example, the track Axes of War. In these three minutes and fifteen seconds, there are roughly seven thousand different diminished arpeggio sweeps, fourteen tapping solos, eighty five and a half harmonized shreds, and ninety one riffs underneath. They leave no room for doubt when it comes to their technical skill, and listening to any five second snippet of any song is essentially definitive proof. And for all of the noodles the two guitarists bring to the goulash, there is just as much meat in the pot to back it all up and provide a solid, nutritious backbone. The rhythm section is extremely solid and tight, consisting of a bassist who is content to sit in the background and support the riffage (save for his a capella intro to Valor and Might and quick run in Fimbulwinter) and a drummer that sports a wide array of techniques and flair, but doesn't feel the compulsive urge to tear out a tom fill every six nanoseconds (a trend that initially impressed me, but quickly grew tiring).

Most of the songs are formulaic and somewhat predictable in structure, but the actual riff writing is surprisingly creative for such a young band. The opening riff to Storms is a good example. It's a fairly simple tremolo riff played at an extremely high tempo, but the note changes are actually somewhat unconventional and unpredictable. It seems like a stupid thing to notice, let alone praise, but I used to write myself, so I'm somewhat inclined to notice subtle nuances like off time riff changes and countermelodies and such. And that is one of the reasons I hold so much respect for this album, it's a new take on an established style, energizing a stagnant genre in a way that only happens once every few years. There is probably one album with the energy and vision like this for every six hundred Slaughter of the Soul ripoffs we hear, and I haven't been this blown away by a melodic death metal release since Arsis' debut four years prior. It's a nearly unending aural assault of relentless technicality and unmeasurable charm. Even minor pratfalls like the vocalist's mediocrity and predictable song structure seem even smaller when surrounded by the sheer energy and intensity that the disc exudes.

I can only dribble so much before I become what I criticize. I bought this album months ago and my kiddish enthusiasm for it has yet to subside; even after tens of dozens of spins, the astonishment has yet to wear off. These kids make you believe in them. They didn't write a handful of songs that were in sync with the current trends and accepted measures of mediocre brutality. They didn't decide that Suffocation was the greatest band ever and become their umpteenth clone, nor did they do the same with At the Gates/In Flames. They didn't take the paths that so many other young'uns have decided to take in order for a quick and easy fifteen minutes of fame. They instead recorded eleven of the most intense, merciless, and technical tracks they could, then mooned every last band that tried what they did and failed. They said "To hell with stop start riffing! To hell with high and low alternating growls! To hell with breakdowns! We have come to destroy! We have come to double bass your girlfriends into spontaneous orgasm and shit on your dog while shredding out 320 bpm tapping solos while keg standing on your keg! That's how we roll, now make Exmortus some fuckin' sammiches you cunt."

RATING - 96%

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