Saturday, June 29, 2013

Exmortus - Beyond the Fall of Time


SERIOUSLY?!  This album is... I dunno, it's a miracle.  I have no fucking clue how it managed to end up sucking as much as it does.  Really, if anybody remembers nearly five years ago, Exmortus's debut full length, In Hatred's Flame, landed a near perfect score from me.  It was such a delicious hodgepodge of over the top technicality and low brow catchiness.  It's was big, dumb, fast music for big, dumb, fast people like me, and I ate that shit up.  I've since gone back and revisited it, and you know what?  It's still fucking awesome.  Really, that debut pretty much perfectly showed what you could do by putting a new, modern spin on a few styles that were starting to get stale, and the songwriting was so stellar and the performance was so theatrical and bombastic, there wasn't a whole lot to complain about.  If you can go back and not rip shit apart to "Triumph By Fire" or "War Gods", you're dead inside.  Exmortus was seriously a defining band for me, a milestone in my life, and I rank the show where they headlined above Vektor and Diamond Plate in 2009 (before any of these bands sucked), three days before Christmas in the back room of a bar that resembled a subway tunnel as a top ten show for me, even if there was only like thirty people there.  The performances were all so exuberant and energetic, and none more so than Exmortus.  This was a band on fire, ready to destroy every goddamn thing in their path.

And then Beyond the Fall of Time happened.  I wish I could understand what the hell happened to everything during the time between the two records.  I'm not kidding when I say that not one aspect from the debut has been improved upon, and in fact they have all gotten worse.  The production and the vocals are the two most obvious, but the fiery leadwork and interesting songwriting are probably the two most important things to take a nosedive.  Really, apart from the intro to "Entombed with the Pharaohs" and the verse riff for "Black XIII", I don't see a whole lot to sneeze at.  The riffs aren't nearly as creative as they once were, and instead sound like a much less death metal influenced and much less intense version of Revocation as opposed to the passionate thrash/melodeath/Bodom style they used to exemplify.  I always rallied against them being lumped in with the whole rethrash scene along with Skeletonwitch and Vektor, but it's a bit harder to make that argument now.  A lot of the extraneous influences have been stripped away in favor of a more basic thrash sound this time around, and the songwriting suffers greatly as a result.  This is strange because I feel like Beyond the Fall of Time is meant to be a much more ambitious effort than its predecessor, what with there being three interlude tracks and four tracks over six minutes in length and all.  It's not often you see a band get less creative when it comes to tackling something with a bigger endgame in mind.  But yeah, it's mostly just a thrash album now, whereas before it'd be pretty misleading to simply refer to In Hatred's Flame as a thrash album.  It's pretty disappointing.

Every major problem with the album makes itself known within the first minute or so of "Kneel Before the Steel" (which the band has been trying hopelessly to turn into a catchphrase).  The production, instead of that full, beefy, and raw sound of the previous album has been replaced with a very plastic sounding botch-job.  What was once drenched in reverb and natural aggression hasn't been "cleaned up" as much as it's just been "fucked with".  Everything feels damp and muffled now, with the drums in particular sounding very wooden and dry.  The opening drum fills really make that apparent very early on, and the main riff just sounds really half hearted.  But when the vocals start... oh man what happened?  Despite seeing them live twice, I really do fail in the sense that I can't remember who handled a majority of the vocals, Conan or Balmore.  But seeing that Balmore has since left the band and Conan is the only one credited with vocals on this album shows that it must have been Balmore, because they sound completely different.  Instead of the deep roars of the past, we're presented with a much sillier sounding grunt most of the time, with these boundlessly stupid and ill-fitting falsettos thrown in occasionally.  This must be counted among the worst vocal shifts in metal history, because this new sound neither sounds good on its own, nor does it fit with the band's music in the first place.

If I have to give props anywhere, I can still at least say that while the leads and solos aren't as good as they could be, they're still pretty unrestrained and over-the-top, which is what I liked about them in the first place.  And while the vocal performance is pretty awful, I at least give it some credit for attempting to be more varied, and I suppose "Entombed with the Pharaohs" is decent enough to at least be a b-side from In Hatred's Flame.  I hate to pull the Torture Squad card and constantly compare everything this band does to one release, but it's so hard with that shadow looming overhead.  On its own, Beyond the Fall of Time is an ultimately forgettable technical thrash album with bad vocals and cool guitars, but as a followup to In Hatred's Flame, it's a complete, laughable failure.  There are flashes of the band's previous brilliance here and there, but it's almost always in the form of grey reimaginings of what we already know they can do better.  Maybe the new vocals are the biggest problem, or maybe it's the plasticky production, I'm not sure entirely.  The whole package is less than the sum of its parts, and really it's not worth seeking out.

RATING - 41%

1 comment:

  1. Sucks you disliked this album so much, but we werent too happy with it either so we totally feel where you're coming from haha. There was alot of things going on within the band that took its toll on the writing and production of Beyond the Fall of Time, in a negative way. Although Beyond wasnt what it should have been it helped with the writing and recording of the upcoming third album. Conan is still doing voals but I think he's dialed his style in and with the production of the upcoming release and song structures I think it blends very well. I'd really like to see a review from you for it once it comes out since I feel it should have been the follow up to In Hatreds Flame. \m/ - Mario (EXMORTUS)