Mourn The Southern Skies
(Nuclear Blast Records)

In the early 1990s, Thrash Metal was revitalised by a few bands who added a fat dose of groove to the traditional Thrash sound of the 1980s. That band that earned the most reputation and commercial success out of it were of course PANTERA. As history taught us, a lot of even popular bands jumped on the bandwagon, released questionable albums and ruined a pretty interesting sub genre too soon. And, as usual, there were innovative bands that didn’t ever receive the fame they deserved. In this case, EXHORDER were the ones that were left behind. Their debut album “Slaughter In The Vatican” came out around the same time as “Cowboys From Hell” from their buddies PANTERA and was as innovative. In my ears, “Slaughter In The Vatican” was even better as it was more fluent. In 1992 “The Law” was the second strike from EXHORDER. Looking at it ages later, it nearly beats the shit out of a certain album that appeared on the scene a few weeks earlier, due to the unbelievably tight and down-tuned riffs that rip and tear any other Groove Metal album apart. Despite this killer of an album, EXHORDER were history only two years later, thus becoming an unfinished band. Three short time reunions followed their initial split until singer Kyle Thomas and guitar player Vinnie LaBella restarted the band in 2017 with new (yet well experienced) members Jason Viebrooks on bass, Sasha Horn on drums and Marzi Montazeri on guitars. This line-up finally recorded a new album after more than 25 years. With this background, it is no wonder that “Mourn The Southern Skies” is one of the comeback albums I was most curious about in years. And I was not disappointed! Of course “Mourn The Southern Skies” is not a copy of the first two albums. Instead, the album very carefully adopts the old trademarks of the band and carries them forward into the presence and the local surroundings of New Orleans and its scene. Not only the production, but also the style of EXHORDER that was revitalised. While the opener ‘My Time’ kicks the album off in a high speed manner, maybe faster than the band ever was, ‘Asunder’ already touches a different chord. This song displays the local roots of EXHORDER by adopting typical Southern Metal patterns and harmonies. ‘Hallowed Sound’ with its harmonic chorus and the fierce ‘Beware The Wolf’ are more based in the glorious past of EXHORDER without adding more recent elements or even being antiquated. With ‘Yesterday’s Bones’, this album takes its first huge nod to the mighty DOWN and Kyle Thomas’ other band TROUBLE. And once again, the Southern roots appear in form of a folkloristic break towards the end that I would have suspected to be on a DOWN album. The second half of the album starts off with the fine Southern groover ‘All She Wrote’ and the rather modern, yet tons weighing ‘Rumination’ before C.O.C. take a big peek around the corner. ‘The Arms Of Man’ definitely has the vibes of albums like “Deliverance” and even “Blind”, with EXHORDER adopting these to their groovier side. Close to the end of the album, Kyle Thomas and his allies let the hammer go around and show us their Hardcore side they never had with the blasting ‘Ripping Flesh’. But that’s all just to prepare the listener for the titanic title track! In my humble opinion, ‘Mourn The Southern Skies’ probably is the best song EXHORDER ever did, even though or just because it is absolutely unusual for them until now. Here they present us a massive slowly crunching Doom monster with giant choirs, a huge DOWN feeling and CROWBAR vibes, embedded in EXORDER riffs. The result is a song that makes a shiver run down my spine. This song alone is worth getting “Mourn The Southern Skies”, even though the other songs would have made the album a really fine comeback as well. EXHORDER join the line of SACRED REICH and POSSESSED, coming back in 2019 with very fine stuff. Visit www.facebook.com/exhordernola or www.nuclearblast.de

Thomas Meyer

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