Minor tweaks, major advances
New age thrash lords Exmortus released their first LP back in 2008. Ten years after In Hatred’s Flame, the band is still very much in touch with their thrash metal roots. The Sound of Steel provides the listener with crisper, cleaner thrash tonality, something that was certainly not a factor in previous Exmortus releases.
Thrash metal has a tendency to get old very easily. Since the 1980s, many bands have been churning out thrash tunes that mostly contain the same rhythms, patterns and subject manners. Only the bands that started the movement or slightly modified the formula are the ones that have stood the test of time. Exmortus though, on The Sound of Steel, is able to incorporate many iterations of the thrash metal style while achieving above-average production and mixing.
“Make Haste” starts off the LP in a traditional thrash fashion. The fast guitar and accented notes make up the beginning of the track. There’s nothing in this particular song that we haven’t seen before though. It is very run of the mill for the most part, but it peppers in some blast beats and laser sharp palm mutes to attract the listener’s attention.
The important thing to take away from “Make Haste” and the album as a whole, is the noticeable bass tone. The bass is at such a confident volume throughout, that “Make Haste” sounds like something we don’t hear often. Although the instrumentation is usual, the mix is what sets this track apart and makes it grand. The guitar solos are also another gleaming facet of the track and many others on the LP.
Dual guitar work is also a huge benefit of The Sound of Steel. Little guitar accents and whammy bar action in tracks like “Feast of Flesh” and “To the Ends of the Earth” keep the pieces fresh and void of boring riffs. The minor surprises continue through the record with the song “Strength and Honor.”
Exmortus does not usually incorporate much clean singing into their material, but someone belts their heart out on “Strength and Honor” to achieve a vocal range that mimics the likes of Midnight from Crimson Glory. That treat goes very far in the strategy of this LP. Though they are a thrash band, Exmortus is not afraid to go genre-bending from time to time, and “Strength and Honor” is a perfect example of their range.
The beginning of “Turn The Tide” also showcases another facet of Exmortus. The guitar harmonies to start this song make it one of the strongest song introductions on the whole LP. The piercing guitars really grab the listener throughout, as the track incorporates many more dual guitar phrasing at every point. The frills are what makes this song go from a normal thrash tune to an exceptional ride.
That is essentially the philosophy for the entire listen of The Sound of Steel. Exmortus takes the ordinary and expands it into the extraordinary by only adding in a few more ingredients. The cake is the same, Exmortus just made their own icing. Any usual thrash metal record is a good enough record, but Exmortus truly went the extra mile with this one and made it something special. The Sound of Steel is the beginning of a glorious new path for Exmortus, and one they are more than equipped to capitalize on.