Thursday 4 April 2019

Exumer - Hostile Defiance (2019)

Country: Germany
Style: Thrash Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 5 Apr 2019
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See what happens when I don't pay attention! I remember the Teutonic thrash band Exumer well from a couple of albums in the second half of the eighties. Possessed by Fire seemed to be everywhere in the UK in 1986 and 1987, as the British fans took a whole slew of German thrash bands to heart. Tommy Vance played Fallen Saint and Destructive Solution on The Friday Rock Show and the world was a happy place.

Well, Exumer split up in 1991, perhaps because of personnel issues (founder Mem von Stein had already left in 1986) and perhaps because of the fact that music was changing and thrash metal was hardly the force that it had been. I knew that, but what I'd missed is that Exumer got back together in 2009 and there are two studio albums out already before this new one. I have homework to do!

This new material isn't too far removed from the old material I remember. It feels a little more clinical; certainly the drums of Matthias Kassner are in a different league to those of eighties drummer Syke Bornetto and the modern production helps him too. The vocals of von Stein are more controlled, still an amalgam of Tom Araya and old school Mille Petrozza but a little less wild than it used to be.

Even if it's more clinical, that doesn't mean there's no emotion here, as I felt a hunger, as if the band are eager to remind us all what thrash of the late eighties sounded like and to persuade us that it's what we all want to be listening to at the turn of the teens into the twenties. Frankly, I'm on board and, while this is hardly a groundbreaking manifesto, it's certainly a solid album for Exumer and a welcome one for German thrash, which is strong right now, with old bands like Kreator back on form and new ones like Dust Bolt doing good work too.

The good side is obvious. There isn't a bad track here and there are ten of them before we add in a couple of bonus cover versions, of the Scorpions's He's a Woman, She's a Man and Entombed's Supposed to Rot.

The bad side is also obvious, namely that all these songs unfold in similar fashion. On a first listen, you might be forgiven for wondering if they just recorded the same song ten times. They do start to distinguish themselves on a second listen, though, and I have a feeling that I'll be listening to this album quite a lot.

So far, it's hard to pick a favourite (or indeed a least favourite). Descent is standing out for me, not least because of how it uses the twin guitars of founder member Ray Mensh and Marc Bräutigam: one takes on a memorably simple riff and the other solos all over it. It's good stuff. Elsewhere, Vertical Violence and Carnage Rider are excellent, albeit straighforward, neckbreakers and Dust Eater, Raptor and Trapper have strong vocal lines, as does the title track.

What this does best is to take the German thrash style from the mid to late eighties and transport it into the modern age without it feeling wrong. It's pure, unadulterated by the experimentation that the thrash bands who didn't quit had to stumble through until times changed and there was once again an audience for what they did best. It's more old school thrash than, say, Gods of Violence, which is a great album but one that shows how Kreator had quite the musical journey since Exumer were around the first time.

However, this doesn't sound like it was recorded in 1986 and spirited through time to us today. The production is fantastic, far better than that Kreator album from a couple of years ago. It sounds more like it was the band rather than the album that jumped through time and I couldn't be happier.

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