Exumer: Possessed by fire
29/08/12 || Habakuk
Given the fact that I have just left Germany to find my luck elsewhere for a couple of months, why not simulate a bit of sentimentality and unearth one of those often-cited German thrash gems from the eighties, which for some reason never really made it up to the Teutonic Big Four? I have no answer to this question. Yes, why not Exumer? After all, they are one of those names that you might come across when digging through the web and searching for more ZRASH METEL, and quite recently they resurfaced to profit from their proclaimed cult status. That is a story for another day though, so let’s have a look at how it all began first…
..and although it began in some Frankfurt basement, it sounds more American than the German bands from the era you already know and probably love, right? Think Exodus, and forget about the Slayer comparisons you might have read somewhere else. It’s nothing like them. The thing that makes this disc special and not just an Exodus rip-off is how the songs walk the very thin line between musical ineptitude and straight-out awesomeness. One second you get this great riff served on a silver plate, the next moment it is backed by some clumsy drum pattern and turns into a weird riff change, but then all of sudden it works again. Miraculously. Maybe I’ve simply listened to this to often, but I cannot help but wonder how songs like the title track or “A mortal in black” with their weird, weird take on rhythm just click again and again. So, take the good old grain of salt with this, but given the album’s uniqueness I’ll go for a 7.5 here.
Overall the album sounds pretty decent given its age, but it obviously lacks punch. The drums are way too flimsy and trebly with almost no focus on the kick drums, and the result is that of a thin-sounding, but acceptable job. Especially the crunchy guitars tilt this slightly to the positive side. 6.
Bernie and Ray (…seriously guys?) bring a great tone and some pretty good shredding to the table. They also know how to play a thrash solo, but certainly have a bit of an unorthodox sense of rhythm which they freely act out on “Possessed by fire”, giving this album its “rollercoaster of emotions” feel. Even within riffs, these guys manage to raise what-the-hell-just-happened eyebrows, managing again and again to throw you off your tracks as a listener, because the riff that started in an expectable way just went haywire. Yet, like I said, it works in the strangest of ways. I am hence unsure where to draw the line between good and bad, wanted and unwanted effects, and I’ll go for some middle ground with my score – which should not detract from the curiosity factor. 7.
The first incarnation of Exumer had Mem von Stein (what kind of name is “Mem” anyway?) on vocals, which later got replaced by Paul Arakaki, moved to the states to become a metal Schwarzenegger, and who’s now fronting the band again. On “Possessed by fire”, he definitely brings a frantic performance with some personality to the table, however with some low points when he leaves his comfort zone of “talking harshly” and switches to either hysterical or mock singing mode, which both take some enjoyment out of it for me. Curiously enough, the often criticized Paul Arakaki works a lot better for me. Exumer just needed a straightforward thrash singer, and Mr. von Stein should have concentrated on being just that. 7.
Irrelevant except for the providing of a bit of blobby low-end. 5.
While the rest of the performances all have something special to them, it’s easy to call Syke Bornetto’s drumming the album’s weak spot, plain and simple. While technically he might not do anything flat-out wrong, his playing definitely lacks soul and energy, though the latter might of course be due to the production as well. Still, from a great thrash drummer I expect to bash the band forwards, but Mr. Bornetto merely gives the impression of an instructed pacemaker, and an uninspired one at that. 6.
Compared to many of his peers, Mr. von Stein actually had a somewhat okay, which means not completely cringe-worthy, grasp of pronouncing English (today, after years of exile, we actually have to worry more about his ability to speak German). Still, the lyrics are the kind of warrior blabber that the Endless Pain cover art describes better than any words could. Plus, they simply don’t make an awful lot of sense.
Sinful minds in disguise
Let the fog roll
Bestial dimensions in the air lies
Coming for the goat
That clear? 5.
Is this really the only time a German band has imitated our flag using flames? That gets an 11 alone, and not even the, well, “interesting” Jason Voorhes clone can get it below an 8.
Simple, in italics, with little details like the weathered edges and very readable. Leaving out the “H”, supposedly an idea from one of the guys’ father, actually worked quite decently as well. I dig it. 8.
I’ve got the re-release edition lying back home in Germany, and as much as I remember of it, it had lyrics, a few pictures and liner notes about the band’s history which I actually remember. I’ll just dish out a 7.
Overall and ending rant
As you might have guessed from the scores so far, this one won’t get my universal praise at the end. It is a weird but enjoyable experience this album, and I certainly acknowledge its classic status. However, something I’ve never quite grasped is what some reviewers read into it. I don’t hear much Slayer, I don’t hear THE DEFINITION OF THRASH, and I don’t hear a pinnacle of German thrash either – hell, it doesn’t even sound German. Being in an apparent minority, I might be however be completely wrong on this. So, what it all comes down to is my recommendation to check this album out yourself and find out, given you have any interest in 80s thrash metal.
Just read until “solid shit”, not the rest. Whoops, too late.
- Released: 1986
- Label: Disaster
- Website: Exumer MySpace
- Mem von Stein: bass, vocals
- Bernie Siedler: guitars
- Ray Mensh: guitars
- Syke Bornetto: drums
- 01. Possessed by fire
- 02. Destructive solution
- 03. Fallen saint
- 04. A mortal in black
- 05. Sorrows of the judgment
- 06. Xiron darkstar
- 07. Reign of sadness
- 08. Journey to oblivion
- 09. Silent death