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Reviews

Exumer: Fire & damnation

12/10/12  ||  Habakuk

Okay, so Exumer are back. Can “Fire & damnation” be seen as a valid effort to continue their legacy? Well, they sure try to give that impression with their “Exumer. Thrash Metal since 1985” slogan they use on their pages, benevolently omitting that there was a fucken break in releases from 1989 to 2009, and that the 1989 demo was foreshadowing material that would have fucked up that legacy for good if it had ever been pressed on a real CD. Let’s not even start with Sun Descends, von Stein’s abysmal project from the mid-2000s. Now, that was some nasty shit. So, valid effort: Option 1.

Or is it rather option 2, an early mid-life crisis driven attempt to revive the days of yore where jackets were of leather and pants of tightness?

Let’s say the answer is in the middle. The lyrics are as puerile violence fantasies as ever, which doesn’t exactly suit a bunch of 30-somethings, yet I believe that Mem von Stein alone, who appears to have a weak spot for tough guy antics, holds responsibility here. So, let’s not draw any early conclusions. However, the fact that of 13 songs two are re-recordings (“Fallen Saint”, “I dare you”) and three more are live versions of old material (“A mortal in black, “Destructive solution”, “Xiron darkstar”) definitely has a bit of a fishy smell – not enough creativity? Trying to live off of old merits? No confidence in your new material? Or is it an honest way of translating old stuff into a modern context? Yet while the motives are questionable, to me it’s undeniable that these new versions are actually pretty damn decent. As were the old ones, but okay.

And the new material? Actually, not bad either. Sure, it doesn’t feel like trademark Exumer no more, how would it, but this is solid thrash metal despite a slight modern touch in the production that I normally detest – no, it actually sounds pretty “alive”. The band has become a tight crew by now, and Ray Mensh still knows how to hand out some very good riffing, but without the unpredictability that made their early stuff so distinct, so the album is always prone to losing steam after an initially good idea. The faster parts lack a bit of the viciousness that I expect from a great thrash album, but the band instead shines most on groove-laden smashers like “A new morality” with a perfectly executed flow from section to section that culminates in a fantastic break. And weirdly enough for a band so focussed on their old school cred, these completely non-old school breaks are actually what saves many songs from mediocrity. From this point of view it also makes sense why they put their old songs to positions 6 and 9. Plain and simple, they do raise the standards temporarily.

So, in conclusion: Is this an essential album? Hardly, but if you are into thrash, you can’t do much wrong with at least giving it a go, if only for the re-recordings. The rest is definitely listenable, repeatedly even, but don’t be fooled by the “legendary old school” aura that surrounds the name. Exumer have always been fun, but apart from keeping the spirit alive (no doubts about that here), great things should not be expected from them anymore.

6.5

  • Information
  • Released: 2012
  • Label: Metal Blade records
  • Website: www.exumer.de
  • Band
  • Mem von Stein: vocals
  • Ray Mensh: guitars
  • HK: guitars
  • T. Schiavo (yes, really…): bass
  • Matthias Kassner: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Fire & damnation
  • 02. Vermin of the sky
  • 03. The weakest limb
  • 04. A new morality
  • 05. Waking the fire
  • 06. Fallen saint
  • 07. Crushing point
  • 08. Devil chaser
  • 09. I dare you
  • 10. Tribal furies
  • 11. Destructive solution (live)
  • 12. A mortal in black (live)
  • 13. Xiron darkstar (live)