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Exmortus – Legions Of The Undead (EP Review)

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To truly appreciate the splendor of Exmortus’ latest EP, one must abandon any prior conceptions of what it means to shred and surrender themselves fully to the breathtaking wonder of “Legions of the Undead.” With only two original tracks in a tauntingly short five-song EP, the California-based thrash/death outfit wastes no time in showing off their technical skill and visionary songwriting. Armed with two guitars as the formidable front to a jam-packed display of musicianship, Exmortus delivers proof that no matter the inspiration for their music, they can transform any range of content into a masterpiece entirely their own. 

Starting off the EP are two original tracks, title track “Legions of the Undead” and “Swallow Your Soul.” Both open up with tantalizing hooks reminiscent of early Children of Bodom, but pivot on the crisp precision of modern technical death metal bands. Drummer Adrian Aguilar keeps tight pace with the breakneck solos that dominate the latter half of “Swallow Your Soul,” rolling effortlessly with the varied pacing that commands these original works. Elements of thrash reign supreme across the speed-driven riffage, but guttural screams and lyrical odes to darkness ensure that the inspiration of death rings true through each verse delivered with crushing brutality. 

With two accomplished guitarists bringing relentless strength and endurance at a nearly inhuman rhythm, the guiding hand of long-time producer Zack Ohren (Warbringer, Immolation) shows an understanding of what Exmortus wanted to bring to the table. Masters of shred Jadran “Conan” Gonzalez and Chase Becker are allowed to have free reign across the verses, driving drums and bass into the backdrop of thrash, and often rendering the vocals of tertiary interest against the mind-melting riffs of the foreground.

The original tracks are not the boundaries of these musician’s personal playground; vocals are done away with altogether in the three speed-fueled takes on two horror themes and one classical piece of music. Of these three covers, it is Exmortus’ take on Modest Mussorgsky‘s “Night On Bald Mountain” that makes “Legions of the Undead” transcend from a mere celebration of exquisite personal talent. In devouring the challenge wholeheartedly, a modest EP from an American metal band becomes a transformative interpretation of art that spans across centuries. This is not the first time that Exmortus has tried their hand at arranging their unique flavor of classical music; in the past, they have also covered “Moonlight Sonata” and “Appassionata,” drawing fans of metal and classical music together with their electrifying takes on a timeless musical scene.  

“Legions Of The Undead” EP Artwork

They accomplish this same breathtaking unification of past and present in their haunting rendition of “Night On Bald Mountain.” In a brief five minutes, and with only a handful of instruments, Exmortus manage to capture the same energy and intensity of an entire symphony.  No matter the absence of a concert hall, this interpretation stays true to the pacing and diverse range of emotions that makes Mussorgsky’s work so definitive and awe-inspiring. Both the original composition and Exmortus’ showcase rely on the listener giving in to the atmosphere that Mussorgsky was driven to inflict on his audience; one of both terror and delight in the grandeur of the arrangement. 

In an EP so heavy on instrumental work and covers focusing on transformative interpretation and songwriting, “Legions of the Undead” has made Exmortus’ musical aspirations painfully clear. Vocals and lyrics seem to be an afterthought even in those original songs where they should have shined, buried instead beneath the ceaseless demand of guitar-driven songwriting. If “Night On Bald Mountain” is a true taste of Exmortus unchained, then it becomes even more apparent that striving to deliver inspired vocals in such original tracks is a misdirection of the band’s time and energy. Gonzalez and Becker are forces of nature that beg for an outlet for their creative energies; repressing their riffs to allow for elementary lyrical offerings muddies the delivery of otherwise superb musicianship.

Released By: M-Theory Audio
Release Date: October 25th, 2019
Genre: Thrash/Death Metal

Musicians:

  • Jadran “Conan” Gonzalez / Vocals, guitar
  • Chase Becker / Guitar
  • Cody Nunez / Bass
  • Adrian Aguilar / Drums

“Legions Of The Undead ” Track Listing

  1. Legions of the Undead
  2. Swallow Your Soul
  3. Beetlejuice (Danny Elfman‘s cover)
  4. Psycho (Bernard Hermann‘s cover)
  5. Night On Bald Mountain (Modest Mussorgsky‘s cover)
9.0 Excellent

In an extraordinary mixture of transformative artistic vision and speed-driven showboating, Exmortus delivers a gem filled with the best of brutal thrash and polished death metal. Flying close to the sun with ambitious riff-driven songwriting, this EP is nothing short of irresistible

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 9
  • Production 8.5
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