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Monday, 22 February 2016

Reviews: Exhumer, Obscura, Demonstealer (Reviews By Paul)

Exumer: Raging Tides (Metal Blade Records)

In amongst the huge number of excellent thrash bands that emerged during the 1980s, one could be forgiven for missing some real gems. Many of those bands fell by the wayside by the early 1990s. One such outfit is Exumer. Formed in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1985 by Mem V. Stein and Ray Mensh, Exumer released two full length albums before calling it a day in 1991. However, a one-off show at Wacken in 2001 stirred the fire and the band returned to active service in 2008 with a full length release Fire and Damnation arriving in 2012.

It’s been a long wait for the follow up but Stein and Mensh, joined by bassist T. Schiavo and drummer Matthias Kassner have made the wait worthwhile with Raging Tides; a storming slab of old school thrash. Full of stomp and hook, vicious riffs and breakneck speed drumming, and vocals reminiscent of old school Exodus and Overkill with tracks sure to get the floor moving at pace. Mensh’s guitar work is frantic, solos peeling off all over the place. Catatonic shows a more measured yet still aggressive attack, whilst the old school all out thrashers are littered all around; see Sacred Defense and Welcome To Hellfire. What I really enjoyed about this album is its sincerity. It is well constructed and straightforward thrash metal of the highest order. Huge riffs combined with the faster elements and excellent musicianship throughout. Kassner’s drumming is first class, and Stein’s vocals fit perfectly. If you like your thrash, this is a must have release. 8/10

Obscura: Akorasis (Relapse Records)

Akorasis is the fourth full release from German technical death metal masters Obscura and what a treat it is too. Complex time changes, multiple patterns and movements combined with a brutal death metal assault and some utterly fantastic playing. The band was formed in Landshut in 2002 by Steffen Kummerer, vocalist and guitarist. The personnel on the release feature Linus Klausenitzer on bass, guitarist Tom Geldschlager (now replaced by Rafael Trujillo) and drummer Sebastian Lanser. Akorasis features some of the staple death metal components, such as guttural vocals and blistering blast beats but much more complexity.

Opener Sermon Of The Seven Suns whets the appetite, a seven-minute epic with numerous changes, whilst The Monist is a complete contrast, with some much calmer, almost classical elements. Kummerer has an interesting vocal style, with a nod in places to many of the day’s best growlers including Behemoth’s Nergel, Niege from Alcest, Abbath’s legendary croak, Cannibal Corpse’s George Corpsegrinder Fisher, Ishan, Obituary's John Tardy and Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt. Technically the band is superb, think Wintersun but heavier. The title track immediately draws those comparisons, although Obscura promise more. Brutal passages segue beautifully into calmer, segments, allowing the listener to draw breath. Ode To The Sun is a creatively possibly the most interesting piece with several changes of pace, more Akerfeldt style death growl, orchestral elements and a delicate middle section which leads to a beautiful chorus before all hell breaks loose again. A complex piece which sets this band apart from many in their league.

Penultimate track Weltseele (World Soul) clocks in at a mighty 15 minutes and is absolutely majestic. A classical guitar intro gives way to some mighty time changes before the death growls and blast beats kick in. The track ebbs and flows with thrash elements, some stunningly intricate work and half way through a quite lovely yet chilling orchestral section which provides the backing to an eerie narrative. The orchestra remains, intermingling with powerful death metal to create an immense sound. Eastern sounds mix with a lengthy guitar solo and meanders along before more brutal riffage diverts the track on yet another diversion. This track is crazily brilliant and earns the album a high rating on its own. In a world of technical intricate music, Obscura stand at the upper echelons. A quite excellent release. 9/10

Demonstealer: This Burden is Mine (Demonstealer Records)

Sahil Makhija may not be a household name but for those who have an interest in the world of metal, he would be instantly recognisable as Demonstealer, the driving force behind India’s mighty Demonic Resurrection, whose last release was reviewed in these pages last year. This Burden Is Mine is the latest solo release from Makhija and includes many of the traits that made Demonic Resurrection such an interesting band. At just three minutes shy of an hour, This Burden Is Mine certainly gives you value for money. Opener How The Mighty Have Fallen combines the brutal death metal approach synonymous with DR, but also includes some more relaxed passages which allow Makhija’s strong clean vocals to come to the fore. In fact, if there was one criticism I’d have about this album, it is that the clean vocals are so much stronger than the death growls that you wonder why the death growls are maintained. Adding more melody and harmony to the tracks and allowing the superb musicianship to flow, Makhija’s excellent voice really enhances the compositions. Of course, Demonstealer is a blackened death metal outfit at heart and throughout the album the intricate death metal assault is never far away. However, he underpins it with some superb keyboards which add depth and warmth to blistering tracks like An Unforgiving Truth. The brutally aggressive blast beats and some of the more aggressive vocals remain true, as one would expect from a man who bleeds metal.

Throughout the album what strikes you is just how varied parts of it are. Yes, the pulverising death metal sections are still there, blast beats never far away but there is much more subtlety to this release with mellow sections, keys playing a big part whilst allowing the guitar riffs to remain at the forefront. The title track is a fine example with several key changes, guttural roars replaced by harmonies and the tempo changing at several points. Frail Fallible contains a haunting melody, clean vocals which are spot on and the convergence of guitars, keys and rhythm section into a powerful track which snakes its way through over seven minutes. In the main, this track is refreshingly at odds with many of the other more defiantly death metal focused tracks. With all bar one track clocking in at over five minutes, Demonstealer demands your commitment and in return provides you with a powerful and quality release. Once again, Sahil Makhaija has delivered a top notch release. 8/10

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