Mourn The Southern Skies
Sept. 20, 2019 may prove to be pivotal during heavy metal history as thrash-groove cult favorites Exhorder release the band’s first album of new music in 27 years. Mourn The Southern Skies is a ten-song, 53 minute offering of intense riffs, searing but comprehensible vocals and monstrous drumming. The collection undoubtedly qualifies as one of the heavy metal highlights released this year.
Much has transpired in the quarter-century since Exhorder’s phenomenal last studio outing, The Law. The most obvious change is the lineup as vocalist Kyle Thomas and lead guitarist Vinnie LaBella remain the sole original members during this incarnation of the band. Modern recording tools and techniques have strengthened the audio quality without sacrificing any rawness and rigor of the group’s evolution, which features more doom metal laced throughout the tracks. Exhorder had to make a statement on the Mourn album opener, “My Time,” which certainly accomplishes the goal. Think of the track as a 3:53 equivalent to a middle-finger and a flexed muscle.
Other songs from Mourn The Southern Skies, like “Beware The Wolf” and the re-recorded “Ripping Flesh,” are all out thrash attacks in the vein of Nuclear Blast label mates Overkill, Testament and Destruction. But thankfully there is enough variety in subgenres and song length to make every song on Mourn feel like its own journey. Exhorder finds its way toward more traditional metal songs, like “Hallowed Sounds,” a relentless and brutal tune that serves as homage to mysterious New Orleans roots. “Rumination” is faster-paced and hinders on thrash as Thomas’ choruses and vocal melodies go for the jugular. “We make the great mistakes and try to fool our own minds/The present consequence, a rumination, you’ll find.”
Exhorder hits hard even when straying from the thrash playbook while entering doom territory. “Yesterday’s Bones” is mid-tempo metal that soars for seven minutes, featuring Thomas belting the haunting and captivating chorus, “Yesterday’s bones will rise/The fool that should have died/Tomorrow keeps the peace that hides today.” The stunning two-minute dual guitar solos, a bright spot and supported by a B-3 organ has a rightful place closing out the cut, while giving way to an acoustic outro.
The title track, the album’s 9:30 closer, begins with ominous acoustic guitars and clean singing before the band launches into an explosive Sabbath inspired riff that could break a levee. And while perhaps warranted comparisons have been made throughout the years between Exhorder and Pantera, the title track to Mourn The Skies is more reminiscent of Down’s dominance. Thomas’ voice doesn’t have as many miles as Phil Anselmo, from Down. Nevertheless, despite a similar delivery, Thomas excels at hitting higher notes. The B-3 returns at the seven minute mark as Thomas conjures images of fire, strife and despair just as a heavy wall of sound quickly closes in, only to be replaced by strumming acoustic guitars. Despite the reverence in the heavy music community for Exhorder’s two prior albums, Mourn is not presented as a long-awaited sequel. Instead, the album is a new modernized sound from a revitalized band whose allure has grown with the advent of the internet and social media. This album marks the start of a new chapter in the band’s history and hopefully, the first of many.
Exhorder is supporting Nuclear Blast’s Kataklysm during a North American tour through the end of September. Tour dates include:
Sept. 20 – Cincinnati, OH, Riverfront Live
Sept. 21 – Atlanta, GA, The Masquerade
Sept. 22 – Baltimore, MD, Soundstage
Sept. 23 – Brooklyn, NY, Market Hotel
Sept. 24 – Poughkeepsie, NY, The Chance
Sept. 25 – Reading, PA, Reverb
Sept. 26 – Worcester, MA, The Palladium
Sept. 27 – Quebec City, QC, Le D’Auteuil
Sept. 28 – Montreal, QC, Theatre Corona
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Justin Smulison is a professional content writer and producer whose first love is music. Smulison’s digital and print copywriting experience spans music, law, true crime, advertising and real estate, among other subjects. You can often find JS in Long Beach, New York, either running on the boardwalk or in the sand with his family.