Mourn the Southern Skies

Lots of long overdue comeback albums this year: Possessed, Sacred Reich, Nocturnus and add Exhorder to that growing list too. Longtime original members from the first 2 classic albums Slaughter in the Vatican from 1990 and The Law in 1992, Kyle Thomas-vocals and Vinnie LaBella-guitar return to the fold to resurrect this once great, but short-lived act. Exhorder are rounded out by: Marzi Montazeri-guitar, Jason Viebrooks-bass and Sasha Horn on drums.

With their New Orleans roots intact Exhorder bring forth that southern downturned dirge heaviness, which I am unfortunately not the biggest fan of, but when done with the Exhorder sound, well then it’s different for me, but only in smaller doses, which is not the case with this album, at certain points. Opening with the furious “My Time” it’s pretty damn clear Exhorder went about this return album the right way. Get a great label-Nuclear Blast, check. Let us get the best modern recording we can possibly get to bring that Exhorder heaviness to the front-check. The song begins with tight and fast precision thrash with the definite, more polished, Exhorder guitar razor sound. The tune slows a bit and then picks up the speed and Kyle sounds a bit different, singing in a higher register, however very angry and pissed off. He really sounds great on this album, no doubt.

“Asunder” is next with that groove heaviness and this song has a very Exodus feel to it. Think “Blacklist” off Tempo of the Damned. But anyway “Asunder” is monstrously heavy with some crooning style vocals from Kyle. You know he had a stint in Trouble a few years ago where he experimented with his vocals a bit and he has brought some more of that melodic edge to this. The chorus on “Asunder” is catchy and some cool southern flair guitar solos thrown in. Yeah, this song is heavy as shit. “Hallowed Sound” is next and the song goes into the first Exhorder blast beat ever. This opening is so intense and faster than when Jim “The Slimmer” woofed down 10 personal pizzas from Lenny’s Clam Bar, on Long Island, back in the 90’s, all the while screaming, faster, faster, faster. Regardless the blast ends with some tight drum rolls before going into a groove section that is super heavy. Excellent riffing and super catchy shifts from heaviness to melodic tinged choruses. I would have liked the song to get back into the faster moments, but it stays in this groove pattern for the rest of the song.

The thrash is brought back with “Beware the Wolf”. Over the fast thrash parts the guitars not once get lost in the mix and the song. This song is furious from start to finish. It actually stays thrashy all the way through which I am very happy about. Some of the slow down moments are super killer, though. Real beat down worthy. Then Mourn the Southern Skies takes a bit of a downward turn, with some fair to middling types of songs. “Yesterday’s Bones” at over 7 minutes is 3 minutes too long. Melodic, still heavy, but the song looses me. A bit boring. “All She Wrote” and “The Arms of Man” are all just mediocre. Like the band ran out of steam. “The Arms of Man” does have some ass-kicking groove moments though. “Rumination” and the blazing “Ripping Flesh” are brilliant, especially “Ripping Flesh”. Super heavy, fast, great solos and snarling vocals from Kyle.

Then it’s on to the 9+ minute ender, “Mourn the Southern Skies”. This is pure southern groove metal and while it’s got catchy moments, the song is so damn slow and I get lost at certain points. It is a moody piece I will give Exhorder that, but the song is way too long and stays in this slow dirge for the entire length of this extra long song. Let’s not go back n forth about the Exhorder and Pantera crap from the 90’s, but this title track sounds like one of the slower, moodier songs on Pantera’s The Great Southern Trendkill, seriously. I do commend Exhorder doing this real expansive song, because it is emotive, melodic and heavy.

Mourn the Southern Skies is a damn fine return from Exhorder. The production is slick and polished but retains their signature guitar sound. Too many songs overstay they welcome and at 10 songs and over 50 minutes is a bit too long. They do mix in a lot of great parts and I do wish there were some faster songs on this album. The musicianship, though is excellent and Mourn the Southern Skies is the best produced album for 2019-no doubt. Because the album cover is so dark when I first saw it I thought it was marshmallows roasting on a scarecrow. Closer inspection shows it’s voodoo doll and the marshmallows are skull heads. My bad. The booklet is nicely put together and Mourn the Southern Skies is a good Exhorder album and at times is brilliant. For me the albums are in the order of strongest to least strongest in terms of the years they were released, however this is most definitely an Exhorder album. I am glad to have them back in the scene-it’s damn heavy!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Frank Rini
October 7th, 2019


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