It’s hard to believe, but this year is already almost halfway over. Not to get too much into semantics, but it isn’t halfway over until this month is over. Over the course of the first half of 2018, the hard rock and metal community has seen so many powerful new records released. Surprisingly enjoyable new albums from the likes of Judas Priest, TesseracT, Black Label Society and so many others have given hard rock and metal fans plenty about which to be happy during the first half of the year. Now as we look toward the second half of the year, veteran metal outfit Exmortus is setting the pace for the field with its latest full-length studio recording, The Sound of Steel. Front man Jadren “Conan” Gonzalez explained the record in a recent interview, saying, “This new record takes the best from both Slave and Ride albums, and adds a killer twist especially accentuated by Chase Becker and Carlos Cruz of Warbringer while still paying homage to our classic favorites like Priest, Yngwie, Slayer, etc. “We also deliver, tastefully, the extremities of black/death metal and of course the neo-classical structure/harmony that we are known for. This is what we believe to be The Sound of Steel.” Gonzalez’s statements here are spot on as this record proves to be everything that Exmortus’ fans have comes to expect from the San Diego, California-based band as is evidenced by the album’s lead single ‘Make Haste.’ This song will be discussed shortly. ‘Into The Maw of Hell’ delves into those death metal roots that Gonzalez noted. It will be discussed later. The full-on instrumental ‘Tempest,’ which comes much later into the album, is yet another example of what Gonzalez discussed of the album. Between this song, the others noted here and the album’s other seven entries, it can be said of The Sound of Steel that it is a strong new effort from the veteran metal act and an equally strong lead off to the second half of 2018 for the hard rock and metal community.
Veteran metal outfit Exmortus’ latest album The Sound of Steel — its fifth full-length studio recording – is yet another impressive offering from the San Diego, California-based band and an equally strong start to the second half of 2018 for the metal community. That is because from start to finish, it proves to be everything that audiences have come to expect from the band. These statements are supported right from the album’s outset in the form of its opener, ‘Make Haste.’ Gonzalez said of this song that it was “inspired by the constant pressure of making deadlines and getting s*** done…and will set the mood and attitude just right as the opening track.” He could not be more right, as the energy in the song’s full-throttle musical arrangement conveys a certain urgency. That is clearly evidenced through the song’s dual-guitar attack and impeccable time keeping from Gonzalez, fellow guitarist Chase Becker and drummer Carlos Cruz. Bassist Cody Nunez adds a nice counterpoint to the guitars with his low-end, rounding out the song’s old school thrash arrangement. It is a sound that will impress the band’s more seasoned audiences just as much as it will casual thrash metal fans. In regards to its lyrical content, the song is just as interesting as it hints at a battle between foes. Of course, the album’s artwork somewhat adds to that interpretation as Gonzalez screams, “Rise up you lazy lot/We must make haste/Strike now while the iron’s hot/There’s no time to waste/Prepare for war/Behold new steel is forged/Rush into battle/We will take them by surprise/Crush them to dust/They will not see the sun arise/Lay all to waste/Leave not a trace/More steel be wrought/No time for thought/Behold our strength/Make haste.” This comes across as a war cry of sorts, a leader getting his soldiers ready for battle, and it is a message that continues on in similar fashion in the song’s second verse. The second verse sees the song’s subject telling his troops to lay waste to the lands and to be merciless against all foes. Again, this is familiar territory for Exmortus, lyrically speaking, and once again conjures comparisons to the likes of Amon Amarth with said content. At the same time, it’s nice to see that the band is, again, not just trying to copy said band’s style lyrically (or musically). To that end, the song proves even more why it is such a solid representation of all that The Sound of Steel has to offer listeners. It’s only one of the songs that serves this purpose, too. ‘Into The Maw of Hell’ is another of the album’s entries that supports that statement.
‘Into The Maw Of Hell’ is another standout addition to The Sound of Steel, as with the album’s opener, in part because of its musical arrangement. While this song is not the full-throttle shred-fest that was the arrangement at the center of ‘Make Haste,’ it still boasts its own positives, most notably its heaviness and drums. Some may call it a stretch, but a close listen to this arrangement leaves one imagining what it would be like if Dream Theater and Iced Earth crossed paths with Megadeth. It is a truly interesting composition that is certain to be one of the album’s most notable works. Of course the song’s arrangement is only one part of what makes it stand out. Its lyrical content is certain to generate its own interest because of its seeming socio-politically charged commentary. That seeming commentary comes as Gonzalez screams in the song’s lead verse, “You claim to know right from wrong/Yet you bask in your hypocrisy/As for me, I know where you belong/Practice what you preach/I’ll make you see the maw of hell.” Now for those who might not be familiar with the term “maw,” a maw is – according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary – “the throat, gullet or jaws especially of a voracious animal” as well as “the receptacle into which food is taken by swallowing.” So in other words, this song’s subject is addressing the hypocritical masses of the world (who could easily be the world’s political and religious leaders as well as ordinary people) who say one thing and do another, telling them that they belong in the mouth of hell. That’s a pretty acerbic statement to say the very least. He goes on to scream in the song’s second verse, “Hell on Earth…Grim reality/This cannot be true/On and on…dark is rising before we’re back into the maw of hell.” He continues on to note in the song’s third verse that the world is in fact going to hell…maybe not literally, but it’s going to hell in the proverbial hand basket, continuing the theme that was started in the song’s lead verse, basically saying Earth has become its own hell because of the actions of certain figures. Again, it makes for a powerful statement; a statement that when coupled with an equally powerful musical arrangement, makes the song in whole stand out even more. When it’s all said and done, the whole of the song proves yet again why The Sound of Steel is another solid effort from Exmortus and an equally strong lead off to the second half of 2018. It still is not the last of the songs that serves to support those statements. The full-on instrumental that is ‘Tempest’ is yet another work that supports those statements
‘Tempest’ does all of its talking solely through it arrangement rather than relying on any lyrical themes, and does quite the impressive job of communicating, too. It crosses the band’s modern metal shredding chops with its ability to handle neo-classical sounds for a whole that truly comes across as a certain controlled chaos. That is evidenced in the expert balance of the previously noted dual guitar attack of Gonzalez and Becker with Nunez’s bass line. Each musician gets his moment to shine here and do so with full precision while Cruz never once loses the beat, at times mirroring the one and only Mike Portnoy with his chops and time keeping. The end result of the group’s collective work is a musical storm that is just as impressive as any of the instrumentals presented in the band’s past records without rehashing said works at the same time, making it stand out that much more. Keeping this in mind, when it is considered along with the other songs noted here and those not directly noted in this review, the end result is an album that the metal legions in general will appreciate just as much as Exmortus’ most devout fan base. To that end, this album proves in whole that it is indeed its own steel solid offering and an equally strong start to the second half of this year.
Exmortus’ fifth full-length studio recording The Sound of Steel is a record that proves over the course of its 10 song, 42-minute run to live up to front man Jadren Gonzalez’s words. It conjures thoughts of the most solid steel, and in turn proves to be just as solid of a start to the second half of 2018. That is evidenced in part through musical arrangements that join the best elements of modern and old school metal and in turn make for a musical whole that metal purists and Exmortus fans alike will appreciate. The album’s lyrical content, which offers its own share of interest, joins with the interest created through the album’s musical arrangements to make the album in whole another strong effort from the band. As a matter of fact, the whole of the album proves it to be, in comparison to the year’s other current metal and hard rock albums, another easy candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best in said category. It is available now in stores and online. More information on The Sound of Steel is available online now at:
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