Exmortus Is At Its Peak In On Its Latest LP

Courtesy:  Prosthetic Records

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records

Exmortus struck quite the blow for the metal community when it released its album Slave To The Sword back in 2014. The band’s third full-length studio record and first for Prosthetic Records, it can be argued that it was the album that really made Exmortus into one of the metal community’s next big names. Earlier last month Exmortus followed up the success of that album with its latest full-length studio recording Ride Forth. The band’s fourth full-length studio offering this record is a solid follow-up to Slave To The Sword. Its nine track, forty-three-minute body presents a band that doesn’t rest easily on its laurels. From beginning to end the album keeps its energy and intensity both musically and lyrically beginning right at the album’s outset. ‘Speed of the Strike’ is a full-throttle metal opus that comes at listeners with the speed and precision of the sharpest blade. This applies both with its musical and lyrical content. ‘For The Horde,’ the album’s lead single, is just as pummeling in its approach. And the band’s cover of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23 in F Minor Op. 57 ‘Appasionata’ 3rd movement cannot be ignored either. The band has taken the legendary composer’s original work and paid it full tribute in its take in its performance of the song. It is every bit as intense here as the original composition, which is more commonly performed on piano. It serves to once again exhibit the breadth of the band’s talents and musical knowledge. When set against the other songs noted here, and those not directly noted, it serves as one more example of why Ride Forth is without question one of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.

Ride Forth, Exmortus’ latest full-length studio recording, is without question one of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums. That is evident from the album’s full-throttle, take no prisoners opener ‘Speed of The Strike’ right to its finale, ‘Fire And Ice.’ From beginning to end this record’s sound (which conjures thoughts of Arch Enemy, Poweglove, TSO, and other similar acts) alongside its equally powerful lyrical content keeps listeners’ ears with ears. Speaking of the album’s opener it is just one example of what makes this album such an outstanding new effort from Exmortus. In regards to the song’s musical content, the band wastes no time coming at listeners. Guitarist David Rivera and front man/guitarist Jadran “Conan” Gonzalez jump right into the song with their dual guitar attack alongside drummer Mario Moreno and bassist Michael Cosio. The song’s no-nonsense musical approach is in itself just one part of what makes it a solid opener for the band on this album. That is just one part of what makes the song’s musical content notable. Even within the song’s musical content audiences that listen closely will note the band’s classical influences throughout the song. The precision in Rivera and Gonzalez’s performance is incredible. The same can be said of Cosio and Moreno as they establish the song’s foundation. Altogether, the quartet’s abilities create a sound here that in itself is more than enough reason for audiences to hear this song. It’s just one important element of this song. The song’s lyrical content is just as intense as its musical content. Gonzalez sings here, “Riding forth through lands forlorn/Upon our steel the oath is sworn/Dare to make your final stand/Nothing can our steel withstand/Fate is sealed/Death by steel/Slaying man and god alike/All shall feel the speed of the strike.” It comes across like something right from the likes of Amon Amarth and other viking metal acts even though Exmortus is anything but. Interestingly enough Exmortus will hit the road this spring alongside Amon Amarth on its upcoming U.S. tour. Gonzalez continues in similar fashion in the song’s chorus as he sings, “Hark! The sound of steel/The mighty roar of clashing swords/Lo! The metal storm/Forthcoming bane/Those who remain/All shall be torn to shreds/Swords stained red/Raze to the ground/We will strike you down.” This and the song’s opening verse alone build a firm bridge back to Slave To The Sword yet also connects that album expertly to this album. Taking all of this into consideration along with the rest of the song’s equally pummeling lyrical content, the song in whole exhibits clearly in itself what makes Ride Forth a musical ride. it is just one example of what makes Exmortus’ new album such an intense and welcome musical ride. ‘For The Horde,’ the album’s lead single, is another example of what makes this album so intense and so welcome among both the band’s fans and the metal community.

‘Speed Of The Strike’ was the perfect choice with which Exmortus opted to open its latest full-length studio recording. The combination of its musical and lyrical content together instantly grabs listeners and holds them firm from start to finish. While the musical and lyrical intensity of this song makes it a solid first impression for the band on its latest offering, it is just one example of what makes this album such an impressive new offering from Exmortus. ‘For The Horde,’ the album’s lead single, is yet another example of what makes the album a solid new effort from the Whittier, California-based band. In regards to its musical content it is just as intense with the chainsaw sharpness of its dual guitar attack and machine gun-fast drumming. Its lyrical content is just as intense as that of ‘Speed of the Strike,’ too. As Gonzalez sings here, “Ride on/Raise your strong and fight strong/All shall face the mighty metal horde/Thunder/We go in and plunder/Bow before the heavy hammer lord/Whiplash/Hackslash/All is burned to ash.” Yet again here listeners get much the same lyrical intensity and theme as in ‘Speed Of The Strike.’ The combination of that lyrical and musical intensity from beginning to end shows clearly why this song is another example of what makes ‘For The Horde’ such a welcome return for the band. Audiences can check out the band’s lyric video for the song online now via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo35U4PTQ90. It still is not the only remaining example of what makes the album such an impressive return for Exmortus, too. The band’s cover of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23 in F Minor Op. 57 ‘Appasionata’ 3rd movement cannot be ignored as an example what makes this album so impressive either.

Both ‘Speed Of The Strike’ and ‘For The Horde’ are prime examples of what makes Ride Forth a clearly welcome return for Exmortus. They are both prime examples of why it is such a welcome return for the band because of the intensity of both their musical and lyrical content. They are hardly the only songs that could be cited as examples thanks to that intensity, too. ‘Death To Tyrants’ could just as easily be cited with its impassioned call to arms against those that rule the world unjustly and its equally powerful musical content. Audiences can hear that song online via Prosthetic Records’ official YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u40otH-jZZw. ‘Fire and Ice’ and ‘Black Sails’ could also be cited as examples in their own right. Given the amount of material that could be used to exhibit just what makes Ride Forth such an impressive return there is still one more song included in this album that shines bright because of its musical content alone. That song is the band’s cover of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23 in F Minor Op. 57 ‘Appasionata’ 3rd movement. The song is just one part of a much larger song. The song in whole runs nearly twenty-five minutes in length. So of course the band wasn’t about to try its hand at the entire composition. That would likely wear out even the most experienced musicians. Heck it even wears out professional, classically trained pianists. To that extent the band can be excused. Taking that into consideration the movement that is presented here in this recording is impressive in its own right. Gonzalez and Rivera are spot on handling the song’s main line. And Cosio is just as impressive as he runs the song’s harmony. All three parts together surprisingly mirror the original composition quite well. It would be unfair to ignore drummer Mario Moreno’s work in this presentation. He stays right on time with his band mates as he adds just enough extra flourish to the song. The cymbal crashes are inserted at just the right points. And his rapid fire footwork on the bass drums is right in time with Cosio’s bass line and even the song’s guitar lines. It’s enough to leave one wondering what a full orchestra version of the song would sound like instead of the song’s typical piano presentation. That’s really saying something about the band members’ talent in taking on a piece that is heavy not in the heavy sense but in terms of the intense concentration and talent that it requires to accomplish it successfully. The song is well over two centuries old. But the band gives it a wonderful new twist all while paying tribute to the original composition. That speaks volumes about the band’s take on the song and about the band’s talent in general. It shows once more why this song is yet another prime example of what makes Ride Forth a welcome return for Exmortus and why alongside the rest of the album’s featured works it is in whole one of the best new hard rock and metal offerings of the year even with the year still being so young. Audiences can hear the song for themselves via Prosthetic Records’ official YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDnNIXpu0nQ.

Exmortus’ fourth full-length studio album is a picture of a band that is currently at the peak of its career and talent. The band mixes precision guitar work and drumming with lyrical content that is just as powerful in its own right. The end result is a nine-song, forty-three minute experience that will impress any purist member of the metal nation worldwide. It is an experience that will leave said metal loyalists agreeing with this and many other critics that this record is one of the best new hard rock and metal offerings of the year even with the year still being so young. Ride Forth is available now in stores and online. Audiences can order it or download it direct via Prosthetic Records’ online store now at http://prostheticrecords.com/?p=8531. Fans can also pick it up now at any of the band’s live dates. Exmortus is currently touring in support of Ride Forth. The band’s current tour schedule is available online now along with all of its latest news and more at:

Website: http://exmortusmusic.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/exmortusofficial

Twitter: http://twitter.com/exmortusband

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2015’s First Family Film Is Also One Of Its Least Enjoyable Films

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Group/Dimension

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Group/Dimension

Anchor Bay Entertainment is one of the biggest and most influential independent studios in the entertainment world today.  It is the driving force behind no fewer than three of AMC’s biggest series, one of which—The Walking Dead—is one of the biggest series on television today.  Its role in the Starz network has also led to the success of series such as Black Sails, Da Vinci’s Demons, and Blunt Talk.  It is also at least partially behind some of the biggest independent movies to come along in recent years.  Those movies include the likes of Henry Poole Is Here, Unfinished Song, and Shanghai Calling just to name a few.  For all of the impressive marks on the studio’s resume, it proved earlier this year with its new big screen adaptation of author Michael Bond’s Paddington books that it is not infallible.  While the movie is a fun little flick for the whole family it is hardly one of 2015’s most memorable movies.  That is thanks in large part to its unoriginal script, which can easily be compared to the equally forgettable 1992 canine-centered movie Beethoven.  Both movies’ scripts are so similar that it is impossible say that this work has any real originality.  This is even despite Paddington sticking to its source material.  As troubling as this is to the whole of Paddington, it would be unfair to say that the movie is a total loss just from this one element.  In the story’s defense, actress Nicole Kidman is to be commended for her work as the villainous taxidermist Millicent.  The movie’s makeup and costume departments are both just as much to applaud for their work in making Kidman into Millicent.  It is thanks to their work that she is nearly unrecognizable.  Sadly their work and that of Kidman herself are the only real shining gems of Paddington.  The special effects used to bring Paddington to life are nothing new.  They can easily be compared to the work of those behind Yogi Bear and so many other CG/live action hybrid flicks before it.  And as beautiful as the story’s backdrop is even it can’t save the movie.  That is even when it is set alongside the movie’s only other positives.  That being the case, the sad reality of Paddington is that even as entertaining as it is for the whole family, it is largely one of this year’s most forgettable theatrical releases.

Paddington was one of the most anticipated family movies of 2015 ahead of its release early this year.  Sadly the hype and anticipation over this new big screen release proved to be all for naught.  That is because it proved in the end to be in fact one of the year’s least memorable movies.  The main reason that it proved to be such an unforgettable work is its script.  In watching this movie, there is no denying its blatant similarities to the 1992 family flick Beethoven.  It’s almost as if the movie’s writing team of Paul King and Hamish McColl took Beethoven’s script and tweaked it to meet the needs of this story.  For all intents and purposes, Paddington was an orphan much like Beethoven when he [Paddington] was taken in by the Brown family.  Sure, Paddington wasn’t adopted from a pet store.  But it can be argued in regards to the character development exhibited through the story’s progression that he does in fact become “adopted” more or less.  It’s just a different scenario.  As the story progress, audiences see Paddington pursued by Kidman’s villainous Millicent only to ultimately meet a rather hilarious end just as Dr. Varnick (Dean Jones—The Love Bug, Clear and Present Danger, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes) does in Beethoven.  For the sake of those that have not seen either movie, neither character’s fate will be revealed here.  Getting back on the subject, it can be easily seen in putting the two scripts side-by-side just how similar the pair is to one another.  That being the case, it is difficult to take Paddington with much seriousness or even respect being that this is the case.

If the similarities between the two movie’s scripts aren’t enough to convince audiences of just how unforgettable Paddington proves to be, a comparison of some of the movie’s characters might help convince viewers.  We will start with a comparison of the stories’ father figures.  Charles Grodin’s George Newton character from Beethoven has been almost identically replicated in Paddington in the form of Hugh Bonneville’s Henry Brown.  That replication is right down to his original, gruff reluctance to take in Paddington when the Browns first meet Paddington.  George Newton was much the same way with Beethoven in that movie.  Young Judy Brown (Madeline Harris—The White Queen, Being Human, Man Down) is a near mirror image of Beethoven’s Ryce Newton (Nicholle Tom—The Nanny, Justice League, Beverly Hills, 90210).  Both actresses portrayed the moody daughter figure in their respective roles.  And just as Sarah Rose Karr’s (Kindergarten Cop, Father of the Bride, Beethoven’s 2nd) Emily was Beethoven’s best friend in that movie so is Jonathan Brown’s (Samuel Joslin—The Impossible) relationship with Paddington much that same in this movie.  Taking into consideration the overall lack of originality in regards to both the movie’s script and its characters (and their growth over the course of the movie’s progression), it should be clear as to why it is so difficult to call this movie anything more than perhaps a one-time watch at best.

The issues with Paddington’s script both in regards to its story and its characters and their development do plenty to keep the movie from being anything that families will remember for years to come.  For all of its problems Paddington is not a total loss.  It does have some positives.  One of those few, rare positives is the work of actress Nicole Kidman as the evil taxidermist Millicent.  Millicent takes the character established by Dean Jones in Beethoven and steps up that role even more.  What that means to say is that she really is believable in her delusions.  Yet at the same time there’s a certain comic element about Millicent that Kidman brings out on camera that audiences will love just as much.  The combination of those two elements together makes Kidman the real star of the movie interestingly enough.  It makes a person want to see the movie if only for her performance.  On a related note, those that were responsible for Kidman’s makeup and attire are worthy of their own credit.  That is the movie’s only other real, noticeable positive.

Nicole Kidman may have played the role of the villain in Anchor Bay’s new CG/live-action hybrid adaptation of Paddington.  But even playing the villain, she was the real shining gem of this otherwise forgettable flick.  That is because the movie’s script—both in regards to its story and characters and their development—is anything but original or even memorable.  Luckily she isn’t the only bright element of this movie.  Those that were responsible for Kidman’s makeup and costume are also to be commended.  That is because collectively, they made her nearly unrecognizable.  If viewers were to see her on screen in this movie without knowing it was her ahead of time, they would not have known at all that it was her.  That is unless they were to have sat through the movie’s credits or researched the character online via a website such as imdb.com, or other similar sites.  From her hairdo (was that a wig or not?) to her costumes to even minute details such as her overall makeup, those responsible for bringing Millicent to life on screen (at least in terms of her look) are to be highly commended for their work.  Maybe that is why Kidman did so well in her portrayal.  She felt that said individuals had done such an impressive job in their charge that she felt that comfortable in her own acting.  That could well be just this critic’s own take of course.  But it is still something worth considering.  Regardless, it is safe to say that the work of those individuals along with Kidman’s own work are the only real elements of Paddington worth watching.  The movie’s script in every one of its aspects really does nothing to make the movie memorable.  That being the case, it is safe to say that while Paddington is not this year’s worst movie—that dishonor currently sits between Marvel’s new Avengers movie and Universal’s new Despicable Me spinoff Minions—it definitely is hardly one of the year’s best new big screen features.

It’s sad to say that Anchor Bay’s attempt to bring author Michael Bond’s beloved furry friend to life on the big screen.  That’s especially the case because its debut early this year marked the first time ever that Bond’s character had been adapted to the big screen.  Sure there was a TV show some decades ago.  But up until this year, no studio had had the gumption to adapt it for a big screen feature.  For that reason alone, Anchor Bay deserves at least some credit for having the bravery to give it a chance.  One can only hope that considering its weak, unoriginal script juxtaposed by the otherwise impressive work of actress Nicole Kidman and those charged with helping bring Kidman’s character to life, that the movie’s now rumored sequel will fare better.  That is because while this movie is not the year’s worst new theatrical offering, it is definitely not one of the year’s best either.  Here’s to hoping, Paddington.  Here’s to hoping.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Exmortus’ Prosthetic Records Debut Is 2014’s First Great Metal Record

Courtesy:  Prosthetic Records

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records

Exmortus releases this week its debut album for its new label, Prosthetic Records. The band’s new album, titled Slave to the Sword is not the band’s first album.  It is in fact the third full length studio release from the Whittier, California based metal act.  But being the first for its new label, this latest release is one heck of a first impression for the band’s new bosses. As a matter of fact, Slave to the Sword is in this critic’s ears, the first truly great metal record of 2014.  One needs listen to this record just one time to figure out why it is deserving of this title.  Right from the opening assault of ‘Rising’, the band’s members show just how much they have honed their craft over the course of two previous releases to create this new metal masterpiece. The album’s opener is just the tip of the iceberg…sword?…for the band on this record.  ‘Immortality Made Flesh’ and the band’s full on power metal cover of composer Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata (Act 3)’ show just how much Exmortus’ members have grown in terms of their talent up to this point.  As impressive as these pieces are, they are just pieces of the whole that any purist metalhead will appreciate from Exmortus on this its third album.  Every listener will find his or her own favorite song(s) when they pick up Slave to the Sword for themselves.

Exmortus opens its new album fittingly with the song ‘Rising.’  Vocalist Conan screams ominously over the full on shredding attack of guitarist David Rivera, “Welcome/To the realm of darkness/We are anxious for your blood/Rising/From the depths we crawl/Rising/To devour all.” Conan’s vocal style is interesting.  It’s interesting because believe it or not, even with the growl, it doesn’t come across like that of so many other vocalists’ sounds that are little more than the standard cookie monster growl.  Rivera’s full throttle shredding is a nice addition, too.  Instead of the standard down-tuned, crunching guitars that seem to dominate so much of the metal community today, one can almost see smoke coming from Rivera’s fingers as they make their way up and down the neck of his guitar.  One need not even physically see Rivera play to be able to pick up on his talent.  Of course drummer Mario Moreno is well worth mentioning here, too along with bassist Jovanni Perez.  Moreno’s chops are incredibly solid throughout the course of the song’s near four-minute run time.  His timekeeping throughout the song is solid as a rock, even with all of the runs that he executes. And Perez is right there with Moreno, neither man missing a single note or beat.  The unit as a whole combines throughout the entire piece to make ‘Rising’ feel like a perfect opener both on record and in a live setting.

‘Rising’ is a fitting starting point for Exmortus on this record.  That’s because it shows without a shadow of a doubt that this band is indeed rising in the ranks of the metal world.  It proves this even more as it powers its way through the album’s third track, ‘Immortality Made Flesh.’  This single is available now for download from the Prosthetic Records online store at http://www.indiemerch.com/prostheticrecords/item/23123.  This track stands out so well because it exhibits much the same power from the band that is displayed through the album’s opener.  The difference between the two is that the energy established in ‘Rising’ is stepped up tenfold in this full throttle speed/thrash opus.  There is in this song, more of a sense of urgency in David Rivera’s performance here for lack of better wording.  Conan’s dark Amon Amarth style lyrics and vocals are just as strong, too.  So much more could be noted.  Simply put, their talent set alongside that of their band mates makes this song one of the highest of highs on this record.

‘Immortality Made Flesh’ is one of the highest points on Exmortus’ new record.  There is at least one more song that is more than deserving of being called a high point, though.  That song is the band’s amped up cover of composer Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata (Act 3).’  Conan gets to give his vocals arrest on this piece while his band mates get the chance to shine more than ever.  Its collective talent instantly conjures thoughts of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s album, Beethoven’s Last Night and of other amped up covers from the band.  It truly shows the band’s talent and its versatility more than any other song included on this album.  So it comes as no wonder that it has been chosen as the band’s latest single.  It’s just one more of so many outstanding tracks that make this record again, the first truly great metal record of 2014.

The band is currently touring in support of Slave to the Sword.  Fans in North Carolina will get to experience music from the band’s new album live when it comes to The Milestone in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 10th.  Exmortus’ most current tour schedule, news and more is available online at http://www.facebook.com/exmortusofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.