Review: Exmortus – Legions of the Undead

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Just in time for Halloween and their upcoming tour with Death Angel, SoCal death/thrashers Exmortus return with a new EP, Legions of the Undead. Although scanty as a full release, the new originals featured in the EP point to promising things in the band’s future.

With five albums under their belt, Exmortus know their craft and know it well. Their songs are an exciting mix of neoclassical shredding, harsh vocals, and general uptempo thrash. Both the title track and “Swallow Your Soul” hit that sweet spot of instrumental flash without devolving into Malmsteenian wankery. Both songs alternate between speedy thrash and more mid-tempo stomp, and they both feature a series of gymnastic solos and fairly memorable choruses.

The EP’s production values are top-notch—the guitars of Jadran Gonzalez and Chase Becker slash and burn through both riffs and solos, Adrian Aguilar’s drums hit with enough power to carry the tracks without drowning out the rest of the mix, and Philip Nunez’s bass is clearly audible anchoring the low-end throughout.

While the original tracks open Legions of the Undead on just the right note, the following three covers don’t do a consistent job maintaining that momentum. First up is Danny Elfman’s main theme from Beetlejuice, which the band pulls off in stylish fashion; I found Nunez carrying the theme’s jaunty piano riff on the bass particularly satisfying.

 

Next is their cover of Bernard Hermann’s main theme from Pyscho. Although the theme itself is iconic, it doesn’t really translate well to Exmortus’ shred-heavy style. There just isn’t a whole lot for the band to work with, and the EP as a whole suffers for it.

Finally, the last cover is of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” (you may know it as the section of Fantasia with the spoopy demon) and it actually works quite well as a stand-alone track. As far as covers go it’s by far the best choice Exmortus made here and the band’s style meshes well with Mussorgsky’s ominous score. If anything, “Night on Bald Mountain” made me want more covers from Exmortus in this vein—surely there’s a wealth of dark classical music to dig through rather than the assorted works of Tim Burton.

Bottom line: Legion of the Undead shows that Exmortus hasn’t lost their chops since their last album. Even after repeated listens, I was still excited to hear “Legions of the Undead,” “Swallow Your Soul” and “Night on Bald Mountain,” and if their next album continues in that same vein I’ll be waiting expectantly for its release. 

3.5 out ov 5 Flaming Toilets

Legions of the Undead is out October 25, 2019 through M-Theory Audio. You can pick up a copy over at Bandcamp.

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