Be careful when you say “never.”
“Never” is a word that has come up many times throughout the existence of Louisiana’s pace-setting thrash/hardcore pioneers, Exhorder. “They never had the right breaks.” “Exhorder never could crack the mainstream with an album cover like that, and lyrics too brutal to print.” “They never had the right pieces in place.” “Exhorder will never get back together.”
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Neverland! After two short-lived reformation periods following the 1993 breakup of the band, Exhorder returned to the stage with a youthful frenzy for festivals and club shows in 2018. In addition to their long-awaited live return, which won over any skeptics and proved Exhorder indeed was back, the band has forged a new album for a 2019 release. While finally encapsulating the live sound that the band had built its legendary reputation with, Mourn The Southern Skiesis an intoxicating concoction of old school thrashers and groovers blended with a modern, mature Exhorder.
Yes, we said it. Mature. With founding members Vinnie La Bella and Kyle Thomas the only original members returning, the pair quickly assembled a game plan with longtime friend and former member, Jason VieBrooks (Heathen, Grip Inc.). This time around, it was crucial to put together a team that included more than just band members. In All Independent Service Alliance they found a management team that could take Exhorder to another level as well as relieve the band members of decision making that ultimately led to the previous demise of all things Exhorder.
Once Sasha Horn (Forbidden) and Marzi Montazeri (Heavy as Texas, Philip H. Anselmo And The Illegals) jumped into the fold, the band painstakingly toiled away at putting together a live show with songs from the first two albums, “Slaughter in the Vatican” and “The Law.” With two sold-out shows for Exhorder’s first ever New York appearance at Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus Bar setting the tone, the band gained steam throughout 2018. It was now glaringly evident that a new album should happen – the album that always should have been. Over the ensuing months, Vinnie and Kyle constructed new material in an intense manner. For the first time, Exhorder was actually critiquing its creations with a fine-toothed comb, and the effort has yielded an absolute beast of an album.
From the opening of the first track of Mourn The Southern Skies, we are reminded immediately just what Exhorder is exactly through the spitting rage "My Time" forces upon our ears. It is evident that the anger remains prevalent, with perhaps a different point of view that younger men could not possibly have understood on earlier albums. Sasha's energy and punk influence fire the engines, with Jason locking down the foundation tightly. Vinnie once again has proven himself "The Godfather" of thrash riffs, which cut through like a high speed drill bit thanks to the stellar production. A lead guitar face-off in the solo not only exhibits Vinnie's sometimes under-appreciated skills as a shredder, but also showcases newcomer Marzi Montazeri (“The High Priest of Distortion"). If anyone ever doubted Exhorder's skill set regarding guitar soloing, those days are gone forever! And finally, as if riding a runaway garbage truck with fireworks exploding off of its roof top, Kyle invokes venom and energy with familiar passion. All in all, the truth is apparent – Exhorder mean business once again!
From there, Mourn The Southern Skiesnever lets up. A broken elevator hell ride ensues, returning to groove elements and back to speed yet again. Headbangers will love the plowing force of "Asunder," "Hallowed Sound," and the double-bass attack of "All She Wrote." Speed freaks will get their fix from "Beware The Wolf," "Rumination," and a special re-recorded version of 1986's "Ripping Flesh." This cut features original Exhorder drummer Chris Nail on drums as a throwback to the past, and a nod to long-time fans. The album culminates into a doom inspired adventure with the title track. Sailing forth like a steam ship down the mighty Mississippi River, "Mourn The Southern Skies" displays a side of Exhorder that picks up where 1992's "Cadence of the Dirge" left us. Slow, memorable riffs and soaring vocals create hooks baited with crippling emotion. The startling presence of a B-3 organ is quickly understood, testifying in a resolution of gospel proportions. It is nearly impossible not to be enlightened by the song's finale.
Burning questions have surrounded the return of a band that once showed much promise and influenced many of the successful bands that followed. Exhorder now gives us a definitive answer for 2019 and beyond. Kyle states, "As much of an honor it is to hear so many of our peers, predecessors, and disciples rain accolades down upon us, nothing takes the place of being out on the stage yourself. Sweating and fighting it out by pouring your entire soul upon the stage for all to see is a special bond between band and audience. No compliment or credit from outsiders could ever replace that. To be able to return to that specific moment and also create new music to share with the world is the payoff. Everyone had better get used to us pretty soon, because we've got a lot left to say."
Vinnie concludes, "You can plot and scheme for years, even decades (as is in our case). You can work hard, keep grinding, bang the square peg in the round hole until it looks somewhat presentable. But sometimes you just need to let time tell you, it's time. Exhorder has its own soul. And it pokes me in the ribs ever so often as if to remind me, 'Hey asshole, we ain't done yet!' Kyle and myself had a dream as teenagers. And as cliche as it may seem, we never woke up from it. Exhorder has always crept in and out of our lives. So no magic bullet or formula here. It was only a simple matter of time before the right guys, the right songs, the right manager/label would finally come to the party. It's been damn near 35 years since we first uttered the name, Exhorder. 27 years since our last record, and a whole lot of breaking up and making up in between. So why is this time different? Why start again at 50 years of age instead of retiring? Simple... because it’s finally, TIME!"
As stated in the opening track, it is absolutely THEIR time.
Kyle Thomas - Vocals (Original member, Trouble, Heavy As Texas)
Vinnie La Bella - Guitar (Original member, Year Of The Tyrant)
Marzi Montazeri - Guitar (ex-Superjoint Ritual, ex-Phil Anselmo & the Illegals, Heavy As Texas)
Jason VieBrooks - Bass (Member of 2011 Reunion, Heathen, Grip Inc, Year Of The Tyrant)
Sasha Horn - Drums (Year Of The Tyrant, Forbidden)