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Exmortis as an entity is certainly not new to extreme metal, being originally formed way back in 1987 playing death metal in some of its earliest forms. After a break of more than 10 years, the band reformed with sole original member Brian Werking joining forces with new bassist and drummer Paul and Josh, releasing their first new material in 17 years in the form of their brand new EP, Resurrection... Book of the Dead.
The album starts off hauntingly with Creation, with sounds of children singing and giggling at the background while shrouded in a dark atmosphere and drumming at the background, setting up the mood for the EP. With the title track, Book of the Dead, the EP begins proper and it is immediately obvious that the band has not lost their touch in playing old school death metal. Brian's vocals are still on top form, and sound almost like Martin Van Drunen's works on Asphyx. His touch on the guitars is also not lost, as evident on the numerous lead guitar spots that are littered throughout the EP, mostly chaotic sounding with the shred work yet managing to maintain a sense of melody, such as on Deep Red. Also, on top of the usual death metal-styled riffs, the band has also included some thrash-inspired riffs, and even the songs are at times structured in such a way that it would sound right with a band like Slayer playing them, like on The Slaughter Begins.
That said though, as the EP drags on, it gets slightly boring with the little variation and the few actual memorable moments on the EP, with most of the songs sounding almost similar to each other not only in terms of playing and riffing style, but also the song structures, such as the chugging sections on most of the tracks, in particular on Book of the Dead and And There was Pain, making it sound almost as if the band had run out of ideas, and it leaves me feeling as if it were the same song playing over and over again. No doubt, each of the musicians here are extremely proficient on their instruments, but the quality of the songs on Resurrection... Book of the Dead does not do justice to Exmortis' 24-year legacy.
First of all two notes: I am not very deeply involved in Dead Metal and I did not know this band before this EP. I will thus apologise if at some point I state the obvious.
When I received the EP I found a letter inside, hand signed by Brian Werking. Nice detail. In the letter he explains the history of the band until this new resurrection (which quite explains the name of the EP). The album is a solo project composed, performed and recorded by Werking himself, but don’t worry, it’s far from the typical garageband mashup we can hear some times (a pest affecting specially black metal nowadays).
What we have in our hands is a piece of thrashy brutal death metal that makes me sometimes recall the likes of Asphyx or Hail of Bullets. But while these Dutch bands make use of extremely heavy bass displaying a clear doom metal inspiration, Exmortis feasts on a diet of death and thrash metal with strong Morbid Angel influences. Here I wouldn’t be able to say if these are actually influences as such or just a case of co-evolution as both bands are of a similar age. In any case; Exmortis did participate in a Morbid Angel tribute album in an earlier “resurrection” back in 1994 and under the moniker “Bloodless” for some copyright reasons.
In the purely musically aspect all the instruments are well interpreted and blend nicely together; on the better side are the guitars with some extreme facemelting moments, keeping your head banging and your feet moving to the catchy rhythm. Brian uses clear “broken” vocals somewhere between Martin van Drunen and Lemmy Killminster. On the rather-not-so-good side are the drums. Not that they are bad, they also do their job in a honest way but in some parts they sound very mechanic. I suppose that Brian did in fact use a drumbox and a real drumkit. The volume is however somewhat low during the whole album. Nevertheless; as a whole, the result is good.
The production is rather dull missing a bit of extra power and robustness on the basses and some extra atmosphere, and as I already commented the drums sound too low.
The EP yields 6 cuts, 4 proper songs, an intro and an outro. All four of them highly enjoyable with no junk pieces in between. The structure of the songs follows a simple verse-chorus pattern, another clear thrash metal feature while in general the double picked guitars and vocals remain inside the death metal spectrum. All these thrash and DM elements united create a captivating stream of pure headbanging energy that will make you stay wanting more.
I am sure that this resurrection will not be an ephemeral one.