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Soundtrack to a pyromaniac's diary - 86%

Gutterscream, November 4th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1986, 12" vinyl, Disaster

“…they say I’m possessed by fire, and the flames are burning higher…”

The ’87 Metalworks compilation Fast Forward to Hell is easily one of the better deaf pick-ups I’ve made over the years. Its strengths that galvanized me to stick it under my arm that day were its cool, uninhibited-sounding bands that at the time I’d mostly never heard of with the exception of German exports Necronomicon and Exumer, Teutonic treats I’d wanted to sink into my gullet ever since grand ‘ol Blackthorn zine gave ‘em positive dual coverage in its fourth issue.

Coincidentally, about an hour later they’d be the songs vying for possession of the disc’s top honors - evil vs. fire - and even now I sit here unable to declare a clear-cut victor between these possessed creatures, however which debut full-lengther walks away less battered and bleeding is a proclamation I can announce in my sleep and with no shovel needed to dig up the whys if I wake up.

Now, a characteristic of fire is to lick clean everything it touches in its own blackened ashen fashion. Lucky for us this nine-tracker is not the place where we’ll witness this elemental law somehow resisting its timeless physics. A sharply ripping guitar tone cuts a fire trail that, with its Musiclab Studio mix, burns hot enough to dissolve natural and fabricated debris, thereby allowing us a clear comparison between PbF and the stuffy, garbled rubble choking Possessed by Evil and its Spygel Studio production, and the Baden-Wurttemberg quartet’s comparably more obnoxious and oppressive guitar tone – usually a superior thing to wield – in some viewpoints can be called insult to the injury.

The element is 100% bane to, well, every lifeform on the planet, but like us, it dies when deprived of air. This four-piece breathe easier with oxygenated songwriting as well, at least in the presence of Necronomicon. Ya gotta remember these Frankfurt gents are in the eagle’s ne…I mean, lion’s den geographically, so out-inspiring yer C+ countrymen isn’t exactly a hat-waving whoop. Overall, however, Exumer ignite some better-than-average, albeit craggy and rugged songcraft that’s held together by musical coordination and skill satisfactory enough to meet the glowering, above-C+ stares of, say, Darkness, Assassin, Kreator, Deathrow, Protector and debut-era Vendetta, brothers-in-arms who’ve shared textbooks that teach thrash theory is first and foremost unrepentant, vicious and gravely serious. Smarter acts, however, locate the cheat notes in the margin divulging there’s no shame in a thrash act’s concern that its material is too entrenched in unforgiving, unbendable platitudes for it to be memorable. There’s also no disgrace in slapping in some simple, yet engaging catchiness to loosen up such platitudes.

Stein’s serrated n’ somewhat screechy snarlkrieg at its nicest is utterly unkind, and even though his tattered lungs share a throatseared semblance to guys like Ollie Fernickel, Rob Gonella, Mille Petrozza and Milo van Jaksik, his style has little difficulty exploiting all-around brazen “Fallen Saint”, the enraged gallop that’s a “Journey to Oblivion”, brief flurries of offbeat finesse in “Sorrows of the Judgement”, and what shoulda been the name of one of my pooches by now, “Xiron Darkstar”, as well as the band’s overall infectious clamor that can’t help but rage pretty wildly, if not familiarly, around us.

Encroaching upon more Destruction-like Release From Agony introspection are mostly mid-tempo “Reign of Sadness” and demo celebrity “A Mortal in Black” (and yep, Stein’s got some Schmier scratch in him as well), confirming to a point their fire-infatuated brainpans can stir fry some maturity when the kitchen light comes on. Meanwhile, incinerator “Destructive Solutions”, while careening full-throttle through a violent ocean of frantic rhythmic fury, unexpectedly pops outta of gear, causing it to drift like a lost surfboard around an isolated, acoustically-combed island that's rippled with calming blue(s) sand. It’s a small island, though - thirty seconds later the beach is set ablaze as well.

Found in fluctuation are opinions of Possessed by Fire, and much like fire itself, the album has been documented as both an enemy and friend to the ears of mortals, and of course there’s always gonna be Swiss-like neutrality. Since I’m a friend, it’s hard for me to turn my back on this with faux disappointment when I can’t imagine the title track inferno not keeping my turned back as toasty as it has my front all these years.

Throw some stiff, oversized bat wings on the cover thug’s face mask and we’re awesomely closer to restoring life to the Jun horde leader from the first Beastmaster flick.

“…fallen saint, now I know your name…”