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The Bloody Reign of the German Naval Heroes - 93%

bayern, May 15th, 2017

This was the first Exumer album I got a hold of so I was spared the state of shock and stupefaction from the metamorphosis witnessed on it when stood against the debut. What’s even more interesting is that I had never lent an ear to Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” before this one, the album to which it has been very faithfully modelled after. This was the third thrash metal album I added to my collection after Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” and Destruction’s “Infernal Overkill”. It was truly scary stuff back then, to listen to this wall of brutal guitars and these apocalyptic infernal shouts; it sounded nothing like the other two mentioned efforts. And it had this very attractive intro in which a nice female voice says, “Parlez-vous francais?”; another version I found later begins with another female introduction saying, "Caution; the lyrical content of this album may be considered offensive".

Femme fatales aside, I only realized a few years later what shock the band fans had experienced hearing this after the gorgeous inauguration that “Possessed by Fire” was. It’s amazing how many fans still consider this opus one of the ten finest debuts in speed/thrash metal history after all these years… and for a good reason, if you ask me, although I by all means view the album reviewed here another very strong showing. So Mem von Stein left after just one stunt although if his comrades were already considering the “reigny”, “bloody” turn, then everyone could understand why as there was no way for him to fit into this new trajectory with his high-strung, banshee-like vocals.

The others had to find an able replacement, and since Tom Araya apparently wasn’t available, they couldn’t find anyone more suitable than the bass player Paul Arakaki who was already in the band. And, man, wasn’t this the rightest decision they had ever made… once the man unleashes his throat on the opening “Winds of Death” for this shattering, heart-breaking shout/scream, obviously emulating the one Araya produced on “Angel of Death” (check the two song-titles), the listener knows instantly that this is the man, the one who will carry this violent, ultimately brutal fiesta all the way to the gory end. Mentioning the music, the opener is devastating enough to make all your neighbours run away once they hear the opening chords and of course, the inhuman shout/scream. But you personally don’t go anywhere since this is just the beginning, and the title-track is the next in line violent melee from which at least the shouty chorus can be distinguished clearly; the rest is a ball of fury with overt indications of the rising death metal wave. “Decimation” offers a nice alternation of maddening fast and slower stomping sections consequently sounding a bit more controlled. But then comes “The First Supper”, an obvious prequel to “The Last Supper” so expect subliminal religious messages all over; music-wise this is absolutely brutal thrash/death that makes the quasi-death metal attempts on works like “Seven Churches” and “Scream Bloody Gore” pretty tepid in comparison. If you haven’t had your supper before this mutilating “hurricane”, there’s no way you can eat after it… and most likely not even on the next day.

“Unearthed” is a masterpiece, a diverse riff-fest bordering on the progressive with both the music and the vocals toned down in order to match the more serious tone of this composition which remains one of the band’s finest achievements. A twisted semi-technical riff inaugurates this no-brainer the latter emerging several times throughout intercepting the speedy crescendos also heightening the agonizing chorus which is followed every time by a nice melodic lead-driven dash. The untamed brutality now has a more laid-back face, but by no means expect two in a row as “Shadows of the Past” is another merciless “Reign in Blood” reminder, an aggressive in-your-face rifforama. “Are You Deaf?” will literally make you wish you were deaf; a super-intense mix of stomping thrash and furious grindcore the latter gimmick sounding like the guys are covering any track from Napalm Death’s Scum” or Cryptic Slaughter’s “Convicted”, only served in an even more digested form. This hyper ventilation will put a wide smile on your face, if you’re still around of course, as this is so over-the-top that one could hardly imagine where the album could possibly go from here in terms of unrestrained violence. Still, “I Dare You” tries hard to match, and also dare, its predecessor being another hyper-active headbanger, but the real revelation would be the closing “Ascension Day” which diverse character is an excuse for its stealing the opening riffage from Slayer’s “Postmortem” as later on it rages hard providing the relentless finale this opus richly deserves.

Sarcofago’s “INRI” was brutal, Cryptic Slaughter’s “Convicted” was brutal, but their hysterical grinding, hyper-blasting aesthetics lacked the structured musical proficiency that would make one exclaim, “Wow, this is music! And it’s brutal!”. They sounded like sketchy, random jam sessions without too many redeeming musical merits. When the skill comes forward with musicians able to produce something that is really Music, this is when the going gets scary… cause maniacs with skills/brains are those that are capable of doing the real damage. Again the Possessed and Death debuts weren’t really a match to this organized piece of brutality which elaborated on the latter element taken from its “father”, the Slayer magnum opus, and brought it to the extreme. It was the Europeans again who came close, Protector with “Misanthropy”, the first genuine foray into death metal territory; and Messiah with “Hymns to Abramelin” which was already released a year earlier. Boom.

So can this album be considered a second creative peak provided that the debut was already the first one? Debatable stuff, but the answer clings more towards the negative as regardless of how good the album reviewed here is, it’s still a copy of a grand original which more individualistic embellishments are more of additional boosts in order to make this recording sound more violent than conscious reflections of originality or creativity.

Mentioning the latter, the band fans, as well as any other metal fan around the Universe, owe it to themselves to track down the “Whips & Chains” demo released a year later, a stunning 3-tracker displaying a side of the band which even the most vivid imagination wouldn’t have envisaged, not even remotely. The band had joined the progressive/technical thrash craze of the late-80’s, albeit on a much smaller scale, producing superb avant garde, quirky progressive thrash with echoes of Voivod’s “Killing Technology”, Realm’s “Suiciety”, and Annihilator’s “Alice in Hell”. A full-length sustained in the same vein would have walked over the latter effort with ease, and would have even given eye-openers like Mekong Delta’s “The Music of Erich Zann” a good run for their money. Needless to add, the brutal vocal exploits from the album here had been replaced by much more fitting, much cleaner ones adding up to this handsome package…

to which the Exumers have to come back now that they’re fully operational once again, with Von Stein brought back and all. On the other hand, if you think of it, another “rising from the sea” or “the ocean” may not be such a bad option either… as long as it’s not the same “tsunami” as the one that just passed us by.