EXMORTUS
"Beyond the Fall of Time"

(Heavy Artillery)

01. Bane Forthcoming
02. Kneel Before the Steel
03. Black XIII
04. Beyond the Nile…
05. Entombed with the Pharaohs
06. Destroy
07. Crawling Chaos
08. Left to Die in the Paradox of Time
09. Khronos (Forever in the Void)
10. The Gathering

RATING: 8/10

What a difference a new vocalist makes! Well, not really a "new" vocalist, just a different member barking. With the departure of vocalist/guitarist Balmore, who sang lead and shredded away on 2008's brilliant EXMORTUS debut, "In Hatred's Flame", co-shredder Conan slid over to the microphone and brings a nastier, meaner voice to "Beyond the Fall of Time", while new guitarist Sean Redline fills the vacated six-string spot. The technicality of the death/thrash assault is still present, but what one hears more than ever on the sophomore release is a muscular and downright brutal approach to these finely honed compositions.

In other words, the biggest difference between the two albums is that "Beyond the Fall of Time" hits with an impact that is more direct. That's only in terms relative to its predecessor and means that the sheer heaviness of the riffs, the diesel-powered rhythm section, and Conan's ballsy USURPER-CELTIC FROST snarl stands out even more than all those screaming guitar solos. The neoclassical guitar playing that was heard with some frequency on "In Hatred's Flame" is typically more subtle on "Beyond the Fall Time" with the exception of moments during "The Gathering", which also features a more distinct tunefulness in the chords compared to the rest of the album. That's also not to say that "Beyond the Fall of Time" is without its epic compositional qualities, in depth if not length, as one finds during the Middle Eastern flavors of instrumental "Beyond the Nile…" or the classical acoustic elements of the more subdued, though no less ominous, "Khronos (Forever in the Void)". But damn, it is the massive crush and belligerent vocals inherent in the attack this time around that raises tracks like "Kneel Before the Steel" and the absolute skull-cracking bellicosity of "Black XIII" to anthem levels. Not unlike the manner in which the songwriting as a whole is bolstered with meticulous playing and effective musical coloration, Conan knows just when to bust out a vintage, Rob Halford-esque scream, as is the also the case on "Kneel Before the Steel". Arrangement-wise, "Entombed with the Pharaohs" is the ace of the bunch — wantonly violent in demeanor, smattered with dive-bombing solos, rife with great transitions to mid-paced crunch, and all kinds of fret-fireworks over the course of its six-minute-plus duration. "Left to Die in the Paradox of Time" is right up there as well, this one a true blend of light atmospherics and speed metal fury.

Without question, "Beyond of the Fall of Time" can be placed into that coveted category of "One Tough Son of a Bitch". What really makes it a keeper though is how that characteristic is woven into such well-written material that also happens to be played with skill and verve. Get in on the EXMORTUS action now.

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