Thrash bastion Heavy Artillery has already released two monster metal albums this year, the first, MERCILESS DEATH's "Realm of Terror", and now "In Hatred's Flame" by California's EXMORTUS. The album is a re-release of the band's self-released disc of the same name, remixed and remastered with four additional tracks and new artwork. The sheer amount of pure, quality metal on "In Hatred's Flame" is staggering, coming at you in waves, like a full scale, pre-dawn raid on an Al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan. Frighteningly aggressive thrash metal blended with both death metal and NWOBHM bluster is the order of the day and yet another reason why any metal fan with any sense at all should check out the Heavy Artillery arsenal of bands.
The first spin of "In Hatred's Flame" is guaranteed to knock the wind out of the listener. As cliché as it may sound, there is just so much metal going on here that it takes a second and third listen to really appreciate the songwriting and the phenomenal musicianship, especially the insane shredding of guitarists Conan (lead/rhythm) and Balmore (rhythm/lead, vocals). Coupled with the speed-killing pace of these songs, the fretboard heroics are straight out of the '80s NWOBHM songbook with modern touches; something along the lines of HELLOWEEN-meets-YNGWIE MALMSTEEN. In fact, "Ares of War" is a supreme instrumental firestorm of riffs and solos that would not have been out of place on an early MALMSTEEN album, albeit with a heavier thrash treatment. The best part about the soloing is it is technically proficient and melodic, the kind of solos that one looks forward to hearing, as opposed to merely serving as a self-indulgent break before the next verse hits.
The death metal tinges are mainly attributable to the harsh vocals of Balmore and a general viciousness, in some ways similar to ARES KINGDOM's brand of thrash. The key here is balancing the unbridled aggression and lead guitar firepower with good songwriting and classic heavy metal exuberance. The combination works exceedingly well on the triumphant "War Gods" and the IRON MAIDEN-influenced "Valor and Might", a true metal anthem and arguably the album's best track.
This one is a ripper, folks. Here's to hoping that pure metal albums like "In Hatred's Flame" continue to be released for years to come. The global heavy metal community needs it.