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EXHORDER Defectum Omnium

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Sunday, March 10, 2024 @ 7:09 AM


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EXHORDER
Defectum Omnium

Nuclear Blast Records




Now in its third-ish iteration - and featuring a radically different lineup than performed on the 2019 comeback album Mourn The Southern Skies, which effectively launched its second reunion - EXHORDER continues to slog ahead with a sort of two steps forward/one step back approach.

Gone from last time are founding guitarist and main composer Vinnie LaBella and guitarist Marzi Montazeri. In their place, frontman Kyle Thomas, now the band's sole original member, has picked up the guitar and stepped up his songwriting presence, while ex-CANNIBAL CORPSE/NEVERMORE lead guitarist Pat O'Brien has come onboard - having returned to active duty following his very public and rather heartbreaking meltdown in 2018 sidelined him for the better part of four years.

Joining them is the same rhythm section, bassist Jason Vie Brooks and drummer Sasha Horn, from Southern Skies to provide some continuity on the bottom end of things. Thus, EXHORDER offers up its fourth album Defectum Omnium, which translates from Latin as "the failure of all", now as a quartet and a revamped - or revitalized, depending on your point of view - sonic palette.

Long regarded as pioneers of groove-oriented thrash - and long part of the chicken and egg-style argument of whether EXHORDER influenced PANTERA or vice versa - the band does retain that aspect to a degree here. But there is an abundance of stripped down, hardcore/crossover-style tracks that point to more streamlined songwriting, at least over a good half of the tracks here, in the absence of LaBella's input.

It gives the album a somewhat uneven, or unbalanced, feel when played again the more typical, and expansive, Southern-fried crunch for which EXHORDER made its name way back in 1990 with Slaughter In The Vatican and two years later with The Law, before its 14-year first hiatus. But it also provides for some dramatic contrasts and certainly helps reinforce the album's overarching theme of mankind's epic fail.

Defectum kicks off in familiar EXHORDER fashion, with the undulating grooves and thrash vigor of "Wrath Of Prophecies" and the hefty, but more midtempo "Under The Gaslight", which will draw the inevitable PANTERA comparisons. Things then take their first hardcore turn with the snub-nosed "Forever And Beyond Despair" and then slingshot back to that mode of delivery throughout the rest of the album.

"Divide And Conquer" and "Year Of The Goat" offer back to back thrashcore/crossover bursts while "Sedition" is about as straight-up old school hardcore as you're going to get, from its loping bass intro to its rabbit-punch riffs and Thomas' barking vocals. It gives way to "Desensitized", which is a full-on thrasher powered by Horn's double-bass gallop.

The rest of the album is less urgent and propulsive, save for a few furious moments here and there, and perhaps more standard by EXHORDER, umm, standards. "The Tale Of Unsound Minds" delivers Southern doom flavored by some very BLACK SABBATH riffs, before taking off on a sprint for O'Brien's solo break. "Taken By Flames" seems headed in the same direction, but kicks into high gear much sooner, finishing with huge grooves and O'Brien's dive-bomb guitar histrionics.

The successive, two-part epics "Defectum Omnium"/"Stolen Hope" and "Three Stages Of Truth"/"Lacing The Well" take a more stonery, Bayou-tinged groove approach, a la DOWN, with plenty of swaggering meaty hooks and deliberate, heaving pace. The title track provides a monk-like chanted intro to "Stolen Hope", which concludes with some NEVERMORE-like upper register wailing, which then segues right into the acoustic guitar strains of "Three Stages Of Truth", the intro to the much beefier "Lacing The Well". Since they essentially boast the same M.O., it's curious why these tracks weren't spread farther apart in the sequencing, but whatever.

"Your Six" closes Defectum with a similarly swampy creepy crawl, though without the superfluous intro and showcases a side of O'Brien that is rarely, if ever heard. His extended mournful solo on "Your Six" is probably his bluesiest and most poignant ever - since there wasn't much call for that sort of thing in CANNIBAL CORPSE, to be sure - and is really quite awesome. From a performance perspective, he certainly seems his former, pre-breakdown self, which is great to hear - hopefully he's gotten the rest of shit together as well.

At 12 songs and about 55 minutes, Defectum is certainly a bit longish. And with all of the stylistic back and forth, it takes a few listens to really grabahold of everything. But it moves the marker forward, something EXHORDER hasn't really be able to do since The Law in 1992. Just gotta hope the band is able keep it together for longer than it did back then and Defectum will stand as part two of an enduring comeback, and not merely as an epitaph to another breakup.

3.0 Out Of 5.0


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