Crossing the Thrashold: Exmortus

Saddle up, buttercups. Today we ride into glorious battle with Whittier technical thrash/death/speed warriors Exmortus leading the charge. Ride forth, slaves to the sword!

Exmortus may be one of the most critically acclaimed modern thrash bands. They’ve been one of Sirius XM’s most requested metal bands, and LA Weekly named them the best metal band of 2014. The band has even gained ground in atypical locales; they’ve been featured a number of times at Bloody Disgusting and make the rounds for nominations at big events like the Revolver Golden Gods awards. However, it isn’t through sheer luck that the band has pushed so far into the fray. Instead, Exmortus’ success has been born on the back of an endless touring cycle wherein the band brought their unique version of thrash, heavy with cross-influences and mass appeal, to punters all over the globe. Now, on the eve of the release of their fourth full-length studio album, let’s raise our mighty goblets of metal to the thrash warriors’ proud heritage.

Exmortus were co-founded in southern California by a teenaged guitarist by the name of Jadran “Conan” Gonzalez with the ambition of implementing a classical heavy metal approach within a more modern thrash sound. Conan added his cousin Mario Moreno on drums after his intitial quartet dropped their first demo, and the pair, along with a revolving door of musicians, would issue two more demos and two EPs before solidifying the lineup. In 2007, the quartet of Conan, Moreno, Balmore (vocals/guitar), and Daniel Duarte (bass) signed with Heavy Artillery Records. Their debut full-length, In hatred’s Flames, surfaced in 2008 to critical acclaim. Reviewers praised the combination of speed metal riffs with a caustic thrash assault. In fact, the cross-pollination of elements is largely what enabled Exmortus to stand out from the glut of rethrash bands copying Slayer at that time. Balmore’s gritty vocal approach and the rougher production invoked a heritage more akin to Teutonic thrash greats like Kreator, creating an interesting juxtaposition against Conan’s more speed-metal leanings as a guitarist. If the young band’s debut has any fault, it’s the slightly inconsistent production.

Before the band’s second full-length, however, Balmore departed Exmortus, thrusting Conan into full-time vocal and guitar duties. The band recruited Sean Redline on secondary axe and released Beyond the Fall of Time on Heavy Artillery Records in 2011. Unfortunately, this record found the group in a bit of a sophomore slump as they sought to find a new sonic direction without Balmore’s grittier, death-like vocals. Beyond featured cleaner production and concise riffs, but even the Savatage-esque speed metal stylings could not enable the record to garner the approval of its predecessor. Still, the album displays killer riffs and allows listeners to take a peek at the songwriting greatness to come.

The years between Beyond the Fall of Time and the band’s third full-length record saw even further changes occurring in camp Exmortus. Daniel Duarte and Sean Redline were replaced with Cladoaldo Bibiano on bass and David Rivera on guitars and vocals, and Exmortus departed old label Heavy Artillery and joined the ranks of Prosthetic Records. The internal changes and passage of time allowed the group to overcome the slight hiccup of Beyond and enabled them to cement their own distinct voice. When you listen to Slave to the Sword, Exmortus’ third record and Prosthetic debut, you’ll hear a more confident band than the one that wrote Beyond the Fall of Time. The neoclassical elements, including Yngwie Malmsteen-esque guitar harmonies and shredding leads are brought fully to the forefront of the band’s sound, bolstered by insanely catchy riffs and short, direct song structures. Slave to the Sword managed to capture the fun and vigorous approach to thrash metal the band honed with a relentless touring cycle, earning them critical acclaim and winning new legions of sword-brandishing fans across the globe. Just listen to “Foe Hammer” to hear the band’s confident, unique voice in full force. Crunchy audible bass, precision drumming, technical riffs, and classical, headbangable shred all accent Conan’s snarled growls about the power of metal. This song rules.

This week, Exmortus release their most bombastic and over-the-top effort yet. Ride Forth sees the band cranking every element that sets them apart up to 11. The neoclassical shredding is even more absurd, bolstered by a full, dynamic production job that allows every note to pierce through the fog of war like a deadly arrow. Conan and Rivera’s symbiotic guitar interplay has produced some of the band’s most pummeling, full-throttle riffs ever, and there are absolutely no moments on the album when you won’t find yourself headbanging. Dive-bombs, chromatic scales, twin solos, and unique riffs abound. Moreno’s precise drumming sounds even mightier, stampeding through the battlefield like an Iron Maiden gallop before stopping on a dime to allow new bassist Mike Cosio to launch a deadly hammer blow with his crunchy bass. In perfect lock-step with all these elements is Conan’s deadly snarl; at times the vocalist seems to be evoking the emotive growls of melodic death metal bands, lending even more weight and gravity to the harmonies on the album. When Conan sneers, “Whip! Crack! Bones will burn black!” you’ll be powerless to resist raising your battle-axe and riding forth into glorious combat.

It’s difficult to talk about Exmortus without acknowledging their similarities to other bands. Ride Forth sounds like the culmination of what so many other metal acts have attempted to achieve. If you asked Skeletonwitch or 3 Inches of Blood to shred more and add more technicality to their sound, you’d get close to what Exmortus achieves on this record. If you asked Arsis to play speed metal riffs and to trim the fat from the song-writing, you might end up with Ride Forth. If you asked Yngwie to write a thrash metal album with Allegaeon by way of NWOBHM, you might be able to approximate the elements that make Exmortus appealing. As it stands, though, Exmortus remain a unique synthesis of the old-school and new. If you want to invoke a period in metal when bands unabashedly wrote stadium anthems designed to get an entire crowd headbanging while still reveling in a rough extremity that sounds modern without losing audio quality, Exmortus is the band you seek and Ride Forth the record you crave.

You can hear four tracks from Ride Forth, set to release on January 8th via Prosthetic Records, on Bandcamp right now. You can also join the horde at one of the band’s tour stops in the coming weeks.

1/7 Clifton Park, NY – Trickshots *
1/8 Hartford, CT – Webster Theater *
1/9 Worcester, MA – The Palladium *
1/10 Montreal, QC – Foufounes *
1/11 Quebec City, QC – Salle Multi *
1/12 Ottawa, ON – Ritual *
1/13 Toronto, ON – Hard Luck *
1/14 London, ON – APK *
1/15 Rochester,NY – Montage Music Hall *
1/16 Cleveland, OH – Agora Ballroom *
1/17 Pittsburgh, PA – Altar Bar *
1/18 Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups *
1/20 Westland, MI – Token Lounge *
1/21 St. Louis, MO – Fubar *
1/22 Joliet, IL – The Tree *
1/23 Cudahy, WI – The Metal Grill *
1/24 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock Social Club *
1/25 Winnipeg, MB – The Park *
1/26 Regina, SK – The Exchange *
1/27 Calgary, AB – Nite Owl *
1/28 Edmonton, AB – Starlite Room *
1/30 Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theater *
1/31 Seattle, WA – Studio Seven *
2/1 Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre *
2/2 San Francisco, CA – Thee Parkside *
2/3 West Hollywood, CA – Whisky a Go Go *
2/4 San Diego, CA – Brick by Brick *
2/5 Tempe, AZ – Club Red *
2/6 Las Vegas, NV – LVCS *
2/7 Reno, NV – PB&Js *
2/8 Salt Lake City, UT – In The Venue *
2/9 Denver, CO – Bluebird Theater *
2/10 Merriam, KS – Aftershock *
2/11 Austin, TX – Sidewinder *
2/12 San Antonio, TX – Korova *
2/13 Houston, TX – Scout Bar *
2/14 Dallas, TX – Trees *
2/15 New Orleans, LA – Siberia *
2/16 Tampa, FL – Orpheum *
2/17 Orlando, FL – The Haven *
2/18 Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade *
2/19 Louisville, KY – Diamond Pub *
2/20 Richmond, VA – Canal Club *
* with Enforcer, Warbringer & Cauldron
(Photos VIA)


  • Spear

    Coincidentally, I caught them on tour with both Allegaeon and Arsis last-last fall. That was a mighty good time.

    • Dubs

      So much shred.

      • Spear

        Near constant shred, in fact. Until James Malone had a cable shit out halfway through a solo, anyway.

    • As did I. Gotta say arsis was disappointing. Though that could have been the fault of their sound guy.

      • COAL ROLL

        thankfully they have Necromancing the Stone to fall back on

        • Spear

          Necrololing the Buttz

        • Spear

          (I would actually like Necromancing the Stone a lot more if the vocals were just a wee bit stronger)

          • COAL ROLL

            and had a different name?

          • Spear

            I listen to plenty of bands with stupid names, so that doesn’t bother me.

      • Spear

        Probably the sound guy. I’ve seen them three times now, and the one time they sounded off was due to shit-tier sound engineering.

  • Oh, that snare is nasty as fuck sounding on that first track. The kick drum is a big “Nope” though. A bit too much guitar wankery for my liking but overall not bad. Some of the more melodic parts ruin it for me.

    • Dave Vincent’s Perm

      Melodic metal is one step up from easy listening.

  • sweetooth0

    Pretty solid. Skeletonwitch is way better though. More evil.

    • “More Evil” always.

    • Spear

      Maybe, but Ride Forth has the advantage of having drums that don’t sound like crap.

      Clarification: the drums are performed excellently, the songs are great, but fuck, just listen to those cymbals.

      • sweetooth0

        shrugs, sounds ok on my admittedly horribly shitty earbuds at work on a compressed youtube video. I got no beef with the sound on my vinyl copy at home. It’s good pretty damn good low end too.

        • Spear

          You can’t hear that ridiculous amount of clipping on the high end at all? It’s there on every format and every machine I’ve tried. It was so bad I thought I got a bad pressing of the CD when it first arrived.

          • sweetooth0

            headphones are way too shit at work and honestly, with the amount of ultra harsh grindcore and black metal I listen to, and the amount of gigs I’ve seen, i’m so used to hearing clipping distortion it barely registers.


    Hmmm, coming tp the Masquerade.

    Might have to make my way to Hotlanta in Feb



      I’d be a slave to your sword SMOHLG

  • Oh snap I didn’t know this was coming out so soon. I spun the fuck out of slave to the sword. An exmortus/nylithia tour needs to happen. I don’t often like thrash, but when I do it’s exmortus or nylithia

    • i’ve listened to that new Nylithia 69 times since its release. i imagine liking Exmortus just as much


    Fuck too bad I have to drive to fucking Syracuse on Friday…I’d be at that Hartford show reppin’ my bootleg tee

    • Dubs

      I dig that bootleg tee. I think that’s a sign we’ve arrived.

      • We were always here, within the void, watching, waiting

      • COAL ROLL

        my mom has an embroidery machine that we can make patches on if you want one

  • where the fvck is @Waynecro:disqus?

    • His mind imploded shortly after suffering through my long run on sentences during the holidays

    • Pvmping Iron.

      Where else?

      • him and Blackbeard are taking turns benching each other


          I was wondering where he was, myself

          • Dubs

            I think he said he was going on vacation.


            Oh word.

  • tertius_decimus

    This is energetic, uplifting music. Nice.

  • “Today we ride into glorious battle with Whittier technical thrash/death/speed warriors Exmortus leading the charge. Ride forth, slaves to the sword!”

    Huh. W said this.

    • Nice try. We’re all aware you hacked his account.

      • I face my opponents honestly: face to face. I would never resort to such chicken-hearted tactics.

        • Yea well….you got all up in his face and hacked it….in his face

    • Dubs

      If too many people know your name, change it. Then change it again.

  • Vlad Tepes – War Funeral March should be waiting on my porch when I get home.

    • RJA

      Did you see the Archgaot/Satanic Warmaster split was not sold out, they just didn’t have it in yet?

      • YEAH! I was able to snag one last night. I’m really going to have to save some money here. Too much money going towards records.

        • RJA

          I figured you saw – we probably check hell’s about the same rate. I got a purple copy, pretty psyched. The only thing I’m checking regularly now is for the next pressing of Misþyrming – you let me know if you see that it’s out!

          • Will do. I was only able to get the black vinyl, all well.

    • CyberneticOrganism
  • KingKuranes

    I’d prefer it if metal bands did not make lyric videos – there’s no need to draw attention to these lyrics.

    • Dubs

      I’d be okay with banning lyric videos.

  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    Flaw is coming back to my area. They were just here a few months ago.

    • Bosse de Hosse Rosse



        Hes gonna stab himself wit the ends of those strings!

    • Bosse de Hosse Rosse

      Check these guys out. Brazillian Sabbath Worship.

  • tigeraid

    Digging them since their last album. Looking forward to seeing them in London with Enforcer!

  • Eliza

    I like this old-school thrash style.

  • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

    Worshipful master W, I greet you well!

    Methinks, “how doth I not know of this Exmortis, of which you speak?” Upon further examination I hereby declare, “thrash is not dead!” “LONG LIVE THIS NEOCLASSIC THRASH RIFFAGE”.

    Think of yourselves and of us, in love, and farewell for now.