EXORDIUM MORS – As Legends Fade and Gods Die (2022)REVIEW

The apex deity, starved and mourning a dwindling habitat for the reap of worthy souls. — Auckland, New Zealand-borne black death-thrashing quintet Exordium Mors begin to edge towards their second decade marker astute enough to press on with aggression rather than adapt to their surroundings. That isn’t to say that they’ve not evolved, in fact they’ve vastly improved every aspect of their craft in the eight years since their debut full-length, but instead that their signature apex predatorial sense of purpose need not waiver into depravity or populism to self-sustain. ‘As Legends Fade and Gods Die‘ arrives direct from the bands own imprint, produced by their own hand, and with unmistakable enthusiasm for the high standards upheld by their rarified form. Bristling beneath the contemptuous brutality and technical acumen that has long been their signature dipole, here we witness the venom of the philosopher tyrant, the outlying caste at their most incensed and vengeful point of greatness.

Exordium formed as a quartet back in 2004, cutting in a vocalist and replacing the original rhythm section within a year. With that footing in place a rehearsal recording followed in 2006 and a demo CD (‘Serva ad Mors‘, 2007) created a bit of hype during a time where technically proficient black and death/thrash metal influenced work was still feeling the wave of interest from folks brought on board by groups like Melechesh in the early to mid-2000’s and we’d get peak statements from similar groups such as Summon and the still underrated Blood Storm nearby. The two guitarists who’ve persisted through all line-ups of the band struck gold right away for my taste with their first 7″ (‘Verus Hostis – A Hymn to Fire‘, 2010) a rare item alongside their follow-up mLP (‘Sacrifice, Perish & Demise‘, 2012), each of which was hard to find for several years lest ye knew where to look. Those releases had worked out the proficiency of their musicianship pretty quickly, a band that’d valued speed and a high density of riff action but never worshipped the chaotic potentiate of the attack so much as harnessed it in delivery of technical and wildly expressive works, earning them frequent comparisons to Absu. It was a notion that’d caught my attention though I’d append that idea with a bit of Angelcorpse, too, as the drumming leaned brutal and oft militant on their debut LP (‘The Apotheosis of Death‘, 2014). As an enthusiast of this type of sophisticated, outrageously stated and ambitiously built black death-thrashing sort of music it’d been an inspiring release which’d didn’t seem to budge the trend-inspired masses, Exordium Mors nonetheless impressed me with a clear line of stoic self-improvement building in their discography.

Having gone through a few drummers in the interim the core quartet that’d solidified since 2010 naturally took their time in finding the right drum situation beyond that first album, eventually landing CJS (ex-Diocletian) who brings the right sort of precise-yet-barbaric clip to their oft brutal-leaning swings. We’d first heard this newly elevated point of evolution back in 2019 when it seems they were setting themselves up to release ‘As Legends Fade and Gods Die‘ through Transcending Obscurity after putting out the first single from the album, “Surrounded By Serpents“, which appears to have been an earlier mix when directly compared to the LP version. Just as that song had hinted a few years ago, the second record from the band features sharper idealized production directly from the band, a boon in variety of voice and tone overall, and naturally more memorable songs result. It’d seem the pause was necessary for many reasons yet the result suggest it’d allowed for greater lucidity in terms of purpose and passion, not that we need to look beyond riff and ruination raison d’être enough.

Death-thrash intricacy and chaotic black thrash violence yet dictates the storm-wielder’s crush which now includes additional vocals from two members, a sensorial near-overload which benefits greatly from somewhat neoclassical and traditional heavy metal inspired guitar work which threads it all together into meaning. For my own taste the result is a satisfyingly over the top extreme metal record which bristles with electrified muscle from all angles, aiming to impress and energize front-to-black with their most elaborately constructed work to date. We hear this from Exordium Mors‘ guitarists as soon as “I Saw Oblivion” cracks into earshot with the bass guitar unlocking the gates, a hint of the progressive/technical thrash tics which exist at the periphery of the albums sophisticated rhythmic phrasing before their hail of fire begins ripping down. Pick scrapes and wailing leads needle in among the darting, over-active thrashing riff-map to great effect quickly reminding us that these folks demand and compel an unholy lineage of skill in their work and practically explode of it for the duration of this first song. We cannot consider it tuneful beyond the original shape outlined by the bass guitar but a proper opener nonetheless. “A Pyrrhic Sacrament” does not stray far from the momentum created, presenting a ‘Tara‘ meets “Poison Was the Cure” style introduction that’d immediately caught my ear and transfixed my mind, its accelerando effect nothing short of a wind-tunnel as we’re fully thrust into the actual meat of the experience with incredible force.

Give me nothing but four minute skull-shocking riff burners for a half hour and I’d be happy enough drooling on myself but Exordium Mors have much more planned for this record. In fact it’d be the longest, most involved pieces on ‘As Legends Fade and Gods Die‘ that’d show the evolution of the band’s character best detailing some unexpected or pronounced development without any steam power lost, even when breaching 8+ minute pieces. “Flesh of the Heathen” is in fact one of the more substantial pieces here, easing into its grinding push with a tiered presentation which rises and falls for the full first half. Though the moment is equally brief I’d appreciated they’d reprised some of guitarist Santi‘s clean vocals mid-song, which we’d not heard featured since “The Corpse Of Your Divinity Now Burns” on the previous album. Though it is a transitory moment meant to color a path forward it goes a long way to ingratiating this new, even more impressive focus on varietal tonal details from the band on this second LP. The song likewise helps to build this tragedian sort of heavy metal lean which strengthens their bullet-hellish tendencies with more eased opportunities to develop melodies. We bank more than just variety but a bit of an unexpected opus from the band early in the tracklist and thankfully the thread does continue later on.

“Crown of Dust” again features what I’d consider a neoclassic influenced melody, a consonant yet extended pair of phrases that soon bend under Exordium Mors‘ thrashing extremes and intersperse into the cadence of the verses which follow the introduction. The song itself resolves in the shape of an early melodic black/death-esque epic were it brutalized by a late 90’s black/death burst, balancing the relentless battery of its apex action with the performative arc of the guitarists risen, escalating above. This particular sound is absolutely rare, though I believe fans of Scythian (U.K.) will reach this point in the album (see also: “Torn Asunder”) well convinced that ‘As Legends and Gods Die‘ has some essential statement, or, at least achieves a certain highest standard in practice. Meanwhile I was already convinced of this record back on Side A the moment the second song hit and the two lengthier pieces which surround “Surrounded by Serpents” only intensify the black pool of inspiration forming. As the running order presses on a terraced effect builds between roughly four minute and eight minute songs, allowing for some thrashing pickup between the immersive taxation of the longer pieces. The final battle lands us within “Triumphator” which is perhaps the right time to introduce additional harmonic, or, harmonized values and reaching melodies to accentuate the language “Crown of Dust” had introduced, only this time we are very much in a machine of many moving parts wherein the sync between double-bass drum patternation and dual rhythm guitars creates a perfect storm to end the record with a grotesque peak of synchronized, run-on mastery which crests several times in finale. This final song was enough to inspire several repeat listens alone on my part, many runs-through which’d never felt overstated or tiresome despite the outrageous number of riffs thrown about within its duration.

The gist of it is that Exordium Mors have presented a work to outdo and bleed beyond all past releases, leaving the past in the dust in some ways and continuing their well-braced lineage with admirable precision and signature mania otherwise. I figure if your taste lands anywhere near mine you’ll have seen one or two namedrops earlier in the review, jetted over to hear a preview song and probably bought it before the song ended. You’ll get what these folks are all about within seconds and every piece of ‘As Legends and Gods Die‘ is exactly that much of a thrill, all of it well worth the wait on my part. Any recommendation would naturally modulate into tamed, slack-jawed reasoning if you are less of a zealot for this particular idiosyncratic outlier realm of black-thrashing precision. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (87/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:As Legends Fade and Gods Die
LABEL(S):Praetorian Sword Records
RELEASE DATE:October 31st, 2022

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