Returning with their first studio album in 25 years, Exumer blows through roughly 33 minutes of German thrash metal on Fire & Damnation. As the follow-up to 1987’s Rising from the Sea, Exumer’s latest is an overly rigid measure of vintage thrash.
The band formed in 1985, with Mem V. Stein (vocals) and Ray Mensh (guitar) forging the flames. Exumer fleshed out with T. Schiavo (bass), H.K. (guitar) and Matthias Kassner (drums) and captured popularity in markets as diverse as Brazil and Poland. Their first record, Possessed By Fire, made its debut in 1986 and the band pushed out to tour extensively.
Unfortunately, infighting and line-up changes caused a break-up in 1990. Exumer was relegated to the sidelines of German thrash history, until they resurfaced for a gig in 2001 at the Wacken Open Air Festival. In 2008, it was decided that the band was needed again and the “5 Nights of Fire” tour commenced to tear ass through Europe and parts of the United States.
By 2011, the thirst for blood was so strong that Exumer headed into the writing and production process on the album that would become Fire & Damnation.
There’s something very erect about the record. It opens caked in stringency and feels very inflexible and measured. Stein’s vocals are belligerent and adamant, while the band’s snug presence compactly locks in the thrash foundations. While Exumer certainly hits all the right buttons for the genre, the music doesn’t feel as fun and reckless as it could be. As a result, Fire & Damnation is a dull record.
That’s not to say that there aren’t moments to be appreciated, like the way Stein says “fi-ah” or Mensh and H.K.’s no-nonsense guitars. But the album is missing something essential and feels locked in a stiff time capsule filled with pedestrian riffs and little novelty beyond the passage of years.
The title track is very paint-by-numbers, complete with a chant-along chorus and predictable noodling. Sure, it’s technically sound, but it’s also far from interesting.
“A New Morality” talks a good game, with Stein’s bullying lyrics, but the vocalist seems to be holding back and barely keeping up all at once. The chorus is spaced out and misplaced in the mix, coming off softly under the horde of guitars.
On an already congested landscape of vintage thrash acts, Exumer’s return to the party isn’t all that captivating. Fire & Damnation is neither intimidating nor stimulating, standing instead as a dreary rejoinder to a question nobody asked.