Thrashers Exhorder and Rigor Mortis Slaughter Austin
Band Photo: Rigor Mortis (?)
Exhorder and Rigor Mortis reunited to drive a metal stake into the heart of Texas. Both bands haven’t released a proper album in two decades, split up in the ‘90s and reunited (Exhorder in 2008, Rigor Mortis in 2005) to play select live shows. Rigor Mortis occasionally makes the three-plus-hour drive south to play Austin, but this performance was the first in 19 years for Exhorder. If not for promoters Motorbreath Entertainment, most in attendance would still be virgins to Exhorder’s “Anal Lust.”
Before Exhorder made its glorious return, local acts The Blood Royale, Hod and Dead Earth Politics took the stage. The Blood Royale opened the show with a crusty mix of old hardcore, grind, thrash and punk. Featuring JT of stoner rockers Dixie Witch, the band bombed the crowd with a furious attack of D-beats. During the group’s sound check, Exhorder vocalist Kyle Thomas told me they sounded good. I nodded and said they remind me of Motorhead. Guitarist/vocalist Timmo had a definite, Lemmy-type scruff in his voice.
Since forming in 2006, Hod has overcome band changes and come together as a cohesive unit. Decked out in black jeans and black leather vests, the group held their instruments like swords and shields, eagerly awaited front man Beer Reeb’s battle charge: “We are Hod and we play fucking metal.” Once he gave the signal, much metal playing ensued. The members' hair swirled in unison to the death/black/thrash/speed witches brew that one can only categorize as metal. I formerly described their music as a mix of Marduk and Morbid Angel. While those influences are still apparent, newer songs “Beware the Death Horse,” “In the Den of Wolves” and “Beneath the Mountain of the Scorpions” offer a greater range of sounds. Check these guys out on their tour supporting Marduk.
Dead Earth Politics played loud and aggressive. Their take on the groove metal sound proved a good choice to open for Exhorder. I can’t provide many details about their set because I was socializing at the time. Rigor Mortis and Exhorder gave them a big thumb up, though, and Rigor Mortis said they were friends with the band.
The crowd greeted Texas thrash legends, Rigor Mortis with banging heads, pumping fists and the occasional flaying knee and elbow. Singer Bruce Corbitt stalked the stage like one of the many serial killers described in his gore-strewn lyrics. His yelled vocals possessed a crossover flare reminiscent of Kurt Brecht of D.R.I. The group’s use of only one guitarist outlined Corey Orr’s punky bass lines and Mike Scaccia’s wild guitar solos.
Corbitt held his custom chain-link microphone stand out to the crowd to help sing infectious chorus lines from cuts like “Re-Animator” and “Die in Pain.” The group showcased more material from the self-title debut such as “Demons” and “Slow Death.” During “Slow Death,” Corbitt looked at the crowd with hateful lust during the lyric “I have this knife/It's a good knife.” The group played “Cattle Mutilation” from their “Freaks” EP and launched into two new tracks “Bloodbath” and “The Infected.” These tracks will not disappoint the Rigor Mortis fans who have waited 20 years for a new album. The new material could have blended in with any of the horror thrash Rigor Mortis played in the late ‘80s that made a large impact on death metal.
Earlier in the evening, Kyle Thomas complained of an ache in his knee while we ascended the hard metal staircase to the green room for an interview. He said his knee hurt because he thought he could do things on stage that he did 20-years ago. Exhorder looks much older than they did on You Tube videos from their “The Law” tour, but the group was still full of energy and they played to perfection.
Kyle Thomas’ regular, tough voice was in perfect condition. The only time he seemed to falter was during a long scream, which he briefly lost but regained. Jorge Caicedo silently counted each beat and hit every note. Even though this was only his second show, he knew the material well. Earlier in the show, he had expressed his desire to be a permanent member of Exhorder. Caicedo replaced Frankie Sparcello who unexpectedly died before the tour. His performance, hard work and cool demeanor should play in his favor.
A large photo of Sparcello held in easel provided a way, as Kyle Thomas put it, for the band to take Sparcello on the road and as a memento for his fans and band members. Bands throughout the night gave their condolences, but the grief of his passing faded when Exhorder launched into their material. The group opened their set with “Death in Vain” and “Homicide,” two fast numbers from the “Slaughter in the Vatican” album. Vinnie LaBella and Jay Ceravolo picked their guitars with the wrist-tearing speed displayed by Dark Angel and Slayer. Then, Thomas and bunch launched into material from “The Law.”
The chugging groove found on this album has led to a million conversations and arguments about Pantera plagiarizing Exhorder’s style. Whether they did or not, I’m not going to rehash these ideas, one listen to the album will bring to light similarities. “I am the Cross” and the title track enthralled the crowd to a slow-but-bruising swagger. My personal favorite “(Cadence of) The Dirge” was the musical embodiment of all that is Exhorder. This track tempered groove with speed and even epic doom metal movements.
Having once played in Trouble and with Floodgate, tattooed with the Trouble logo on his arm and wearing a St. Vitus wristband, it is safe to say Thomas likes doom metal. Exhorder did the gods of gloom and doom, Black Sabbath, proud with their rendition of “Into the Void.” The crowd received this cover with added energy. Immediately after jamming the Sab, Exhorder played another cover. This time, they brought out Austin local (transplant) Billy Milano to sing his S.O.D. song “United Force.” By the now, the crowd had gone complete ape shit. Billy, Kyle, Vinnie and the bunch embraced as friends while shouting the song’s title.
Before the crowd did the “Milano Mosh,” Seth Davis displayed his drumming genius in a five-minute solo. Davis regularly teaches drum clinics, releases instructional videos and was once dubbed “The World’s Fastest Drummer.” Starting with a short kick-drum beat, Davis built momentum until all of his appendages were firing rapid, multiple beats. He switched his sticks from side to side while the crowd stood in agog. This solo was not only entertaining, but also it allowed the guitarists time to switch instruments. Both guitarists took over the bass for a couple of tracks Caicedo was still learning, but before the solo, these changes ate up some of Exhorder’s set time.
About midway through their set, Kyle Thomas brought out a football. He asked the crowd if they had ever played “skankball.” This sport was a bit like rugby. He threw the ball into the crowd and whoever could hang onto it and bring it to him would get a free prize from the merch table. Nobody was hurt in the mad scramble and one dude even retained the ball. I wonder what award they gave him.
Exhorder closed their set in the same fashion as they opened it—with swift, neck-wrecking numbers from “Slaughter in the Vatican.” Thomas introduced “Slaughter in the Vatican” by stating that track really got him into trouble back in high school. The level of blasphemy did not hit home until one of his friends from the crowd told me he went to a Catholic school. The title of set closer “Anal Lust” was somehow even more insulting than the Pope murdering scenario of the previous song.
Those who attended this show have used many expressions to describe this special concert. Billy Milano’s guest spot, a rare Exhorder performance, Exhorder coming to town not frayed by the passing of their good friend and band member, a set list of classic thrash tunes by two under recognized forces in the thrash community and killer local acts are all ammo to fire at your Central Texas metal friends who stayed home that evening.
Go here to view photos of the show.
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