For the first time ever in Scotland, New Orleans’ thrash metallers Exhorder descend on Glasgow’s Audio. The compact venue is heaving for this stop of the band’s UK tour. Formed in 1985, their take on groove-laden thrash metal is branded as Pantera before Pantera, the band themselves admitting Exhorder were a pertinent influence. These ‘80s thrashers have split up and reunited several times, with this most recent reunion enduring since 2017.
Exhorder make haste sending sparks fly by opening the set with ‘Homicide’ from their beloved 1985 debut ‘Slaughter in the Vatican’. Unfortunately the sound is muddy, the guitars burying the drums. However, this does not deter the crowd from moshing from the first note and some stage divers defying their elder years and leaping into the punters. The sound of this insistent onslaught thankfully improves drastically soon after. The most notable difference for songs from ‘Slaughter…’ performed live tonight is that Vinnie LaBella has applied contemporary mask to his guitar tone, making it cleaner and more direct. Vocalist Kyle Thomas vocalises with more of a shout than the recorded counterpart but still manages to dispatch the necessary vigour. Exhorder’s thrashing devastation is vicious but also sinks into a swampy, slow and bone-crushing grove inspired by the prominent blues music of their home city that equips their metal with a real difference.
As any keen thrasher would expect, ‘Slaughter…’ dominates the setlist tonight. It’s tricky resisting the call to mosh, headbang or indeed stage dive to the likes of ‘Death in Vain’, ‘Exhorder’ and ‘Slaughter in the Vatican’. Buzzsaw guitar riffs that can slice through metal itself are more intricate than they sound while the drums are incessant. Their sophomore album ‘The Law’ sees ‘(Cadence) of The Dirge’ and ‘Unforgiven’ crack skulls, less popular than the first full-length but still appreciated by the hyperactive congregation. The crowd response is solidly hectic and raucous for the whole set. Even songs from the brand new reunion effort ‘Mourn the Southern Skies’, such as ‘My Time’, see die hards shouting along. Like their reinvented take on their classics, these newer compositions are more in line with typical modern thrash stylings and definitely hit a sweet spot with the crowd. Paying homage to their influences, a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Into The Void’ from Americans’ ‘The Law’ sophomore sounds like a sludge metal affair (before the subgenre was definitely established) and respectably alters the tone of the set. Thomas’ stage banter is likeable and personable, particularly when he asks the crowd how to say ‘cheers’ in Gaelic and reciprocates when they collectively inform him.
‘Hallowed Sound’ showcases more of their Louisiana blues roots and also apparently finishes the performance. Exhorder are abrupt vacating the stage so staying around for an encore feels justified. They do return, armed with the explosive ‘Desecrator’. One final bulldozing anthem spurring a last moshing extravaganza finishes a fine show. The band is humble and thankful for the fan’s attendance mid-week and the fans are just as appreciative of this hour and a half set. Consider the Vatican well and truly slaughtered tonight!
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