One of the bigger musical surprises of 2012 was the rebirth of ’80s cult thrash heroes Exumer. Those thrashards [thrashtards? – AMG] released the minor thrash classic Possessed by Fire way back in ’86 and things went downhill from there, forcing them to go dark for 25 long years before reforming and dropping Fire and Damnation on an unsuspecting metalverse. The nostalgia factor was high on that one and I couldn’t help but enjoy hearing from these old fiends once again. It certainly wasn’t an essential piece of thrash, but it was a good start after a quarter century of inactivity, and now a mere three years later we get The Raging Tides. So what was Exumer up to the past three years? Apparently listening to a lot of Exodus, and by a lot I mean A LOT!
The opening title track explodes with a killer riff meant to jar and jangle the nerves and I liked it immediately. Mostly because it’s nearly identical to the riff from Exodus‘ “Deranged,” a personal favorite of mine. I’m sure it was unintentional and the songs go off in different directions, but that lead riff… so close! Regardless of rifferal proximity, it’s a fun, thrashing time and sure to warm the cockles of many an old time speed freak, especially when manic front man Mem Von Stein screams such metallically mispronounced words as “Fi-yah” and “die-yah!” “Catatonic” has a dandy of a lead riff and catchy mid-pace crunch with more great lines like “flames are scorching HIYAH! Bones are breaking, I wont stop, light your like a funeral PYYAH!” These are delivered with the expected over the top exuberance this kind of olden thrash needs.
Then we get a second incidence of Exodus poaching on “Shadow Walker” which lifts and/or borrows [The kids call it “sampling” – AMG] the song structure of “Brain Dead” a bit too closely for comfort. It’s odd both thefts were from their Pleasures of the Flesh album, since that was around when Exumer was young, but who am I to tell them how to poach. The song itself is fine, I just get uneasy when a band strays this close to their influence’s material. To top it all off, “There Will Always Be Blood” has a refrain eerily similar to Exodus‘ “Strike of the Beast” and “Death Factory” shamelessly copies the central riff of Destruction‘s classic “Mad Butcher.”
Now, lest you think I’m down on The Raging Tides, there’s some enjoyable and speedy fun to be had here. “Sacred Defense” is a ripping little ditty with a cool solo break, and “Sinister Souls” has some interesting, Slayer-esque riffing and more whammy dives than a Kerry King instrumental album (I shouldn’t give him any ideas). As mentioned, I enjoy both the title track and “Shadow Walkers” despite their infringement issues and I wouldn’t say there are any turkeys here. Better yet, the album zips by quickly at 41 minutes, thereby avoiding serious thrash fatigue.
Mem Von Stein’s vocal attack is the real highlight for me. He sounds much like he did way back in my misspent youth and I always enjoyed his raspy barks and odd word phrasing. Ray Mensh and new axe Marc Brutus do a solid job approximating the classic Exodus attack of Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt while paying token respects to King and Hanneman as well. They don’t reinvent any wheels (though they backward engineer a few) and keep things aggressive and biting. The band shows enough song writing flair to keep their ’80s style interesting and things never feel too rehashed, dull or tired.
In all honesty, I’m just thrilled to see these grizzled vets still in action after all these years. That they’re releasing respectable thrash is a whole lotta delicious meat gravy. Yes, I’m troubled by the riff-liftery and there’s certainly nothing new under that hockey mask, but you can definitely do worse than this in the retro thrash sweepstakes. The Raging Tides is like an unreleased Exodus demo from ’86-’87 featuring a different singer. If you love that band, you can expect to like this too, just not as much.