Thursday, January 6, 2011

Exumer - Possessed by Fire (1986)

Growing up as a thrasher in the 80s, it was always interesting to me to observe which bands would break out of the printed press and tape trading scenes into the more mainstream American audience, at least to the metal circles of my junior high and high schools, or those fans I was able to speak with at gigs and record shops. German thrash was never necessarily a huge prospect in my region; some folks had heard of Kreator and Destruction, a few had purchased their albums, but take it down to the next tier of infamy, and the devotee was few and far between (at least here). Exumer was one band which did receive the occasional nod, which is uncanny since they've wound up so obscured through the ensuing decades...

However, when it comes to the specialized audience of today, they are also one of the most sought out and enamored of the 'thrash legends that might have been' from the 80s. While I do enjoy Possessed by Fire, and find this debut to be the better of their two albums, it is one case in which I might feel the cult status is slightly overblown. Clearly Exumer was possessed by more than just this one element, but also the ability to pace themselves in songwriting and conceive a well balanced album, with a pretty polished sound when compared to peers of their day. On the other hand, there is simply nothing in the band's retinue which really begs any distinction. They are essentially a composite collage of Destruction, Sodom and Kreator with a large helping of Slayer and Metallica on the side, and not quite so effective as any of those bands.

Vocalist Mem von Stein had a similar pinched vocal rasp to Schmier of Destruction, with a little of the body Daxx and Micky used in the later Vendetta, and while it's enjoyable throughout, it just doesn't have enough character to thrive against the better known bands. The riffs here are a mixed lot of average, nasty speed/thrash metal. Particular tracks like the Destruction gone sci-fi of "Xiron Darkstar" or mid-paced Metallica rampage "Reign of Sadness" do have their moments, while "Possessed by Fire" and "Destruction Solution" do a bangup job of knocking you over immediately to built excitement, but there are others which do not fare so well. I mean, I like the vocals in "Fallen Saint", but the song is basically just a paraphrasing of Slayer's "Black Magic". "Journey to Oblivion" is frenetic, savage fun, but "Silent Death" is forgettable.

If I had to choose a particular track here, I'd probably cite "Sorrows of the Judgment" as a favorite, since I enjoy the rapid rollicking of the guitars and their stilted bridge/groove, but even this feels like someone mashing up Slayer and Destruction. Now, I of all people am certainly not opposed to such a union, but when I hear claims that this is one of the greatest thrash albums ever written by the pen of man? Fuck no, it isn't. Possessed by Fire is a facsimile of other thrash bands which wears its heart on its sleeve. If you're craving that old German sound, then this will absolutely provide temporary satisfaction. The sound is good even today, the leads are well written, and you get a tangible level of pissed off speed, but is there a "Sodomy and Lust"? A "Mad Butcher"? A "Riot of Violence", or "Pleasure to Kill"? Unfortunately not.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10] (captured souls call in poisoned lust)

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