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6 Degrees Entertainment

Title - Slaughter In The Vatican / The Law [2CD]
Artist - Exhorder

For those not in the know, Exhorder was founded in 1985 in New Orleans and were initially regarded as part of the Thrash Metal boom before adopting a more groove-led approach that was a noted influence on Pantera, whose singer Phil Anselmo was briefly a member of the band.

Exhorder recently reformed and released a brand new album, Mourn The Southern Skies in 2019 and previously singer Kyle Thomas released an album with Trouble called The Distortion Field in 2013.

This brand new 2CD set Slaughter In The Vatican / The Law (released by Dissonance Productions / Cherry Red Records on February 18th, 2022) is a 17 track double CD package featuring their first two classic full-length albums.

It also now features liner notes from the late, great, rock journalist Malcolm Dome, who conducted exclusive new interviews with singer Kyle Thomas especially for the release.

Housed in a deluxe digi-pack featuring two discs, this is a comprehensive document of one of ‘90s metal’s most influential and admired cult bands.

CD 1 – Slaughter In The Vatican (1990)
1. Death In Vain
2. Homicide
3. Desecrator
4. Exhorder
5. The Tragic Period
6. Legions Of Death
7. Anal Lust
8. Slaughter in The Vatican

Exhorder’s limited success has often been blamed on their sounding just like Pantera minus the good songs, but perhaps a more accurate billing would be to call them Pantera minus the major label backing.

While this small, but crucial detail offers a little more perspective, naming their debut album Slaughter in the Vatican, rather than something slightly more innocuous as, say, Cowboys from Hell, certainly didn’t help Exhorder’s cause any.

Whatever the reasons behind their divergent paths to glory and obscurity, there’s no disputing the striking similarities between these two Southern-bred post-thrash outfits when listening to forceful tracks like Homicide, Desecrator, and Legions of Death.

All of them are fueled by that distinctive, volatile blend of death metal-style double kick drums, chugging guitar riffs played at both slow and blistering tempos, and, to top it all off, the gruff but very expressive lead vocals of front man Kyle Thomas.

Whether spitting out intelligently controversial lyrics over the quasi-epic title track or wallowing in the gratuitous scatology of Anal Lust, Thomas’ muscular style sounds uncomfortably similar to Mr. Anselmo’s - further sparking the debate over who ripped off who!

Ultimately, it’s Slaughter in the Vatican’s lack of songwriting diversity that was most responsible for scuttling its chances, but Exhorder would face this challenge head on two years later, when they bounced back with their much improved sophomore effort, The Law.

CD 2 – The Law (1992)
1. Soul Search Me
2. Unforgiven
3. I Am The Cross
4. Un-Born Again
5. Into The Void
6. The Truth
7. The Law
8. Incontinence
9. (Cadence Of) The Dirge

As noted above, and aside from its amateurish cover artwork, Exhorder’s second effort, The Law, signified a notable improvement over their promising, but flawed debut.

Pushing the boundaries of their aggressive sound as far as they could, the band managed to radically broaden their dynamic and melodic range - without losing touch with its core elements, I’m glad to say.

Prime examples include Soul Search Me, Unforgiven, and the title track, all of which employ a dizzying array of neck-snapping starts and stops with unprecedented success.

Taking things even further, the highly unusual Un-Born Again introduces funky guitar licks and slap bass reminiscent of both death-jazz experts Atheist, and funk/metal pioneers Mordred.

But perhaps most conspicuous of all is Exhorder’s surprisingly unimaginative rendition of Black Sabbath’s Into the Void, which stands in marked contrast to the inventive risk-taking going on all around it.

A valiant effort nevertheless, The Law qualifies as a minor extreme metal classic of the early ’90s, and yet it still couldn’t prevent a disillusioned Exhorder from breaking up a short time later.

Metal Hammer recently hailed Exhorder as ‘The greatest Thrash band you’ve never heard of’ while Decibel Magazine’s ‘Slaughter In The Vatican’ Hall Of Fame feature declared the band a ‘definite influence on the likes of Pantera, Sepultura, Machine Head and Lamb of God.’

Official 2CD Purchase Link