Exa - Left In Shards

Here we have the 2nd full length release from Germany’s Thrash outlet Exa, and it is a very grabbing listen. While the basis of this album’s sound is a mix of “Christ Illusion” Slayer meets “Issue IV” Dew Scented as far as riffs and drumming go with a touch of Exodus’ “Atrocity Exhibition A,” it is safe to say that “Left In Shards” is an improvement from Exa’s debut. Breaking shackles of sounding too much like the one’s that came before them, this four piece deliver track after track with just some very solid riffs, clear production, and engaging vocals to boot. Compared to their previous release the bass is a little more pushed back and the band has somewhat slowed down a bit, stepping away from the Speed Thrash style of Testament and aiming more for that mid paced chunky Slayer route of the mid 2000s, but with a loss of speed and pit starters, there is so much more head banging groove to enjoy. While the album starts out a bit basic with ‘Return to Madness’ which sounds like your typical Slayer riffage with Overkill vocals rasping away somewhat repetitive vocals, it isn’t until ‘Under His Eye’ that the band really shows their change. Vocalist/ guitarist Tom Exa shows more diversity with clean singing among the rasps and alongside Johannes Lortz create some very melodic solos and rhythm lines that stick with the head, despite the slow march rhythm. Drumming by Leon Pester keeps up the with groove, while the bass from Tamino Bosse is still audible despite being pushed back a bit in the mix. Everything sounds a bit more balanced as a result.

Other tracks like ‘Dead Child’s Eyes’ add in throatier vocals and some more percussive drumming along with better bass lines, and then the album really starts to take off. For those who felt Exa had slowed down a bit and got ‘boring’ after a foreboding taste of ‘Hire to Fire,’ listen to ‘Mind Free’ which is shredding, extreme, and more along the lines of the earlier work that Exa fans have come to love. For those who want a little Punk thrown in, the title track churns out some Municipal Waste fun in the riffs and spitfire vocal delivery, but no gang vocals. ‘Witch Hunt’ is a bit more the traditional route towards Judas Priest territory but still very catchy and stays in line with the mid paced territory. While the clean vocals are more lacking on these tracks, Exa still do their best to keep to the new formula they created and try to aim for a more grandiose approach through build up of riffs. The biggest surprise might be the instrumental ‘Circadian’ with its dramatic style, but it could have easily been just a intro to the closing ‘King Terror’ and it would have flowed a lot better with than a separate track so that ‘pause’ isn’t there.

Overall, Thash fans should be happy with Exa’s progress. They deliver some very excellent meaty riffs and while they don’t quite go full on Speed Thrash like that of the 80s, their more 90s/ early 2000s approach to deliver more of a Groove/ Thrash hybrid that will stick with fans’ ears gives a very accessible and a great starter album for anyone who is interested in the Thrash genre. Die hard Thrash fans might feel the album doesn’t slay hard enough due to lack of speed, but despite the somewhat repetitive vocals, everything blends together for a enjoyable ride of music that doesn’t really had a bad track to it and just enough in each track to stand out so it doesn’t sound like the whole album runs together or sounds the same. Check out “Left In Shards” if one wants their Thrash to incite a whole half hour of slow to mid paced, rhythmic head banging that refuses to let up.

4 / 5 STARS

1. Return To Madness
2. Under His Eye
3. Dead Child’s Eyes
4. Hire To Fire
5. Mind Free
6. Left In Shards
7. Witch Hunt
8. Cease To Exist
9. Circadian
10. King Terror

Reviewer: Colin McNamara
May 14, 2024

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