First of all, before I start anything, there’s a lot of things that can be cringy about death metal artwork. A lot suffers from cliché images of zombies, murder, disembowelment or unholy demons. Evil Reaping Death’s cover art is glorious, like someone hired a Renaissance master to paint Game of Thrones. Anyhoo, Floridians Hexorcist are bringing their debut work to life in July this year, coming on CD form through Memento Mori, Unholy Prophecies will handle the vinyl and the cassette by Godz Ov War.
Immediately as Exulting The Adversary opens you are struck by the stench of vintage death metal, the style that has been buried under swampy soil since the late 80s when everything extreme was the same. Death metal, thrash, black metal, sludge; it was all slowly coalescing into their unique forms, but Evil Reaping Death comes from a time where it was all one glorious whole. Guitar riffs squeal with a thrashy goodness while sulphurous atmospheres seep through deathly growls and clattering drumming.
The production, unlike some of those early records, is fantastic, allowing you to feel the razorblade lead work of the title track, the snarling belch of Sentry At The Seven Gates and the masterful carpet-bombing drumming in Denouncing The Immaculate. Wild soloing punctures every track with maddening intensity, each one upping the ante of Kerry King-like chaos.
This is triumphantly old school, but it understands where to change it up, keep it interesting, not allow any stagnation…
The further through the record you get, you realise that their media blurb about not leaving any room for modern/trendy sensibilities is only about 99% accurate. Sure, the thrashing death of Accursed Affirmations feels like it has been ripped from the womb of demo-era Obituary and the more said about the proto death of Praising The Most Foul the better, but this lacks all of the repetitive tedium of a lot of ‘old school death metal’ albums. In a lot of minds, old school means just play subpar Autopsy murk and hope your ‘atmosphere’ gets you by. Hexorcist know that energy and fury gets the job done much better, and this is also a time where you’ve got to have the songs, not JUST that energy or enthusiasm.
It’s very clear that Hexorcist have been taking a lot of lessons from Possessed, early Death and even some Bathory/Hellhammer. But their songwriting shows a lot of modern sensibilities in there too, a maturity of pacing that early scene sometimes lacked. This is triumphantly old school, but it understands where to change it up, keep it interesting, not allow any stagnation. Evil Reaping Death is a record that feels like an unearthed 1990s gem rather than a brand new release. If only all old school death metal could recreate this feeling as well as Hexorcist.
Scribed by: Sandy Williamson