Review Summary: An album which helped to kick-start the groove metal revolution, while staying true to its thrash roots at the same time.
1990 was perhaps the last year that bred many of thrash metal’s finest releases. The groove/nu metal revolution was really taking a hold of the metal scene after this year, with the likes of Megadeth and Metallica heading into dangerous pop/metal territory, Sepultura embracing the groove scene, and many other legendary thrash bands just simply stopped producing good albums. However there were still a few true thrash bands producing quality albums, such as Sadus and Demolition Hammer, but for the most part, thrash had dried up completely.
One band that fused groove metal with thrash metal was New Orleans band Exhorder. Exhorder are often compared to Pantera, but with a more thrash orientated sound, and we won’t find this more prevalent in any aspect of the band than the vocals. Vocalist Kyle Thomas sounds exactly like Pantera’s Phil Anselmo, but adopts a slightly more monotonous and up-tempo style, which really fits in with the music. He isn’t the best vocalist in the world but he gets the job done.
Just like most other thrash albums, Slaughter in the Vatican relies on the pure riffing power of guitarists Jay Ceravolo and Vinnie LaBella. The riffs on this album are some of the best to be showcased in the genre, and the thick production certainly helps them sound heavier. The solos are usually played at a typical break-neck speed, which is also not unlike the drumming, which, for the most part, utilizes double bass pedals to set the tempo of the songs.
Indeed, this is possibly one of the heaviest thrash metal albums to be made, and there is hardly any room for melody here. Perhaps it is fitting that the lyrics are very controversial and often blasphemous, gory and/or sadistic. One noticeable thing that I have picked up about this album is the ease of listening; you don’t need to be in a certain mood to listen to it, or set any kind of scene, or approach with an open mind. It’s the type of album that you can just listen to at any time and still find enjoyment. I believe this is largely down to the running time of the songs and the album itself; most songs are longer than five minutes, yet they never drag on or become boring. Pair this with the fact that there are only eight songs and the whole album comes to a total of around forty minutes, and it’s definitely a case of quality over quantity.
If there is one criticism I have for this album, it is the fact that there is little variation displayed throughout (although some songs such as Desecrator and The Tragic Period take a slower and slightly more groove-orientated stance), and some songs could perhaps do with more memorable solos or riffs. However, these factors do not detract much from the overall quality.
1990 saw many great or even legendary thrash metal released; Megadeth’s widely considered magnum opus Rust In Peace, Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss, Kreator’s Coma of Souls, Annihilator’s Never, Neverland and Testament’s Souls of Black, as well as a hugely influential and pioneering groove album that was Cowboys From Hell by Pantera. Exhorder managed to fall in the middle of these two genres, and merged them together seamlessly to make Slaughter in the Vatican, a truly fantastic album, and recommended to all thrash/groove fans.