Review Summary: A solid release, to be enjoyed by many metal enthusiasts, but a significant step down from their debut
Groove metal has been a hugely popular subgenre of heavy metal, especially in quite recent years after witnessing (or for some people, ‘putting up with’ would be a better term to use) the surge of the NWOAHM. Many people cite bands like Machine Head, Pantera and Fear Factory as the pioneering bands of the genre. However, one relatively overlooked band in the emergence of the genre is Exhorder. Exhorder, along with bands such as Sepultura, Destruction and Overkill, are a band that started off primarily as a thrash metal act, and then started to venture more into groove metal territories. ‘The Law’ was the album that saw this transition take place (and their last album, at that).
When compared to their debut ‘Slaughter in the Vatican’, one of the first noticeable stylistic changes is the near abandonment of the ‘full-on-thrash’ approach Exhorder previously displayed. Instead, songs take a slower and more groove orientated stance. The riffs here are no where near as fast as on the previous album, although this does allow room for some memorable riffs. In turn, this means that the drums, although still excellent, aren’t as crushing as on SIV.
The Law even experiments with some acoustics at times, such as in opening track ‘Soul Search Me’ and the furious assault of ‘The Truth’. Although this sounds a little odd, they manage to fit in with music and don’t seem to out of place. However, the first (and possibly main) problem with The Law is within the guitar field; the production. The electric guitars seem to have been produced in order to make the guitars sound thick and heavy, and although this is achieved, it also produces an annoying ‘fuzzy’ type of sound, which can leave the listener irritated after listening to the whole of the album.
As previously mentioned, the drums aren’t anywhere near as fast as what Exhorder were renowned for after the release of Slaughter in the Vatican, although this isn’t a negative, as it is not a necessity for them to be so fast; they work fine just the way they are on this album. The bass is surprisingly quite high in the mix in The Law too, especially in the intro of Un-Born Again, where the bass line is not only audible, but great in quality too. As for the vocals, Kyle Thomas sounds more like Phil Anselmo of Pantera than ever, perhaps almost matching the attitude that Mr. Anselmo possesses too.
All in all, this album saw Exhorder as the groove metal band that they had always hinted at during Slaughter in the Vatican, and as a result adopted a more slow and down tempo approach, which is perhaps summed up with their decent cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Into the Void’. This means that overall, while still a great album and definitely one to have in your record collection if you are groove metal fan, this album is a step down from their aforementioned debut. Whereas their debut hit the listener hard with the onslaught of the pounding double bass drum and brutality of the guitar riffs, this album doesn’t quite strike the same chord.