Rome is Burning
The Making of Exhorder’s Slaughter in the Vatican
The story of how Slaughter in the Vatican came to be is a heck of a lot messier and sloppier than the precision groove and whip-smart thrash of the band’s debut album. Hailing from the fertile New Orleans music scene, guitarists Vinnie LaBella and Jay Ceravolo, vocalist Kyle Thomas and drummer Chris Nail offered up an insidiously unique, but still violently incisive and cultivated take on thrash metal. Interspersed among the Bay Area and Ruhr district influences were heaping helpings of punk and hardcore alongside the soulful music that anyone living in the Big Easy, musician or otherwise, would be exposed to simply walking down the street. All this was thrown into a pot to create a calamitous gumbo that combined balls-out speed and aggression with grooves able to make bodies lurch in sweaty appreciation. While songs like “Homicide,” “Death in Vain” and “Exhorder” thrashed with dervish-like hair-whipping force, others such as “Desecrater” and “Legions of Death” eased up on the lead foot to create a more viscous result that definitely influenced the likes of Pantera, Sepultura, Machine Head and Lamb of God.
That’s the easy part. On the other side of the coin, Slaughter in the Vatican was plagued with lineup dissolution, ongoing bassist instability and the typical antics of a gang of angry young men on the cusp of their 20s. Then, there was a failing record deal that caused the album to sit in limbo for a year, another record company coming along to save the day, but ultimately creating more stress and further delay by dispatching the band to Tampa’s legendary Morrisound studio, where the album was essentially re-recorded backwards! And this doesn’t even speak to the post-release issues: the controversy generated by the album’s cover, being kicked off the only U.S. tour they ever did and the release of the album during the purgatory between the waning years of thrash metal but before a certain bunch of cowboys from hell showed the world it was OK to expand metal’s palette. “Nothing was ever linear or straightforward with this band. Everything was a pain in the ass and difficult, except for the music,” says former guitarist Ceravolo (LaBella and Thomas recently rejoined forces and have led a revamped Exhorder since November of last year). As revered as the album has become, it’s actually truly surprising it even exists in the first place. Let’s kick back and spread some hassle-free love, shall we? Welcome to the hall, Slaughter in the Vatican, you wild and crazy motherfucker, you.
Need more Exhorder? To read the entire seven-page story, featuring interviews with all members on Slaughter in the Vatican, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.