Founding EXHORDER Guitarist Says He Wrote 95% Of Group’s Music, Claims His Former Bandmates Are Still Not Playing Old Songs Correctly

In a new interview with Germany’s Into The Pit, founding EXHORDER guitarist Vinnie LaBella, who exited the band four years ago, was asked what he thought of EXHORDER‘s decision to carry on as a four-piece, with singer Kyle Thomas now playing second guitar and writing much of the music for the group. Vinnie said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “Well, God bless his heart. He’s giving it the old college try. But I can tell you this: I did write… Some people will tell you and try and give you a different story about what happened, but you generally can’t go by what’s written on the publishing liner notes on these songs, ’cause back in the day our mentality was everybody split everything equally. So no matter who wrote what, [former EXHORDER drummer] Chris Nail got publishing, Jay [Ceravolo, former EXHORDER guitarist] — everybody got publishing equally, whether you wrote on the song or not.

“I can I can tell you this: 95 percent of what you hear from [2019’s] ‘Mourn The Southern Skies’ [album] back to [EXHORDER‘s debut LP, 1987’s] ‘Slaughter [In The Vatican]’ was written by me,” Vinnie continued. “And I can’t prove that now, because in print… Let me put it to you this way: Jay Ceravolo, my second guitar player back in the day, he didn’t join the band until 1988. All of the songs for ‘Slaughter In The Vatican’ were written before 1987. So, how the fuck does Jay Ceravolo get publishing writing credits for songs that he wasn’t even around for when they were being written? Yes. So, that’s what I’m saying. So, I’m not lying when I tell you…

“That band can’t never sound the way it used to without myself or someone like a Jay — even though Jay didn’t write a whole lot of stuff; even on [1992’s] ‘The Law’, he didn’t put in a lot of work there. It’s gonna be tough for them to recreate that sound; there’s no way they can.”

Vinnie also talked about the musical direction of EXHORDER‘s first album that doesn’t feature his songwriting, “Defectum Omnium”, which will arrive on March 8 via Nuclear Blast. He said: “The only critique I can say, man, and I’ve gotta be careful here because… But I’ll say this: okay, if you ever wanted to know what AGNOSTIC FRONT sounded like with blast beats and Phil Anselmo singing, you’ve got it. There we go. That’s the new EXHORDER for you. I don’t hear any fucking elements of anything we did when we were younger, and the reason why is because Kyle was never involved in that piece of the process. I would write a fucking song and Andy [Villaferra], my former bass player, and Jay, or David Main, my former guitar player from back in the day, might throw a riff or something in at me and fucking we’d piece it together. Kyle would sit there until it was time for him to sing. I mean, I would map this thing out and fucking we’d lay it all out and fucking he would come in and sing. A lot of places I would tell him, ‘Hey, we’re gonna put vocals here, but we’re not gonna sing here,’ and we would kind of produce him until he came into his own. And early on, I even had to write a lot of the lyrics. I mean, I wrote fucking three or four songs lyrically before he was even in the band, before Kyle was [in EXHORDER]. So he has no clue.

“Look, you can’t take a few fucking guitar lessons for a year or two and decide you’re gonna go out and fucking play like Vinnie LaBella and write like Vinnie LaBella — you’re just not,” Vinnie explained. “Any more than I’m gonna go out and have fucking singing lessons for a year and think I’m gonna go out and sing like Kyle fucking Thomas on my band’s record. So that’s kind of where we’re at.

“And look, it’s smart for them to change the style of it, but it’s not smart to keep the name,” he added. “I don’t think the band, what they’ve released, is horrible, but it’s not fucking EXHORDER.”

LaBella went on to take a shot at his former bandmates’ musicianship, saying that the current EXHORDER lineup is not doing the group’s classic material justice.

“I’m gonna say this because it needs to be said,” he stated. “They really don’t play that most of the old stuff correctly. They didn’t while I was in the band. [EXHORDER bassist Jason] VieBrooks and [former EXHORDER guitarist Marzi] Montazeri had their own way of doing things and not my way of doing things, which we put them on stage unprepared sometimes — a lot of the time. And a lot of the time they were just playing wrong notes. I mean, look, if you really go back and look at some of those YouTube videos from some of those festival runs and shows that we did and you really fucking listen to what’s going on, it’s shit. And they’re still not playing the songs right. There’s nobody there to show ’em. I mean, yeah, you might get through ‘Legions Of Death’ or fucking ‘Homicide’ or some of the easier stuff pretty fucking steadily. But I can tell you right now that band is not playing ‘The Tragic Period’ correctly. There’s a reason why we didn’t play anything off ‘The’ fucking ‘Law’ in those sets. We played the easiest stuff that we could off of that album because that’s all they could fucking handle. There’s no ‘I Am The Cross’, there’s no ‘Un-Born Again’. There’s no fucking ‘The Truth’. All of the hard shit was an impossibility to fucking play. And look, I was kind of taken by fucking surprise with that. These are professional fucking musicians, suppose[dly], that you hire ’em to do this job, and come to find out they can’t do the fucking job. And even three years after you hire ’em, they’re still fucking there doing what they’re doing. And they’re still there now not playing the fucking songs correctly. So I don’t give a fuck who you get. You can go get [former CANNIBAL CORPSE and current EXHORDER guitarist] Pat O’Brien. You can go get fucking Jesus Christ. I don’t give a fuck who you get to on guitar. But they do enough to get by.

“My gripe was always this: listen, in a live setting, if you’ve gotta fake it through a part, okay. Fine. Slip through it,” he continued. “And nobody will really kind of notice that in the venue. But when you’re fucking playing at Hellfest [in France] in front of 60,000 [people] and you got got cameras fucking everywhere and they’re piped into the board, I’m, like, ‘Listen, you motherfuckers are gonna be found out if you don’t have you shit together.’ And if you really go back and listen to that shit, there’s mistakes and crap. I mean, a lot of nights, dude, I was just fucking embarrassed about [it].”

Circling back to the change in EXHORDER‘s musical direction on “Defectum Omnium”, Vinnie said: “To me, you’ve gotta change the style of it to a simpler version of what you can handle to play. If you try and play outside of your ability — which I think we all do at some point, because we’re pushing. We like to push — I mean, at least I do. I like to get right up on the line of I can’t do something and try and make it happen to see what kind of tension I can build and what I can release from that. But if you can’t fucking play that shit, don’t fucking try it.

“I don’t think what they’ve done so far is a horrible thing — it’s not, like, ‘Oh, man, that sucks — but there’s nothing there,” he clarified. “For an EXHORDER fan like yourself or an old-school fan… I mean, look, I got my ass chewed out a little bit for some of the stuff I did on ‘Mourn The Southern Skies’ because it was a little more subdued or more song-structured; it wasn’t as frantic. So they couldn’t expound on that record because they don’t have the ability to,” he added. “So they had to digress back and do simpler stuff, like more hardcore-based things, but I don’t know what the fuck. I mean, look, it’s being billed as some kind of back-to-the-roots fucking EXHORDER. I don’t hear any of that either. It sounds more like fucking AGNOSTIC FRONT with blast beats to me.”

Thomas is now the sole remaining founding member of EXHORDER, which released its debut album, the aforementioned “Slaughter In The Vatican”, more than three decades ago.

Shortly after the Houston-based Montazeri announced his departure from EXHORDER in February 2022, the remaining members of the band — Thomas, VieBrooks and drummer Sasha Horn — said that they and Marzi had been “moving in different directions” and assured fans that they would “continue to thrive”

EXHORDER released two albums in the early 1990s through the Roadrunner label — “Slaughter In The Vatican” and “The Law” — before breaking up, with Kyle going on to form FLOODGATE and also briefly appearing live as the vocalist for TROUBLE, which he later joined on a full-time basis (and is still a member of).

EXHORDER, which is cited by many as the originator of the riff-heavy power-groove approach popularized by PANTERA, completed a U.S. headlining tour in late 2021 during which it performed “Slaughter In The Vatican” in its entirety.

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