Metal in 2014 has been hopelessly splintered into a million different subgenres. But we love Whittier quartet Exmortus because they play heavy metal — the pure, unadulterated kind. The group members are all in their mid 20s but planted their roots in the field plowed by such '80s thrash greats as Testament. Simultaneously, guitarist/frontman Jadran “Conan” Gonzalez layers in magnificent neoclassical solos that evoke memories of shred greats like Yngwie Malmsteen, while drummer Mario Moreno complements the sound with powerful riffs; he and Conan are cousins, and the familial bond is evident. The band's lyrics are quite metal as well — their latest album, Slave to the Sword, is full of fist-pumping odes to warriors engaged in battle. Meanwhile, onstage the quartet display an infectious energy that has countless jaded metalheads remembering why they fell in love with the genre in the first place. —Jason Roche

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