The time has come for the latest batch of horror filled madness from Goregrind band, Exhumed. Hailing from San Jose, California, Exhumed initially formed in 1990, with their first album, “Gore Metal” being released in 1998. After going on hiatus in 2005 and reforming 5 years later, the band are enjoying a good run again and will hopefully be around for a while yet based on this latest effort.
“Death Revenge” is Exhumed’s sixth album and marks the return of the first album’s bassist, Ross Sewage of Impaled and Ghoul (shhhh). The band has seen some line-up changes in its time with the band’s main songwriter, singer and guitarist, Matt Harvey, being the only constant. The band’s lyrical side is very much what one would expect from a ‘Gore’ themed band with their general nastiness taking an almost General Surgery flavour at times. All delivered with surgical precision.
This latest album centres around a couple of naughty blokes from Edinburgh called Burke and Hare who got up to some horrific acts all the way back in the early 19th century. Two serial killers who sold their victim’s body parts to medical colleges. This killing spree led to the Anatomy Act of 1832, an attempt to stop the pretty odd idea of selling dead bodies!
So, the stall has been set. This is not an album to play for your Grandma.
The album has quite a story telling feel to it. With an ‘Introduction’ track to kick things off, a mid-way ‘Interlude’ and closing with an ‘Underture’, which is actually marked as a bonus track but it seems like the true end of the album to me.
The opener, “Introduction: Death Revenge Overture” sounds like a long-lost soundtrack song from “The Exorcist” (Excuse my ignorance here, there is probably a better Horror movie reference out there but I don’t really watch them). It builds, with an odd piano and string passage that is hauntingly pretty at times. It weaves through some lovely musical resolutions that are then fiendishly offset with a dissonant edge that reminds me of Les Dawson playing the piano, with the odd note that doesn’t seem to work. Only where Mr Dawson did this for comedy, this is done to be intentionally creepy.
Moving on to the second track, “Defenders of the Grave”, this is the beginning I was expecting. Guitars and bass riffing together with the pounding toms of the drummer, a dramatic introduction, until Harvey screams from his toes up as the band enter its initial slow, brooding groove. Harmonised riffs from the guitars sliding into sinister changes and then into another riff and breakdown, before a slightly faster feeling groove takes over. A truly classic metal feel. At the 90 second mark the drums enter the realm of the blast beat which is a satisfying, yet inevitable next step in almost any Goregrind song. The verse begins and the vocals have a story telling feel to them. There is something to do with the rhythmic delivery, the pausing and phrasing of the vocals that makes each song feel like a chapter from the same book. Another common theme of the band is introduced in this track, that is the vocal trade-off between Harvey’s grated throat and Ross Sewage’s sub-human, guttural squelch.
You could go to almost any track you wish out of the 12 on offer to find fantastic lead work from the guitars, with solos throughout that are always impressive, inventive and at times, they have a very triumphant feeling to them.
As the album progresses through its tracks you are often greeted with what I think of as Thrash marker posts, elements of a guitar riff bolstered by the entire band following the phrase, building the tension before a typical thrash tempo, fuller drum beat comes back in. Tracks like “Defenders of the Grave”, “Lifeless” are examples, especially the introduction section of “Night Work” which could have been taken straight off of Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”.
“Lifeless” has a combination of interesting influences across its duration that evoke “Heartwork” era Carcass at the beginning to hints of Bolt Thrower in the middle section. “Dead End” has an “Arise” or “Roots” era Sepultura feel, combined with “Heartwork” similarities again. It’s apocalyptic, end of world like guitar riff resolving on the same note just makes me want to grit my teeth as it plays. A standout track, “Unspeakable” has an infectious gang chant chorus that sticks with you and an example of their solid song structures.
Half way through we have another instrumental track similar to the introduction that serves tidily to divide the album in half, titled “Interlude: Grave-makers of Edinburgh” providing a small breathing opportunity.
Heading towards the final few tracks we are treated to a bit of an instrumental opus in “The Anatomy Act of 1832”, a lead guitar masterclass with a very interesting and melodic backing providing a foundation for the guitars to shine, this also being one of, if not the longest track on the album. With blast beats being commonplace, hell-for-leather Slayer tempos providing the slower moments, I think Exhumed have kept this interesting and engaging from the opener to the closer by shifting the tempos and dynamics on almost every track, keeping the listening experience interesting throughout. As a whole, the running order maintains the story telling atmosphere of the album and the sequencing of the tracks has been carefully considered to let the songs flow.
The album is powerful, aggressive, yet tastefully melodic throughout its running time of approximately 40 minutes. Each track is clearly very carefully constructed. They all have a very classic Heavy metal feeling to them that, despite their heaviness, feel like it would be quite accessible to a lot of metal fans out there.