By William Seay
A new album from Exhumed almost seemed unlikely just a few years ago, but with the 2011 “comeback” album All Guts, No Glory, we saw a startlingly polished return to form. Exhumed have been regarded as one of the more respectable Carcass clones, with just a touch more punk rock attitude and (at least early on in their career) even more don’t-give-a-fuck sloppiness. It seems their music evolved as the core members became more skilled at their craft.
Guitarist and lead vocalist Matt Harvey is the only remaining member from the original lineup, and it is his penchant for death metal with a gory sense of humor that has driven Exhumed from the start.
And Exhumed pull no punches in getting this monster started. Album opener “Coins Upon the Eyes” gets things going with aggression and a buzzsaw guitar tone that doesn’t let up. There’s also very good vocal play between Harvey and guitarist/vocalist Bud Burke. Burke had a previous stint in the band in the early 2000s, playing guitar on the Anatomy is Destiny album.
And Burke is an asset to this album. There is real melody in some of the leads that adds a very nice touch to the songwriting. Rather than just being a bunch of riffs pushed together in a gory mishmash of death/grind/punk, you can discern actual thought being put into the songs. This was evident in past Exhumed offerings but I really think it works quite even more nicely here, and I give some of that credit to Bud Burke. He’s got some face-melting solos that fit in very well and are more than just senseless noodling or shredding.
The title track is case in point here. The first half of the song has a nice medium pace that allows the riffs to breathe and a simple, memorable chorus. Then the song goes into full on blast mode, but with astonishingly well done melodic solos that segue right into that chorus again. This is catchiness that hearkens back to Impaled’s “Mondo Medicale” or Carcass’ “Heartwork,” and should make any fans of that style very pleased. “Carrion Call” has some of that same appeal, but done with a little faster tempo before a crushing flirtation with death/doom.
While not at all a “progressive” album, this album is a progression in style for Exhumed. I’ve been a fan for the better part of a decade, but I’ve taken the time to go back into their early material and this is a band that has certainly grown. It’s been a long time since the band was writing songs like “Bone Fucker” or “Torso,” which I’ll admit have a very sophomoric charm (if you can get over the overtly disturbing lyrics). And their production quality and guitar tone have definitely improved on recent releases. But hell, the song “Dysmorphic” has a freaking acoustic guitar break, before leading into a very satisfying thrash bit that could really get your booty shakin’.
New drummer Mike Hamilton is worth mentioning as well. He is not a new drummer and you may be familiar with his work in brutal death metal stalwarts Deeds of Flesh. He certainly knows how to handle a good blast beat. And there are definitely moments where this is used nicely on “Necrocracy.” But he has some very tasty fills and more-than-capable flairs on the snare drum that become all the more satisfying on subsequent listens of this album. He also has some creative and diverse bass drum work that opens up some of the riffs and solos that make them all the more enjoyable.
“Necrocracy” is as musically competent as this band has ever been. It’s death metal that relies on a sense of purpose, a sense of humor, and even a sense of melody that is a fitting step forward for a band that seemed to have a one-track mind for gore in their early stages. This is the music equivalent of a B-movie horror director gaining access to a budget and real special effects and using them to perfection. And at less than 40 minutes, it certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. Recommended.