Album Review: EXHUMED Death Revenge
An Exhumed album in 2017 serves a very clear purpose: a fun, gory romp through pure death metal. This has basically been Exhumed’s calling since their early days in the death metal tape trading scene of the early 1990s, with few variations in sound since then. While their previous album, Necrocracy, brought in more of an HM-2/Sunlight Studios sound, they’ve mostly stuck to their very strong and effective formula: Take mid-era Carcass (Symphonies of Sickness, Necroticism, Tools of the Trade, perhaps a bit of Heartwork), refine it down to a recognizable formula, and add lots of hooks and ear candy to keep listeners coming back.
A cynical, more outwardly snobbish reader might take this as a reason to dismiss this approach as staid, archaic or, that ultimate condemnation, “the kind of thing that holds metal back.” Whatever. I don’t think this way about Exhumed, and metalheads who insist on hating fun this much are doing themselves a great disservice. No, they don’t throw in random time signatures or out-of-left-field influences to make reviewers go “they’re so original, THAT MEANS IT’S GOOD, ALBUM OF THE YEAR!!!” And I know this opens them up to the comment that, “well, they’re not reinventing the wheel.” But who cares? The wheel is awesome, don’t ruin it! Especially when it translates into such great live performances, like what I saw at Maryland Deathfest this past spring: chainsaws, mad scientists, bloody organs, and the dual throat scratching and cookie-monster vocal attack of Matt Harvey and Ross Sewage (who makes his much-welcome return here).
In both its sound and artwork, Death Revenge has the aesthetic of a classic horror movie. I’d like to commend the band for using intro and filler tracks that actually make sense, as “Death Revenge Overture” and “Gravemakers of Edinburgh” help weave the band’s sonic narrative together. That narrative is held together by the aforementioned vocal approach, as Harvey’s vocals set the pace and Sewage’s bash you in the face with deep, satisfying utterances. But the guitars are an important part as well, and Harvey and Bud Burke let the shredding and riffing even have their own space on the instrumental “The Anatomy Act of 1832.”
In case you’re curious, this was the law in Britain that made it easier for doctors to use subject other than murderers for dissection. While this obviously allowed for the advancement of medical science, it also makes ripe subject matter for gruesome-minded death metal bands! Apparently this historical era holds the album together in terms of subject matter, as you can see from the music video below.
The album boasts a mix of straightforward dissonant death metal riffs and chugging palm-muted attacks, along with more melodic sections to add some additional color. I think the band is at its strongest when it keeps songs short, sweet and ripping in intensity. “A Funeral Party” and “Incarnadined Hands” are good examples of this approach. But the band is perfectly adapt at creating mid-paced ragers like “Night Work” as well. Those for looking for the best of both worlds can look to the album’s finest song: “Lifeless.”
With Death Revenge, Exhumed have crafted a fun, worthwhile listen, especially with Halloween just around the corner. I'm especially impressed with the historical inspiration, which gives it some more weight than the usual slasher fest.
Favorite songs: “Lifeless,” “Night Work,” “A Funeral Party” and “Incarnadined Hands”