Exhumed – To the Dead


Goregrind mastermind, Matt Harvey, is now on his ninth album with Exhumed and shows no signs of slowing down. His band need no introduction in the goregrind and extreme metal scenes, and we can see Exhumed’s influence on contemporary darlings, such as Ripped to Shreds. The last five albums (including their retrospective in 2015) came out in every odd year of the 2010s before Covid-19 ruined their clockwork schedule and pushed this one back by a year. Now they deliver another record their fans will enjoy, but the question is whether the wider metal community will share the same excitement for a genre that has little room for evolution and innovation in its fifth decade of existence.

As former Carcass clones, Exhumed know a thing or two about evolution. Their current style of death metal has none of the abstract theory that informs much of the technical parts of the genre, yet they avoid the back-to-basics approach of the purists. Nowadays, an Exhumed song is a multi-faceted construct where grotesque shred guitars, gurgling bass chugs, and violent blast beats compete like bears fighting in the field over a prospective mating partner. ‘Putrescine and Cadaverine’ is a long-form blast of Cephalic Carnage extended beyond three minutes. Imagine the shards of superfluous offal and brains of a dead animal being fed through a meat processor – that is what you get with Matt Harvey’s guitar tone. ‘Drained of Color’ reminds you that the band’s only concession to modern death metal is the low tuning of their guitars. The cement mixer drums of Sebastian Phillips belong in the classic mid-to-late 1990s scene for their resonance and power. You can even call this music a gory take on hardcore with classic thrash elements and the hard-hitting ferocity of Napalm Death’s Utopia Banished era underpinning its most aggressive elements.

Sitting through the thirty-nine minutes of To the Dead is easier when you have more time to scrape the remaining meat from the bones. Streaming it while you do other things during the day is more monotonous. You’ll raise an eyebrow at the change to a Slayer crunch on ‘Carbonized’ and might even wince at the sound of the vocals bubbling with a mouthful of blood. But the songs start to morph into one long cannibal lunch after ‘Rank and Defiled’. Then you must look for the parts that distinguish one composition from the next. The cameo bass fills will retain your attention on ‘Lurid, Shocking, and Vile’, but you’ll struggle to recall anything from the chaotic ‘No Headstone Unturned’.

In a crude way, the formula of this music is Repulsion covering Slayer with the vocal drama of Pig Destroyer. Only in the moment of absurd extremity, do your ears prick up. ‘Defecated’ does a great job of reminding you why you like the heavier side of the metal spectrum – the dual roar of the song title for the chorus is more distasteful than a nudist funeral (but still titillating all the same). Your instinct is to flinch from the massacre unfolding before your eyes. The swampy guitars are like a colourless solution of sand, mud and rainwater bottled into a glass jar. You know there’s more to it than meets the eye, but it’s hard to see past the cloudy water by the time you reach closing track, ‘Disgusted’.

The death metal underground will find many reasons to spin this record for the remainder of the year, but those of us with a craving for something more varied will soon find other albums to displace it. To the Dead is a solid blast of death metal, but it’s something we’ve heard many times over the last twenty years.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 21/10/2022

Record Label: Relapse Records

Standout tracks: Drained of Color, Undertaking the Overkilled, Defecated

Suggested Further Listening: Ripped to Shreds – 劇變 (Jubian) (2022), Repulsive Vision – Look Past the Gore and See the Art (2017), Vermörd – Nostalgic Predictions (2022)