It’s a refreshing notion that this site sees no conflict of interest with my reviewing an Exhumed record. No issue with my hermetically-sealed vault of vinyl and polycarbonate treasures from Matt Harvey ‘s posse of blood freaks, from demos to splits to remasters. My All Guts, No Glory coffee mug is filled to the brim with caffeinated goodies as I type, clad in a worn Casket Crusher tee, my dogs Gore and Metal sleeping on the floor, just under the Death Revenge poster framed and hanging in my meat cell…um…mancave. Does anyone else find that the Anatomy is Destiny wristbands lose their color a little, even with handwashing and hairdryer-drying? I’m not really allowed to bring up the band around the house; my wife still a little miffed about the Exhumed songs that we piped into our wedding reception. I guess the wind beneath MY wings is a little different than most. Anyway, what’s more romantic than an Exhumed show at the Ottobar as an anniversary celebration? It’s all about commitment, that’s the secret.
Mainman Matt Harvey’s been particularly busy keeping sickos like us stocked with delights, particularly the past five years, juggling chainsaws (see what I did there) between his ghost-of-Schuldiner tribute project Gruesome to the 80s-metal echoes of his power trio, Pounder – all projects boasting multiple EPs and recent full-lengths. Suffice to say, he’s been busier than a 24-hour dry cleaner trying to fight off four scythe-wielding terrorists with a lint brush. In addition to all this busy-ness, the mothership has experienced some alterations, as longtime guitar alchemist Bud Burke has apparently left the band, replaced by young Baltimore native of Necropsy fame, Sebastian Phillips.
The song remains the same in a lot of ways with Exhumed continuing to explore the glory days of 80s horror. The macabre intros and creepy interludes of 2017’s Death Revenge are replaced with ingenious VHS-themed packaging (a limited number of units came with an actual VHS cassette and Blockbuster-style employee T-shirt). Musically, it’s a delightfully familiar racket, drums rocketing and ticking beneath crunching riff-races, ursine growls, and psychopathic shrieks. Songs are a bit shorter than previous records, but potency isn’t an issue, anthemic choruses like “Scream for your worthless life / Die by the slashing knife” (from “Scream Out in Fright”) easily sticking in our sickened craws after a couple of listens. It’s clear that the new lineup is working their way back toward the brain-drilling grind of the early classics, perhaps as close an approximation as possible considering Harvey’s role as elder statesman of the genre. Even so, the infusion of youth provided by Phillips is galvanizing in two-minute electric knife fights like “Rabid,” solo intense as a battalion of 7-foot women with smeared lipstick and devil horns speaking in tongues throwing hatchets at you. There are even some old-school quick-strikes under a minute in length, like the 30-second eulogy “Dead Meat” or the 6-second blaster, “Utter Mutilation of Your Corpse.” Don’t blink, or you miss ‘em.
Strictly an aural-tactile preference, but it will likely take me a while to adapt to the adjustment in style. The nods to the glory days are delivered with burning swagger, but the more traditional death metal style of previous records had evolved into something special. The swirling guitar harmonies and crunching skullduggery of albums like Necrocracy and even the aforementioned Death Revenge are sorely missed. Nothing on Horror competes with the fireworks of stunners like “(So Passes) the Glory of Death,” but the only constant in death is change, the Burke era now fodder for the archives.
Anyway – enough of my whining – they’re still a band that cleans their nails with tarantula fangs and clears their sinuses with tear gas. Show some respect – get yer fat ass off the couch and catch Exhumed on tour…and no, you can’t borrow my bloody Mortician apron. Get your own swag.
Grab it here: https://exhumed.bandcamp.com/