In my last Listening Log post, I mentioned that once fall comes a-knockin’ it’s officially Doom Season, but I foolishly forgot what always comes before that:
This macabre month is not just full of thrills and chills and drills that kill. There’s a certain a e s t h e t i c that Halloween season carries in which its tongue is planted so firmly in its cheek it’s burrowed it’s way to the other side. Spooky is a lighthearted scary, more matter how extreme it is. Enter Exhumed.
My history with Exhumed is relatively short considering their career. Their perfectly titled debut Gore Metal came out in ’98 but I didn’t get into them until their post-hiatus 2011 offering All Guts, No Glory. I had shortsightedly written off their early material “old” and therefore “bad” because I was a shittier person nearly a decade ago, but since getting my head out of my ass have enjoyed the gamut of their releases from their Carcass-worshipping slabs from the ’90s and early ‘2000s to their more sophisticated melodic leaning (keyword leaning, their later output is still brutal as fuck) death metal of the last 10 years.
Throughout all these albums, lineup changes, and a rather long hiatus, Exhumed have stayed true to one virtue: less bore, more gore. Lyrics of slashers, serial killers, cannibals, and chainsaws abound with the cheeky glee and the kind of childish abandon– that kind that typically only a grindhouse horror flick can channel.
The aptly titled Horror continues these lacerative lyrics to absolutely nobody’s surprise, but the sounds of their instrumental side shifts from their more nuanced and melodic previous album Death Revenge. Matt Harvey and co. have shifted into a more punky and scrappy kind of death metal reminiscent of Terrorizer, back when grindcore was truly a blend of death metal and hardcore punk.
The guitars riff away with a thick, crunchy tone that feels weighty and raw without completely losing all definition. I have to admit there are times when the band is firing on all cylinders — tremolo picked rhythm guitars and bass to match, blasting drums, and a solo over top — where the riffing gets reduced to little more than white noise under it all and gets lost in the mix. Otherwise, this is a welcome change in tone and style more akin to Slaughtercult than Necrocracy.
I think that Exhumed‘s greatest strengths on Horror shine through with its simplicity. The album itself is pretty stripped down. Two guitars, bass, drums, and the iconic high and low dual vocals (Ross Sewage is a welcome return to the lineup) tear through a half hour of material in what feels like fifteen minutes. First, the songs are high energy. All of them. I don’t know if it’s the production, the performances or both but the entire album feels pretty live to my ears. There’s an urgency to the songs that a lot of records that blitz by this quickly just don’t have. Secondly, the actual songwriting skill that goes in to each track helps keep things in check when ultimately they’re all pretty similar. Exhumed aren’t Yes, they aren’t twisting and turning, defying expectations throughout each track. They have, however, stuffed Horror plump full of juicy hooks and memorable moments.
From simple add-ons like the phlemmy loogie hocked (in stereo too, eeeeuuuuugh) in “Playing with Fear” to the scream-along choruses in almost every song, Exhumed keep your ear hooked from start to finish on Horror. The riffier sections or average verse occasionally seems interchangeable with any other on the record, but that‘s when the album’s energy keeps it engaging before the next earworm is set upon you to bury it’s way deep into your grey matter. The short song lengths help save Horror from being a bore, as the longest song (before the bonus tracks) clocks in a two minutes and fifty five seconds. Including the bonus tracks doesn’t increase that length by much.
Overall, Horror is a great album. It ain’t high art, but it doesn’t try to be. Exhumed craft one of the year’s most fun and most re-listenable metal records. This is the album you and your friends get shitfaced to o Saturday night before watching Pieces or some shit.
It’s Spooky Season, god damnit, and if “Naked, Screaming, and Covered in Blood” isn’t 2019’s Halloween anthem, I don’t know what is.