Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Exhumed - Horror (2019)



Country: USA
Style: Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 4 Oct 2019
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It seems rather appropriate to follow up an Alice Cooper release with a new album simply titled Horror. The band are Exhumed, one of California's finest death metal bands. They founded in 1990, split up in 2005 and got back together in 2010 and this is their fourth album since then, more than they released before they split, if we ignore the gratuitous covers album Garbage Daze Re-Regurgitated, as glorious as its title was.

What seemed immediately obvious was how lo-fi the recording is. It's a much quieter recording than anything else I've heard lately. In fact, everything seems to be buried in the mix. We have to turn up to eleven just to hear the band. However, it has no hesitation about leaping into action at high speed. Exhumed are old school death metal with a heavy side dose of grindcore and I have to admit I haven't delved into that of late, so this seemed fresh.

Even with fifteen songs on offer, this runs shorter than Reign in Blood, the infamously short Slayer album. Like Reign in Blood, this blisters along with hardly a moment to catch our breath and there a couple of screams that feel highly reminiscent of Tom Araya's legendary first take for Angel of Death. I only see five songs over two minutes and none over three. The shortest, as I guess has been traditional for grindcore at least since Napalm Death's You Suffer, is Utter Mutilation of Your Corpse at a mere seven seconds, four of which are fadeout.

There's very little variety here, of course. Mike Hamilton's drum kit is set to ludicrous speed for almost the entire album, a slower section in The Red Death only being slower as a relative concept. The guitars of mainstay Matt Harvey, the sole founder member, and new fish Sebastian Philips are often a blur but, after a while, the riffs start to emerge. So do the solos and I'm still not sure how they find time for two of those into a two minute song like Rabid.

I'm sure the bass of the wonderfully named Matt Sewage is somewhere in there too but I have no idea where. He's more overtly present as one of two voices in play, which offer far more contrast than harsh/harsh might suggest. One's much deeper than the other. Which one's Sewage and which is Harvey I haven't a clue. I'd have to go back to mid-period albums, as Sewage is on his second stint with the band and I really can't remember.

This really takes me back to my youth when grindcore was new and I couldn't tell the difference between most of the tracks but loved the sheer burst of energy that they provided. If thrash metal cleaned me out, grindcore was an evil alternate universe version that shattered me into pieces and then put me back together again, maybe in a different order. Some of those pits were insane and the bands weren't far behind. I don't think I've seen anyone on drums faster than whoever played for Intense Degree.

The challenge, of course, is to maintain that energy spike across an entire album. Exhumed do a pretty good job at that here, benefitting from the short running time and the many gaps between tracks. Songs do blur together but a couple of listens allows some to emerge as favourites. Mine is Ripping Death, without any doubt. Its chorus of "Ripping death, ripping fucking death" is a shopping list for the younger me back in 1989. I like Dead Meat too, a blitz at only 34 seconds, again including fadeout. Its chorus is exactly what you expect: "Dead meat. Dead meat. Dead meat. Dead meat!"

The pros are obvious. This is blitzkrieg stuff, for those who believe that Reign in Blood just wasn't fast or aggressive enough. This feels old school, though, as if it was new when the movie in the faux poster cover came out on VHS. Maybe that comes from them writing what are really pop songs sped up to crazy tempos. There are verses and choruses and hooks and that's not always the case with grindcore.

The cons mostly tie to the genre. I still like grindcore, but I find that I can't immerse myself in it for days any more. While there's variety here, it pales in comparison to what I find in folk metal or even melodic death metal when the band is someone like Insomnium. My biggest criticism here is that the album just ends, as if there might be other tracks coming later but they haven't downloaded yet. But hey, just put the album on repeat to solve that.

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