Up until the mid-1700s, dissecting a human body for medical purposes was generally considered forbidden through most of Europe as result of the Greek influence and Roman prohibitions upon medicine at the time. Medical science and medicine relied upon the antiquated understandings of the Greek physician, Galen’s (129 AD – 210 AD) work. However, Galen had never dissected a human and his understanding of human anatomy was extrapolated from various animals. This ultimately led to confusions and misunderstanding about the human body.
Gradually, this perspective shifted and laws (such as the Murder Act of 1752 in Britain) were passed to allow bodies to be dissected and investigated under certain circumstances, like the use of executed murderers for dissection. Yet, these sources of human cadavers were very limited and there was an ever growing need to supply growing medical schools. As you can probably imagine (and you need only do a Google search), this led to a very dark and, paradoxically, illuminating time period for medical science and wonderful fodder for the new Exhumed album.
Exhumed’s “Death Revenge” is a concept album based on the actual crimes of resurrectionists, who would dig up bodies to be used by medical teaching schools and hospitals. Sounds like a good horror movie plot, right? Exhumed seem to thinks so, too. “Death Revenge” is the death / gore metal soundtrack to an imaginary splatter film.
The album opens with “Death Revenge Overture” which is an orchestral intro worthy of John Carpenter. It gives the illusion of serenity, with a hidden underlying tension that accompanies most horror soundtracks. The tranquillity is broken by “Defenders of the Grave.” To the uninitiated ear, the only musical reference point may be Carcass but if you listen closer, you’ll discover that “Defenders…” is a lot more thrashier and bluesier than anything Carcass has done. “Lifeless” is a ‘duet’ between two resurrectionists, portrayed by Matt Harvey and Ross Sewage discussing the mutual appreciation for the trade of digging up bodies.
The next song, “Dead End,” starts off with a riff reminiscent of Metallica but quickly switches to a paradoxically melodic and grinding rhythm that builds tension and releases repeatedly. It is here that Mike Hamilton’s drumming truly distinguishes him from other drummers. Most gore bands just rely on blasting beats and aren’t very imaginative. Hamilton’s drum work is very versatile and has been paired up well with the guitars. Overall, “Dead End” is an awesomely thrashy ditty that will not disappoint.
But wait! The best is truly yet to come.
Holy Hanneman, Batman! “Night Work” is the best song this South side of Heaven! Those opening lead guitars! That militaristic trample! I’ve heard a lot of Slayerespectful tunes but none have come as close to capturing the spirit of Arraya, King, and Co. until now. Midway through the song, we have one of the most accurate blistering shredfest, totally worth of the thrash giants’ catalogue! I do believe that the Exhumed boys must have gotten possessed by Jeff for this song. The guys in the Haunted will be so jealous!
Most gore metal or grind tends to aim to obliterate with their guitar tone and more often than not this intent is lost in the fuzzy shred. On “Unspeakable,” Exhumed use a unique edge to their riffs that I have not heard before. The song rips along until it drops into an Anthrax worthy mosh. The clarity of the production of Jarrett Pritchard really brings out the razor sharp tone of the guitars that is uncommon amongst Exhumed’s peers. “Interlude: Grave-Makers of Edinburgh” offers the listener a chance to rest their neck muscles and prevent further brain injury from the whiplashing riffs. Besides, “grave makers” need to rest between shovelfuls, too.
The whirlwind of blastbeats and guitars that opens “The Harrowing” will remind the listener that this is an Exhumed album, not some Scandinavian black metal interlude. “The Harrowing” is much more reminiscent of their earlier oeuvre until midway through and they arrive at some truly epic and almost majestic dual guitar attack. It is often argued and used as a point of derision that bands like Exhumed are Carcass rip-offs. I would argue that songs like “The Harrowing” are how bands like Exhumed build and improve upon the Carcass model of gore and grind.
With “A Funeral Party,” we are again given another Slayerriffic tune. This song is another that wields and welds riffs that would make Jeff proud and Kerry jealous in riotous stomping frenzy. Having come this far in the album, I can’t help but wonder what has created such a thrash influence upon Exhumed for this album. Their back catalogue has indication of a thrashier approach to this style, but the thrash often gets lost in the distorted buzzsaw attack and the blastbeats don’t usually deliver as much diversity as it present on “Death Revenge.”
What comes next is one of the best instrumentals I have heard in a long time. You’d be forgiven if you thought that Exhumed was covering the Harry Potter soundtrack as “The Anatomy Act of 1832” begins. The sparse and haunting piano based composition, which echoes some of the finer horror soundtracks, shifts when the guitars enter. There’s a menacing plodding cadence which then builds to a frenzied attack. There’s dual guitars shredding, which switches to thrashy stomping, and then a bass transition to a very respectful Carcass interlude. You can almost picture what nastiness could be happening during this instrumental, a montage of macabre misdeeds as the resurrectionists perform their nocturnal cadaver harvestings.
As “Anatomy…” exits with a fragile sounding outro, we are returned with “Incarnadined Hands.” This song resembles Exhumed past catalogue with furious pacing and menacingly melodic guitars. “Hands” captures the almost resigned acceptance of the grotesque nature of the acts of the resurrectionists. Lyrically, “Hands” asks us to imagine the ethical dilemma that these historical figures had to wrestle with as they committed themselves to their tasks. This leads us to the final chapter in this grand guignol of gore metal, “Death Revenge” which provides an uneasy epitaph and epilogue. Musically, once again Exhumed demonstrate razor sharp riffs and churning destructive energy.
So, the bottom (flat)line is this: Exhumed has delivered a revitalized slab of gorgeous gore metal (if those words can go together). There’s melody and there’s mayhem aplenty to satisfy most metal heads. The production on “Death Revenge” really draws attention to the details and the love of the craft. This has got to be Exhumed’s finest work to date. If you dig Carcass (and are waiting for something new from Impaled), then let “Death Revenge” satisfy those nefarious needs.