Exhumed, after a five-year hiatus, re-emerged in 2011 with the ferocious All Guts, No Glory, and followed that album up with the more sophisticated, but no less excellent Necrocracy in 2013. This pair of albums, in my opinion, represents the finest work of Exhumed’s career. Consequently, anticipation for the group’s next album was high. However, the ever-busy Matt Harvey was side-tracked by side projects for the better part of four years, the most time-consuming of which was the early-Death tribute act Gruesome. I enjoyed Gruesome immensely, but an album and two EPs in two years was more than enough from such a derivative act for the time being. Thankfully, Harvey is back on track with Exhumed, and the four-year gap — not counting the 2015 re-recording of the group’s debut, Gore Metal — seems not to have halted the momentum of the band’s impressive second act. The group’s sixth album, Death Revenge, is a record that rivals its immediate predecessors.
Label: Relapse Records.
The term melodic death metal has become a bit of a dirty word for me, so I hesitate to use it with regard to Death Revenge, lest I call up images of In Flames, Arch Enemy or shitty Gothen-core, but while Death Revenge is definitely death metal, it is almost certainly the most melodic Exhumed album to date. That is not to say that there is anything fluffy about Death Revenge; it’s a brutal affair, but it is also catchy as hell, full of ear-worm themes, brimming with heroic solos and generally a very dynamic record. Furthermore, it’s fun. While the performances on the album are all as polished and tight as one would expect from a veteran act, there is a certain swagger to this music that makes all the precision sound effortless. The band seems like its enjoying itself, and that enjoyment carries over to the listener.
Themes, melodies, dynamics: these are all well and good, but what about riffs? Brothers and sisters, Exhumed has never lacked for good riffs, and Death Revenge is no exception. For all that this is one of Exhumed’s most accessible albums, there is a dizzying amount riffage on display. The Carcass-isms, as always, abound, but so too do spidery webs of Megadeth-like riffing as in “Dead End” and “Unspeakable,” and eerie Hanneman-styled melodies, such as the opening of “Dead End.” Maiden-esque harmonies occasionally sneak in to the works as well and there’s a riff or two that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Accept album. It’s an embarrassment of riches, really; one sick riff after another, with nary a dud to be found.
I mentioned above that Death Revenge is brimming with leads, but it deserves mentioning again. Matt Harvey and Bud Burke are simply shredding their asses off on this album, trading leads like Tipton and Downing or Mustaine and Friedman. In fact, the instrumental track “The Anatomy Act of 1832” is practically a death metal “Hangar 18”.
Also of note is the return of former Exhumed bassist Ross Sewage, who spent a couple decades with the other great bay area gore metal outfit, Impaled. I’d be lying if I said I could hear much of Ross’s bass on the album, but as a vocalist he serves as the perfect Bill Steer to Harvey’s Jeff Walker.
If I were to sum up Death Revenge in one word, that word would be magnificent. It is not just a great death metal album, but a great heavy metal album. It’s hard to say, in the endlessly subdivided genre that is heavy metal, if anything is capable of being considered a classic anymore, but I’m confident that 20 years from now, I’ll still be listening to Death Revenge. It is quite possibly the best thing Exhumed has ever done.