Like a fine wine, the mighty Exhumed keep getting better with age. The career parallels with their idols Carcass are obvious but not debilitating, manipulating their worship into their own finely honed death metal machine. From the grimy days of their fun and gruesome 1998 debut Gore Metal, through to 2013’s excellent Necrocracy, Exhumed’s career has been on a constant upward trajectory of consistency, refinement and dependable quality. With the focus of Matt Harvey and co on various other projects in recent years, the band finally dusted themselves off and returned to the studio to record a goddamn concept album! Yes folks, Exhumed have created a storytelling arc detailing a series of murders and grave robberies in Scotland during the 1820’s. Thankfully, beyond the suitably macabre subject matter, Exhumed build on the momentum from Necrocracy, deftly entwining slick melodicism into their tight and blasty brand of signature death metal. And just like its immediate predecessor, Death Revenge finds Exhumed operating at the top of their game, serving up a bloodied platter of gore soaked riffs and lean, addictive cuts of beefy death.
Spooky orchestral passages, such as opener “Death Revenge Overture” and “Gravemakers of Edinburgh,” add to the contextual drama, with Death Revenge marking Exhumed’s most atmospheric album to date. Aside from its sinister twists and melodic turns, Death Revenge follows a similar template to Necrocracy, yet somehow manages to sound even sharper and more refined, while retaining Exhumed’s trademark infectiousness, gory sense of fun, and confident swagger. Thrashy death metal and a healthy dose of melody and technical prowess features throughout Death Revenge, yet never at the expense of Exhumed’s brutally boisterous, cutthroat delivery. The songs are hooky, melodic, brutal, yet dynamic in design, the accessibility and infectiousness of the song-writing impressive in the wake of their tough and brutal delivery. Meanwhile, the album’s darker feel and strong melodic presence recalls the vital but less refined Anatomy is Destiny album.
Harvey and fellow axeslinger Bud Burke serve up a smorgasbord of wicked riffs, leads and shred, driving each composition with a heady mix of melody, brutality and groove. The stench of Necroticism and Heartwork-era Carcass remains present, but the guitar-work and song-writing sounds so fresh that the influence never overshadows Exhumed’s own distinctive song-writing traits and strengths. There’s also loads of brutal down-tuned grooves, outrageously unhinged solos, and terrific harmonies that would make Iron Maiden proud. The superb “Night Work” has a strong whiff of South of Heaven in its deliberate pacing, sinister melodies, and ripping solos. “Lifeless” effortlessly welds tasteful shred and mid-paced groove against its vicious thrash and blast combo, while powerhouse duo “The Harrowing” and “Incarnadined Hands” put the melodic savagery, flesh piercing hooks and brutality back into melodeath. The fun continues on the catchy and efficient blast of “A Funeral Party,” a savage thrasher with an All Guts, No Glory intensity and awesome trade-off solos.
The sizable impact of returning bassist/vocalist Ross Sewage (Ghoul, Impaled), replacing Rob Babcock, should not be understated. Sewage brings a grimy low-end presence to the album, while his sick vocals are a wonderful throwback to the band’s more brutal, underground days. In fact his dual vocal work and harmonizing alongside the distinctive raspy growl of Harvey is a thing of grotesque beauty and intuitive chemistry. Of course, those unfamiliar with Sewage’s vocals might not be so enthusiastic, due to his over-the-top gurgly and incomprehensible growls. There’s no real weak links to speak of, aside from certain tracks naturally creating a larger impact than others, but there’s nothing skip-worthy or disposable to speak of. Death Revenge also benefits from a neatly balanced mix, slicing guitar tone, and hefty rhythm section, with the production hitting a nice sweet spot between clarity, clout and grime.
Exhumed are a well established name in the metal underground and once again can be depended on to deliver the goods. Death Revenge is simply a blast to listen to as Exhumed continue pumping out great material and killer death metal that deftly blends their old school roots with a modern sensibility. The past three albums in particular are strong testaments to the band’s superior songcraft, graceful aging and longevity. Death Revenge marks another reliably consistent and grisly chapter in the band’s impressive career and rates among their finest achievements.