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Relapse (2013)
Rating: 8/10

I don’t think my favourite gore-influenced band of all time, Carcass, will ever have any competition, but California’s Exhumed are certainly well placed when it comes to the Premier League table of such bands.

These guys have been festering away since the early 90s, doing the whole demo and split project route before their 1998 debut Gore Metal hit the racks. Necrocracy is the band’s sixth full-length record, emerging from the sewers two years after 2011’s All Guts, No Glory platter.

Although I’m more of a fan of slower, sludgy gore metal, Exhumed have always had the ability to shift between tempo at apparent ease. This is evident on album opener ‘Coins Upon The Eyes’, which at one moment offers frantic thrashing death metal, the next shifting into heavy grindcore and then the usual, albeit pacey, brand of wild gore metal, bringing to mind the already mentioned masters of their trade, Carcass.

However, like the much revered British band, Exhumed have also played their part in carving up the earlobes over the years, adopting accessible melodies within the often festering, and always squelching vocal delivery of Matt Harvey, who has been puking out those foetid and disturbing lyrics since 1990.

Of course, to the innocent and extremely naïve ear, the music of Exhumed is mere gurgling, bone-breaking, flesh-ripping and blood-drinking, but without the talents of Bud Burke (guitar), Rob Babcock (bass), Mike Hamilton (drums) and the already mentioned corpse-muncher Harvey, who also plays guitar, Exhumed would probably be just another bunch of demented musicians coughing up lifeless metal. But, these guys have been around the chopping block, so to speak, and know how to write a tune or two, even if they are often of the blood-spattered variety.

One such flesh-eater that springs to mind is ‘The Shape Of Deaths To Come’ with its thrashing riff and triggered drum. The vocals effortlessly shift between those guttural gurgles to harsher rasps, and the melodies incorporated dig into the brain like meat hooks, such is their accessibility – those not convinced need only check out the staggering solo that worms its way through the squalid sludge three-quarters the way through the track.

It’s as masterful as anything Carcass has ever done, and the foul quality doesn’t end there as the drums tumble from the title track as we’re treated to a laser precision riff that cuts into bone like a knife through butter before another putrid chug assaults the ears.

The gore is unrelenting and we’re treated to more tales of horror with the pulsating ‘Dysmorphic’ and the thrashing frenzy of ‘Sickened’, which is extreme in every aspect from its hyper drums and gore-soaked vocal shredding.

Exhumed have always been about precision; existing as the musical equivalent of a masterful surgeon dissecting his patients without pressure. Of course, at times such staggering complexity and pace can become a bewildering experience; after all, the seemingly wayward antics of ‘(So Passes) The Glory Of Death)’ is a real ear and eye opener, with its jarring dynamics that briskly interchange between rampant thrash metal to almost sterling mid-paced trad-metal, with the killer solo that is soon swamped again by those salivating vocals and annihilating drums.

Exhumed has always been a force to be reckoned with, and with the guffaw of ‘Ravening’ and harsher thrash climes of ‘Carrion Call’, the Californian psychopaths have simply cemented their place alongside Carcass as leaders in a field swamped in clogged up gore.

Neil Arnold

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