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A mature and thought-out release for Exhumed. - 88%

MrMetalpants, December 7th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Relapse Records

This is hands-down my favorite Exhumed record. I started following them around when I saw them touring for the album All Guts, No Glory in ~2011. There live show absolutely blew me away so I started going through their discography and was pleased but definitely felt it was a band best listened to live. That changed for me on this release. The first thing that caught me was the album art. Inspired by movie horror movie posters from the 70's/80's. I could see it being a poster for a film by Lucio Fulci, Rugerro Deodato, Mario Bava, or a host of other giallo/early slasher films. There are even instrumental pieces reminiscent of the score to a lot of these style of movies.

It is an odd choice of album cover considering the whole of the lyrical material is about 1800's grave robbers selling and/or "Anatomizing" the dead bodies. When I say the whole of it, I truly mean the whole of it. From start to finish it tells the tale of two twisted youths who learn how to and become attracted to dead bodies and retells how they came to be this way, their various adventures, and great conclusion to their saga. Dare I call this album a death metal opera?! It's storytelling is linked via the narrative (one whole story), similar style of music throughout, symphonic instrumentals, an intermission, and each of the three band members who do vocals, take on the voices of the three different characters. Even regardless of the feat of making such an interesting concept album, they still give their most mature lyrics yet. They started this style on the album Necrocracy but really honed it in here.

The album is the next step in Exhumed's career and I feel in the right way. Like I said, they were very a much a live band in the genre of "goregrind" but here are leaning towards straight-up death metal. I'm sure they lost a lot of fans with that, but they made me respect them that much more. There are elements of it, like the structure on "Unspeakable". The song "Night Work" leans on Slayer for some influence there. They even end up with a sound not unlike The Black Dahlia Murder with "Incarnadined Hands". That song sits on the border of melodic death metal. The bass is absolutely wonderful here. It's not the most technically impressive but so often does it get to rattle it's way into your ear over the guitars. A great example of this is at around 2:00 on "Lifeless".

Favorite tracks:
--Incarnidined Hands
--Defenders of the Grave
--Dead End
--A Funeral Party

Technical skill: 69% Originality: 82% Song writing: 89% Album structure: 96% Production: 77%

Grave Labor - 85%

autothrall, October 15th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Relapse Records

Innovation is an unlikely event at this point in the trajectory of California's Carcass-inspired death-grinders Exhumed, but I'm not sure if it's even needed. If they can consistently deliver the goods like they have with their 6th full-length (discounting the comps and re-recording of Gore Metal), and sound like they're having a whole lot of fucking fun doing so, then I just don't see myself growing the least bit bored listening to it. This is not a band which has ever let me down, not to say that all their records have been equivalent with one another in quality, but there isn't one among them that I'd put on and not enjoy to some extent. Having said that, Death Revenge is the most entertainment I've had since Anatomy is Destiny in 2003, and it wisely carries forward a lot of the little permutations they first made on that album to glorious results...

In fact, I think Death Revenge serves as a sort of retrospective of all their output, perhaps never going quite as visceral or heavy as Gore Metal or Slaughtercult, but certainly putting the pedal to the deathgrind and keeping pace with some of their faster canon when it needs to. Much of the writing here is of a mid paced, clinical death/thrashing variety, consistent with Necrocacy and All Guts, No Glory before it, very heavily focused on eking out memorable riff patterns and then splattering them with all manner of wailing, amusing heavy metal leads. Exhumed started to take on a more melodic quality on that third album which they've maintained, and it simply adds so much more variety then had they just kept channeling Symphonies of Sickness or Necroticism. They never quite go full on heavy metal or rock & roll like their inspirations did as the 90s wore on, but keep the progressions punchy and intricate, with lots of flash and flair, as in cuts like "Defenders of the Grave" and "Dead End", busy and kinetic enough to mask the fact that you've probably heard most of these riffs before, and not afraid to splay you out with the meatsaw blasting when it fits.

The mix is clean and balanced, maybe a little too dry or polished in places, but to make up for that it delivers clarity between the rhythms, leads, percussion, snarls and gutturals, even the bass as it pops and plunks and thunders along, often using a lot of simpler, sustained notes under the kinetic guitars to give the sound a nice roundedness. The leads here are every bit as precise and competent as on a Surgical Steel or At the Gates' At War With Reality; a component of the band that has become so important in that it precludes them just endlessly aping their first two albums, which were much more unhinged in that department. The blasting is furious enough to balance off against the headbanging mid-speeds and breakdowns. What's more, there are lots of subtle little nods here to thrash and death metal icons of past and present, specifically a few evil Slayer-like progressions or moments where you feel like you've been submerged in some long lost Death track from the late 80s. Lots of details for something that is essentially as straightforward as past outings.

Furthermore, this is just aesthetically satisfying, with an orchestrated, cinematic piano/synth/string intro well worthy of horror classics in the 70s and 80s, reaching a huge crescendo before the bands kicks up the grave dirt and twists your head off in its zombified arms. The artwork choice is really fucking awesome, a folded up poster look from some cult US or Italian cinema which is more than likely gonna involve mobile corpses or some psycho you're not going to want (or get) a second date with. The lyrics are genuinely excellent, with a lot of effort put into them and a lot more elaborate prose than your typical gore mavens, a really cool grave robbing theme and narrative set in early 19th century Scotland! All the pieces are in place here, perhaps not for a true classic of the decade, or even a year's end contender, but just an extremely competent, seasoned record that seems rather timeless in its appeal despite the fact that it doesn't have all the best riffs and vocals exactly where you'd want to shove them. I even kind dug the cover of Exodus "A Lesson in Violence", if only because it was cool to hear them try some blasting and Schuldiner-like growls in it, instead of copying it straight up.

Just a great album for applying your Halloween prosthetics, or kicking back some drinks while you wait for your buds to show up for a slasher marathon. Easily recommended to fans of Impaled, early 90s Carcass, Ghoul, Ex Dementia or the last three records by this very band, Death Revenge proves yet again that Exhumed is one of our very best, dependable American death metal acts, where so many of its peers and precursors flicker, falter and occasionally fuck right off.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com