Exhumed – More Gore

Wednesday, 18th February 2015

California death/grinders Exhumed released their seminal (and initial) offering, Gore Metal, back in 1998. Remembering the album’s initial release, it worked as a fun and lively piece of death metal that owed some of its pizazz to bands like mid-period Carcass. However, vocalist/guitarist Matt Harvey has always been on the record about some disappointment with its release. So what better way to celebrate the album’s 17th anniversary than to go ahead and re-record it for all to hear?

“We originally recorded it in January of 2013 and we were thinking that it would be the 15 year anniversary,” states Harvey. “Then Necrocracy got pushed back, so we thought it would be a ‘sweet sixteen’ in 2014, and then Relapse said that they wanted to do it as part of their 25th anniversary. It was kind of just the fact that we have been touring really solidly and the band sounded really cohesive, and we all felt that we could play those songs so much better. With Necrocracy we finished the Relapse contract, and we wanted to do something fun that we didn’t have to think about much before the next album and getting serious again. Timing-wise it really wasn’t really what we had in mind, but like I said, I never thought it was a good album, I thought it could have been a good album but I haven’t cared for it.”

Harvey points to the production as one of the album’s biggest flaws, with the album ending up being largely a compromise with no one happy. With Gore Metal Redux having a much more savvy production, Harvey feels the record is finally getting the sound it deserves. “The new at least fixes the riffs,” he notes. “I’m much happier with the new one, I think a few of the songs are a little bit goofy, but that’s okay. I’m a lot happier with it; even if a lot of our fans hate it, because they love the [original] album, they’ll get to hear a lot of those songs from the first album on this tour that they haven’t heard in a long time. And I’ll have a copy of the album that I can stand, so to me it’s a win.”

All too often nowadays, the inevitable re-issue mania has become something to the point where they are seen as a cash grab. Toss on a few bonus tracks (usually of the live variety), maybe write a new paragraph of liner notes, press and release. Not so with Gore Metal. Not only is the original album packages alongside the re-recorded version, but the band even took the time to bring in former member Ross Sewage into the studio to lay down his vocal tracks. “It wouldn’t sound like Gore Metal without Ross’ vocals, and I’m very thankful to him for taking part in it. To me, I would be disappointed in it if it didn’t have him,” says Harvey.

After the more high-concept approach to the band’s previous album, Necrocracy, Gore Metal comes across as a bit rawer and more “loose” in terms of performance. There’s definitely some fun to be had as one listens to it. Harvey explains, “You end up doing some unintentional self-reflection as you are revisiting all this old stuff. You look at something and say, ‘Oh, this is why we did that, that’s kind of fun.’” While there are some distinct changes as you switch from Necrocracy to Gore Metal, there’s never a moment where you think that the band has abandoned their roots over the years. “I think we are definitely way better songwriters, hopefully we are a bit more interesting and varied. I don’t think we are quite as naïve. I definitely think that we have come a decently long way, but not so that it’s unrecognizable.”

Of course, change does occur over time, and one of the more pivotal moments in the history of the band was its hiatus back in the mid-90s. The break provided some perspective for Harvey at the time. “Yeah, in a lot of ways. It was some perspective for me; it wasn’t like I figured out my [whole] life or anything though. I kind of figured out what [about the band] was important to me,” responds Harvey. “When we started the band, we were young and I always wanted it to be the same. That didn’t really allow the band to move on, once our original drummer [Col Jones] left. So we kind of limped on for a few tours, and we never really had any chemistry that gelled.”

“The most important thing for me, playing in a band, is chemistry between the guys. That chemistry is what makes that “itch;” you can see a band, even if you aren’t into them, you can hear the music and say, ‘they’re onto something.’” That comes from the guys from the band. It’s not coming from the vocals or the right equipment, it comes from a band that plays together. A band that plays together and generally likes/enjoys playing with each other. That’s really what we wanted to achieve once we got back together. It’s not the same thing it was when we were kids, and it shouldn’t be. Breaking up allowed me to let go of that perspective. “

If you were to peruse the Exhumed page at Metal Archives, no doubt you will see plenty of splits that the band has been involved with over the years. “In the late ‘90s, there wasn’t really a lot as far as death metal record labels or the death metal scene. So we played a lot with the power-violence bands,” adds Harvey. We hung out in that scene a bit. We found some allies in the scene, and that’s what was done in that scene – you put out splits/7”s. So that’s what we did because we were vaguely associated with that scene. Also, for me, as a record collector, I like to have that one rare thing by the band. I don’t even have all of our splits! Some were lost through the years through girlfriends or whatever. But I love the collectable aspect of it. I also like that it’s more about the scene, rather than just your band. It’s a little more representative of a whole scene, than your own statement.

When asked of what draws him to death metal, Harvey states, “to me, when I was getting into it in ‘89/’90, what I really liked about it was that it felt like it was happening right then. Whereas thrash metal had already happened years ago. There was kind of a mystique to it, and the energy and intensity, it’s undeniable. I enjoy the energy. Also, death metal is not as tied to any one ideology or whatever. It’s proven itself to be really diverse. There are so many permutations since I started listening to it.”

As for the band’s future plans, a new full-length seems like it should be in the works. But first, the band is currently playing alongside Napalm Death and Voivod on their trek across North America. “As soon as I heard about the bill, I said, ‘yeah of course we want to do it,’” Harvey notes. But as for that forthcoming album, “We are going to get into the studio in the summertime,” concludes Harvey. “It’s been a while since the last record and I’m tired of playing those songs live, so that’s usually how I know it’s time to record.”

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