EXHUMED – Gore Metallers Tackle Concept Album With Death Revenge
October 22, 2017, a year ago
For their sixth album, long-running California death metal/gore grinders Exhumed took a different approach: instead of laying down a dozen admirable but individual songs, they wrote a concept album. Yup, gore-grind's Operation: Mindcrime has arrived, in the form of the incredibly rulin' Death Revenge, an album that takes the band's standard Carcass-loving sound, adds in new elements, and wraps it all up in an elaborate, based-on-true-events concept.
“I was just doing research, working on lyrics, because we’ve always tried to keep our lyrics somewhat factual-based and not supernatural or whatever,” says guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey. “So I was just poking around reading about different things and I stumbled upon the Burke and Hare murders. I read the Wikipedia entry and I thought to myself, wow, this is something that really incorporates a lot of things we’ve always sung about. The more I learned about the underground trade in grave robbery, and the advancements in the science of anatomy, and the murders, it just seemed like it was kind of already an Exhumed story (laughs).”
Harvey says that he didn't really feel the pressure that could go along with having to write a concept album because the band had lots of time to work on the record. He says there was no pressure and it just unfolded at its own pace.
“If someone was like, 'I need a historical concept album with film-score elements in nine months,' then I’d be like, 'Oh, shit.' But we were able to write the material and refine the concept over quite a while. We were done writing the record in January of 2016 and didn’t get in the studio until April 2017, so that’s a lot of time to make last-minute adjustments. So we were fortunate. But it definitely was a lot more involved than our normal process where we get 12 songs that we feel are good songs and try to put them in an order that make sense for the listener and then out you go (laughs).”
Something else a lot more involved than the band's normal process is the stunning seven-and-a-half-minute instrumental “The Anatomy Act Of 1832”, a song that has more in common with classic thrash metal instrumentals than it does any sort of modern death or grind song.
“Even before we had the concept, I felt like doing a big epic instrumental would be a cool idea because it’s something that we haven’t done before and you don’t really hear a lot in death metal,” says Harvey. “My mindset working on a record is always, well, if Metallica or Maiden do it, then it’s a good thing to do. We wanted to try our hand at doing something like that; all of our songs are pretty economical in terms of pop structuring, which is a dirty word, but that’s how we write our songs. I thought it would be cool to do something that was more like a jam. That’s what I like about 'The Call of Ktulu' or 'Orion'. It just feels like a really, really fucking good jam. I thought it would be a nice contrast. I had this title when I was working on the concept, and I thought it was a really good title but I didn’t know what to write about, and then I was like, ‘Oh, wait, we have this instrumental song. Perfect. Done.’(laughs)”
The album is rounded out with interlude film-score-ish pieces created with the help of Matt Widener (of Cretin and the County Medical Examiners, among others, including, yes, a stint in Exhumed), of whom Harvey says, “He’s the one person that I know if I was to say, ‘This guy’s a fucking genius,’ it would actually be him. Add in returning bassist Ross Sewage of Impaled and Ghoul (“It was perfect timing because Ross is such a good craftsman and he has such a good sense of story and everything else from doing several concept albums. He was a really invaluable sounding board for all of the stuff we were already working on.”) and you've got an album that, as Harvey explains, is more of an experience than your average Exhumed record.
“Obviously it’s in my best interest for people to buy the records, but I would really encourage people that are interested in the album to, yeah, go ahead and stream it, but it’s really worth investing in the physical copy,” he says. “There are illustrations for each song, there are copious notes from various historical documents, things that were printed at the time about the case and that authors at the time said about the case, and scholars later said. You can read the lyrics and it’s literally dialogue between characters. The record is designed for you to sit down, put it on, and read along with the whole thing and get into the story. Yes, you should be headbanging and drinking beer as well (laughs), but there’s an immersive element that we’re trying to go for that you wouldn’t be able to get from just listening to it on Spotify or whatever.”