After a lengthy hiatus and re-shuffling of personnel, San Jose, CA-based death metal unit Exhumed returned to the battlefield in 2010, and followed shortly after with the studio album All Guts, No Glory – reasserting their position in the field of gore metal, a death/grind subgenre they helped revive in the late '90s (Gore Metal is also the title of their 1998 debut album) and seizing death metal back from the more melodic tendencies that had begun to infuse the genre during that period. Frontman/guitarist Matt Harvey, the band's sole remaining founder, vowed to return to the stripped-down brutality of UK legends Carcass (whose new album arrives next month, I might add) at their simplest and most vicious... and that philosophy, as well as that record, was well-received, paving the way for their fifth full-length act of savagery, which bears a title you probably can't say three times fast.
While their signature sound has been tweaked a few times over the years (no doubt the result of a revolving-door lineup since the late '90s), Exhumed partly returned to their origins with All Guts, while still giving a nod to death metal's latter-day melodic tendencies. They continue in much the same vein on Necrocracy: lumbering, grinding riffs with solid hooks, switching up and back from steadfast chugs set against mid-tempo rhythms (with Michael Hamilton now manning the drumkit) to sudden, frightening blastbeat outbursts, and lyrical themes of graphic horror delivered in Harvey's tormented demonic wail, countered by the standard death metal roars of bassist Rob Babcock and guitarist Bud Burke – who also shreds mightily, with some impressive moments in the spotlight. This familiar stamp comes down hard in the opening cut “Coins Upon The Eyes,” kicking off the album at the peak of brutality (also a wise choice for the first single and music video, which you can watch below), and manages to pack an album's worth of blastbeats into four minutes. Thankfully, the album isn't entirely front-loaded with their heaviest material, as there are some blistering old-school entries to be found throughout the record – particularly “The Rotting,” “Sickened” and “The Shape of Deaths to Come,” another winner which features neck-cracking rhythm changes and some of Harvey's most terrifying vocals.
Some signs of the band's later ventures into thrash and groove – an aspect they downplayed a bit in All Guts, No Glory – surface again in Necrocracy, particularly in cuts like the title track and “Ravening,” the latter sporting some truly impressive solo playing from Burke. Some of the melodic elements and straightforward verse/chorus structures which the band brought to the table in albums like Anatomy is Destiny (and only sporadically in All Guts) return here, as demonstrated in “Dysmorphic,” which shifts into an eerie acoustic break, the swift and intense “Carrion Call” and the anthemic “(So Passes) The Glory of Death.” But the band manages to integrate these more conventional styles into their own violent dynamic, so for the most part none of the horrific energy is lost – and those hooks carry some serious dramatic weight.
Necrocacy finds Exhumed progressing down the same stylistic path they essentially began anew in their previous record, and much like that release they've found an effective balance between the no-bullshit brutality of early-'90s death metal and more modern, melodic and groove-based elements, keeping their sound relevant while still satisfying the bloodlust of true gore-grind devotees. All you need to know about their new battle plan can be found in “Coins Upon The Eyes,” the album's best and most savage track. We've got the video for that one right here, so press play and take a dive!