Exhumed cement their reputation as kings of the Horror business with their new full length. And they've returned to the bloody basics, with a grindcore sense of urgency. Horror slices straight to the bone with the surgical precision of a buzzsaw.
This album is a whirl of chugging death metal riffs and cacophonous percussion. Despite the outrageous lengths of musical depravity Exhumed explores with each album, their latest maintains a succulent simplicity. This isn't noise for the sake of harshness. Nor is it guitar shredder salad, a trap many extreme metal acts fall into. Horror is crammed with (meat) hooks sharpened to pierce one's synapses for maximum riff saturation. The tracks will linger in one's mind for days after the first listen, like the stench of something horrible rotting beneath the floorboards.
Horror's 15 tracks clock in at about the time it takes to watch a Seinfeld episode. The magnum opus of this record, "Red Death," is just shy of three minutes. Most of the songs are two minutes or less. The album's brisk speed bears a ghastly resemblance to early Napalm Death and Carcass, along with Mortician's blood-soaked brutality.
"Unsound" immediately rips open the album with a volley of blast beats, complimented by Matt Harvey's deranged, but intelligible screams. This number tells the story of a morgue worker who enjoys his job a bit too much, the same twisted humor that makes Autopsy so fun to indulge in. "Ripping Death" is a ripper, indeed, with an infectiously catchy gang vocal chorus that made me want to scream along. "Slaughter Maniac" reeks of a strong similarity to Napalm Death, with its structure reminiscent of their classic grindcore anthem "Instinct Of Survival."
"Playing With Fear" is another standout track, which covers all the high marks of eighties death metal in a little over two minutes. It begins with a fat, mid-paced mosh pit riff, evocative of Kreator's "Riot Of Violence," and gives way to an evil, tremolo-picking passage along the lines of Leprosy-era Death. The guitar chops are of the tight and technical variety, akin to Terrorizer, and they wisely transition into a screeching solo amid the carnage. Respect to Harvey for melding so many styles in a way that never seems bloated.
"Naked, Screaming and Covered In Blood" kicks off with a throwback to "Johnny B. Goode." It's a hilarious pairing, to hear down-tuned, chainsaw guitars churn out a classic rock n roll lick. Frontman Matt Harvey's rock sensibilities are the perfect counterbalance to his encyclopedic knowledge of extreme music. No matter how vicious their auditory assault, Exhumed know how to make it catchy and fun as hell.
Vocally, Harvey's mid-range shrieks are often supported by Ross Sewage's animalistic grunting. This gruesome twosome trade-off in their lyrical lacerations, once again channeling classic Carcass.
The only criticism of Horror is that it's a bit derivative of its grindcore and death metal forefathers. It's difficult to describe this album without mentioning all the great records it conjures fond memories of. But, that might be exactly as Exhumed intended. After all, this record commits to the horror movie theme. Its song titles read like they've been pieced together from the tag lines of a scary movie collection, particularly the low-budget, VHS kind. So it makes sense for Exhumed's musical mayhem to unfold like a highlight reel of the death metal genre.
Overall, Exhumed's latest is an energizing affair. It never overplays its hand or grows too ambitious for its own good. Horror justly pays homage to the death metal pioneers of yesteryear. It has the youthful frenzy to appeal to the new school of grind freaks, and also, the accessibility to win over casual metal listeners who might not be ready for Portal. This is horror, plain and simple.