Thursday, October 19, 2023

Exhumed - To the Dead (2022)

Even after what must be my least favorite of their studio albums in 2019's still-decent Horror, I had little concern that Exhumed was a band to ever let me down, and with their follow-up, To the Dead, they haven't. Where the last record fully shot for a less evocative, but more intense roots goregrind experience, this outing heads back in the other direction, with an album-length a full third longer than its predecessor. There are still loads of grinding, blasting riffs here, but that horror death/thrash which defines so many of my favorites in their catalogue (Slaughtercult and  Anatomy is Destiny) continues to dominate, and in fact To the Dead sounds as if were a sequel to 2017's excellent Death Revenge, only tempered with more of the speed and savagery that oldschool fans who probably LOVED Horror would have asked for.

The result is one of their most dynamic full-lengths, catapulting from one of the spectrum to the other, and kicking ass for much of its duration. If you like the clinical, thrash punch of Carcass records like Necroticism or Heartwork, this one has you covered with a bevy of catchy little licks, and not to mention the surgical solos are some of the best Exhumed has ever spewed forth. But the influences are pretty wide, for instance "Drained of Color" has a battering mid-paced riff reminiscent of peak Bolt Thrower, and some of the richer, blasting passages give even the most intense Napalm Death a run for its money. Bringing the full breadth of the rasped and guttural vocal interchange to play, the album is never remotely dull, and I even think the latter seems to have an added depth to it which reminds me of some of the montrous timbre of a Symphonies of Sickness, only more accessible all around due to the seasoned songwriting chops of Matt Harvey and company. The bass has a tone to it which pops along almost like late 80s Overkill, and the drumming flexes effortlessly between the component styles.

I do feel that the mix on To the Dead is a little overly suppressed, or processed, possibly due to the guitar tones, but it's neither a deal-breaker nor does it muddy up the instrumentation to the point where I can't still enjoy it. It's the songwriting that wins out this time, and while it's probably not going to crack my top 3 records from this band, it's just another sign of the stable execution and evergreen fun factor that Exhumed carry with them like a sword and mask and chainsaw. The Marc Schoenbach cover is appropriately gnarly and gruesome, the lyrics bounce between sinister and gory, all written to the level that the music deserves. There are NO bad Exhumed albums, they are one of our most concussive and consistent American death metal bands to not only pay homage to their own heroes but to occasionally innovate upon them, and here's another reason why you should climb aboard this midnight meat metal train if for some reason you're still diddling yourself on the platform.

Verdict: Win [8/10]

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