Released: 2013, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Until the long-awaited new album from the reincarnated Carcass arrives next month – and it is quite awesome – fans can get themselves primed with the latest effort from California's also recently reanimated Exhumed. Perhaps the most competent and clever of the gore-grind acts that followed in Carcass' wake, Exhumed returned after a five-year hiatus with 2010's stellar All Guts, No Glory, which ratcheted up the technical death metal prowess and eased up on the overt splatter-ama.
Despite some rather significant lineup changes, only guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey remains from the Guts roster, though former bassist Bud Burke returns this time on guitar and vocals, Necrocracy – the band's fifth album overall - is an excellent follow up that takes the changes in stride and plays to their strengths. And in its approach, Necrocracy, perhaps ironically, perhaps not, recalls Carcass' similarly titled 1991 masterpiece Necroticism, with grit and grace doled out in equal measure.
Groovier and gnarlier than Guts, Necrocracy is as catchy as it is brutal and as sophisticated – if that's the right word - as it is savage, thanks to the lockstep tag-team riffing and nifty soloing of Harvey and Burke, meat-grinding vocal tradeoffs of Harvey (the guttural) and bassist Rob Babcock (the shrieking), and the gut-wrenching rhythms of Babcock and Mike Hamilton. The beefier backbone gives Exhumed a swagger that actually makes them sound more menacing, even as the material is less obviously grotesque - “The Rotting” and “Dysmorphic” being about as “sick” as things get, and “Dysmorphic” ends up being tempered by a short acoustic foray.
The somewhat rough-hewn production here is a perfect fit as well, giving Necrocracy an abrasive old-school feel that delivers genuine crunch – and copious slabs of it – and avoids the clinical sterility that has become so common. Instead, “(So Passes) The Glory of Death,” the title track and “Carrion Call” come at you with hooks aplenty and grind away with determined glee. And if thing get a bit messy, so be it.
This is death metal the way it should be, but hardly is anymore: complex but still compact, well-played without being wanky, brutal without going to ridiculous extremes, and listenable, if not inviting, in spite of its inherent ghastliness. Necrocracy kills, plain and simple.