Exhumed: Gore Metal – A Necrospective (1998-2015)

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Exhumed: Gore Metal – A Necrospective (1998-2015)
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Exhumed: Gore Metal: A Necrospective (1998 - 2015)
Death Metal, Grindcore
Relapse Reocrds
February 10th, 2015
Release length: 40:46
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Within the surprising plethora of Metal re-recordings we find Gore Metal: A Necrospective (1998-2015) from San Jose, California’s Exhumed. Their story is pretty much cemented even within Pop culture, having taken the initial Goregrind concepts laid out on early Carcass albums and giving them a much more violent Death Metal presence that was unique at the time they broke through thanks to the support of Relapse Records’ handling of their debut full-length album, Gore Metal in 1998. Of course, prior to that, the band had unleashed eight different splits, not to mention six demos that pre-date it. After a number of wildly successful releases, Exhumed disbanded in 2005, only to reunite in 2010 and get right back to writing and recording new material, unleashing two brand new albums alongside some splits and singles. But, for 2015, the band took a step back and eyed up their debut outing once more. The end result is that very album re-recorded and re-tiitled Gore Metal: A Necrospective 1998-2015 through the very label that made it available on store shelves all those years. But is this new take a far better experience, or is it one that simply didn’t need to happen?

For a lot of people, hearing the classic Gore Metal album would be re-recorded at all was a bit of a slap in the face (especially to this particular reviewer). At first it seemed like the band was just following an alarming trend, or perhaps trying to outdo Impaled with their re-recorded debut album The Dead Shall Dead Remain. Of course, in their case (as I learned later on), it was a response to the owners of the album’s rights refusing to sell, preventing future re-issues. Here, however, it took a little digging to figure out exactly why it is Exhumed decided to go and redo what is one of the most important releases not only of their career, but also for the Death Metal and Goregrind styles in general. While it isn’t on par with the aforementioned reasoning, it’s an understandable one that still ends up respectable in an artistic stance, towering above the reasoning behind Exodus re-recording Bonded by Blood. The reasoning, as stated by vocalist and guitarist Matt Harvey, is as follows:

“I don’t think any of us were happy with how it turned out the first time around, so getting another shot at it meant a lot to me personally.”

So, while Gore Metal: A Necrospective (1998-2015) doesn’t hold a specific physical restriction such as rights being denied, it at least is not because it’s an anniversary or simply because a founding member has a fetish for making things sounding new and modern. If anything, it’s a recording that gives closure to members who have always had some regrets about the initial final product, thus opening the door to a much tighter version that far surpasses what we received years ago in many ways. It’s also great to see Ross Sewage return and handle vocals instead of those initially not involved with the debut album such as Joe Walker or Mike Beams. Of course, while that signature vocal range is present, this isn’t exactly a reunion of the line-up that went into the studio all those years ago. While not that detrimental in the end, it definitely would have been a nice touch had it been able to be accomplished.

But, with as many of the necessary pieces in place, as well as a personal reasoning established, how does this re-recorded effort stack up? Well, the biggest change right away happens to be the production quality. There’s still a fair amount of analog traits to be felt in the material, and it seems like the mastering tries to capture the feel of the original release. On top of that, the levels overall sound a lot better, allowing each instrument and vocalist to work together instead of against one another from time to time. The crisp output also allows for a better appreciation, even understanding of what the band was going for in each and every song.

Gore Metal – A Necrospective (1998-2015) really does sound fantastic and far more tighter overall, but the main casualty of taking material that survived all these years from more of a rougher, analog format to that of a crisp, rather digital technical standard is that the bite ends up diluted. Fans of Death Metal may be aware of this sort of thing thanks to how badly it impacted Suffocation‘s 2009 album Blood Oath. This is where the original Gore Metal recording excelled. While it had its flaws, the rawer presence made it sound a lot more hostile and intimidating, greatly excusing those very faults that probably inspired the desire to re-visit this effort and tackle it once more.

“Sepulchral Slaughter” is one of the more obvious tracks to ends up a bit on the dull side. While the energy is present, the mild presence from the guitars in the main verses, coupled with the mid-range hum of the bass, just doesn’t quite have the same impact. In fact, outside the solo, much of the stringed instruments kind of mesh together into one gelatinous aural blob of madness that only manages to really take form about two minutes in when the riffs tackle a groove-heavy change. “Limb From Limb” suffers a bit from this too, though some of the held notes and sudden simple changes help add a bit of variety before the chainsaw effects rev up about a minute and forty seconds in. The sound is a little sharper compared to the original, and the chanting much more dominant, all before jumping into a ferocious assault that sticks out at first, but slowly treads back into the aforementioned uninspiring tone once more to wrap things up.

Thankfully not all the songs here feel as held back as others due to how the audio still retains enough enthusiasm among the somewhat deeper tuning to keep the mild buzz of the guitars and dull roar of the bass guitar effective enough against the solid vocal and drum presence, as well as nicely executed and captured guitar solos. You’ll notice this right away on “Necromaniac” as it introduces this slightly dull and listless world through some fairly heavy material and infectious drumming. The music sounds just a little faster in comparison, which is thanks to how tight the performances are this time around. Aside being familiar with these compositions, it’s hard to sit back and not assume that a click track had been used in the studio, which is a welcome addition if it was. It’s also a superb reminder about how Exhumed really hasn’t deviated that far from their roots over the years, allowing for comparisons to recent tracks like “Coins upon the Eyes”, but not in a way that makes those later recordings come off as just recycled riffs or patterns.

Some of the richer, more punishing tracks have a little more edge to them as well. The dual gutturals and rasps executed together during “Open the Abscess”, as well as the faster pace, make this one a far more blunt offering. The slower hooks behind “Postmortem Procedures” create a truly depressing atmosphere most of the time, complimented with the additional vocal effect that makes the fading from one ear to the other and back again like a harsh presence lost in the wind. Finally there’s “In My Human Slaughter House”, which manages to pull in a deeper presence to the commanding grooves that line out the performance as well, surpassing the infectious level of the brutal Death Metal and Grindcore mixture that is actually far more engaging than some of the others mentioned.

While Exhumed have succeeded in fixing some of the more obvious glaring flaws, and a number of the more subtle ones you may have overlooked or ignored, all in an effort to make their debut sound more in line with Slaughtercult and the like, it in no way replaces the 1998 classic. Gore Metal, as a whole, was a new benchmark for American Death Metal, not to mention the start for coined styles like Splatter Thrash that would take shape later down the line. It’s great to hear the album as the band, or at least remaining members involved in that recording so many moons ago, had once intended it to be. Yet, sadly, this one does suffer from modern innovation diluting the hostility that made the initial release so memorable. Those who have spent more time with Gore Metal will find Gore Metal: A Necrospective (1998-2015) a nice update to close off that very chapter of the band’s career, probably for good this time. However, unlike newcomers who may only be familiar with material released post-reactivated in 2010 that will likely embrace this album more, veteran fans of Exhumed will find this new venture a nice recording to visit, but not one you’ll find yourself opting to stay with over the original.

01. Necromaniac – 2:46
02. Open the Abscess – 3:34
03. Postmortem Procedures – 3:41
04. Limb from Limb – 3:00
05. Enucleation – 4:15
06. Casket Crusher – 3:40
07. Death Mask – 2:51
08. In My Human Slaughter House – 2:09
09. Sepulchral Slaughter – 3:04
10. Vagitarian II – 3:56
11. Blazing Corpse – 2:03
12. Deadest of the Dead – 5:46
Initial Pressing Score: 6.5/10

Exhumed
Exhumed

Digital review copy of this release provided by Relapse Records
via Earsplit PR.