by Ryan Meehan
“Necrocracy”, the long-awaited new studio offering from West Coast ministers of blood, gore and audio disease, Exhumed, is now available in fine record stores all across North America. Recorded at Arcane Digital Recording in Chandler, Arizona with Ryan Butler (Misery Index, Landmine Marathon, Phobia), with drums tracked at Trench Studios in Corona, California with John Haddad (Hirax, Abysmal Dawn, Intronaut), Necrocracy is inarguably Exhumed’s most musically adroit, sonically punishing and lyrically thought-provoking recording of their winding, blood-soaked career. Comments guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey of their latest batch of repugnant requiems: “Seeing as how we recorded Necrocracy back in September and October of last year, a profound sense of relief is our initial reaction to the release of our fifth album, which, when pronounced correctly, will make the speaker feel like the roof of their mouth is covered in delicious peanut butter. We’re super psyched on the heavy vibes and unhealthy aromas this record exudes and we hope all you filthy animals out there will feel the same. It’s the hookiest, meatiest Exhumed record yet, as far as we can tell.” Matt Harvey has been the chief songwriter in Exhumed throughout their gore-soaked existence, and we are honored to have him as our guest today in 5 questions.
RM: Out of all of the records you heard growing up, which ones did you feel sounded more evil than all of the others? Which cuts off those made you really want to compose and perform death metal during the early years?
MH: Hmmm…Most evil…it’s a little bit of a tricky question I guess because to me most death metal doesn’t sound evil…Even as a kid, I thought it sounded…”funny” isn’t really the right word, but it was so extreme it was almost kind of cartoonish. The first time I heard “Slowly We Rot”, I wasn’t scared – I fell over laughing because the vocals were so over the top. In terms of stuff that really sounded evil…“Hell Awaits” by Slayer I think is the first one that sticks out in my mind. I remember hearing that when I was a kid. I remember going to a record store with a buddy of mine and he bought “Appetite for Destruction” and I bought “Hell Awaits” in 1988 and we were like twelve years old and had a slumber party or whatever. And then I remember listening to “Appetite” and then saying “I’m not really into this, dude…” and I remember playing “Hell Awaits” and then he said “Oh, I’m not really into this, dude…” I remember leaving his house the next morning and going home to mow the lawn or whatever the fuck I was doing and I kind of knew that day that we weren’t going to hang out anymore. It was kind of like: “Alright, I’m into Slayer…I’m evil…Fuck you!!!” That record really made a huge impression on me. I thought that “Severed Survival” was really gross sounding. Some of the really draggy riffs sound like you’re being pulled into the grime…like you’re sort of drowning into the darkness, although it sounds corny. That record I think was really one of the ones that I learned all of the riffs to…Just some of the single note progression just sounded so fucking dark and really horrific…As opposed to the more energetic stuff like Morbid Angel or Terrorizer, but the Autopsy I was like “Wow…this is fucking pretty nasty” Most of the stuff that I was into I was impressed by the intensity more than the evilness: Maybe, Seven Churches I thought sounded really evil because the riffing is just dark – The whole thing is kind of falling apart the whole time…I really enjoyed that vibe and to me that sounds kind of dangerous and menacing rather than stuff that’s really precise. It’s not necessarily about a certain set of tones or whatever that was evil, but Seven Churches (By The Possessed) just seemed like a bomb going off and the band was just sort of like a train that was about to derail. Jeff’s voice is just really intense it’s kind of like between Chuck Schuldinger of Death and John Tardy of Obituary (but obviously before either of them them) who I have to assume is the primary influence on both of their voices – I think that’s a really great record. Also “Under the Skin of a Black Mark” by Bathory. I thought was really evil sounding with that sort of cave reverb on the vocals. I remember even when I was into like Kreator and Sodom I got that tape and I put it on and I was like “I don’t know about this one, this is pretty fucked up! I’m cool with “Pleasure to Kill”, but damn, this is really fucking frightening.” As far as the evilness, I guess we always came from a place of being more energetic. Our progressions aren’t particularly cheerful or whatever they are very dark compared to most music, we never really set out to sound super evil we always set out to sound heavy and intense more than anything. All of those records made a big impression on me when I was from 12 to 15 years old.
RM: At what time did Constipated Gut and Exhumed become the same band? Do you feel as though you always knew in the back of your mind that you were headed somewhere heavier?
MH: Yeah, well you know the thing is when we first started Exhumed it was actually the less heavy thing and we had two guys: a guitar player named Rocky; and a bass player named Peter (this was like early 1990) and they were still very much in the corner…”Punishment for Decadence” type of thing, maybe “Spiritual Healing” and that stuff, and then Col (our original drummer) and Jake (our original vocalist) were more headed towards Napalm Death and stuff like that. We were trying to push the band towards do something heavier and we were sort of hamstrung by those guys because they were like “Well, I don’t want to tune down that low” and stuff like that. Then we just started doing the Constipated Gut thing as sort of an impromptu jam that we would do when those guys were not around, and we realized that we liked that stuff just as much if not more than the stuff we were doing in Exhumed. We showed it to the guys, and they kind of had to admit “Wow, this is definitely better” so that led to them quitting the band so by October 1990 when we went to see Carcass, Death, and Pestilence we just decided that Exhumed was obviously designed to be the more serious band, so we had just decided to do what we had been doing in Constipated Gut with Exhumed – Drop the tuning lower, and just start focusing on being faster and more extreme. Especially because of that show, Carcass and Pestilence were just so much more aggressive than Death was. So it was like “OK, there’s no reason to hold back anymore and just go as full-throttle as possible” especially in the Bay Area because nobody was doing that bash and crash, blast beat type band…Not saying we were the first but we were one of the first of that generation – There wasn’t a lot of groundwork there, we were kind of fumbling, but we were just ready to go for the throat and going full on.
RM: How do you think “Necrocracy” has been received so far by the fans? What is the overall theme of the album from both a lyrical and musical standpoint?
MH: As far as the reception by the fans, the kids seem to be pretty on board. I think back in the day especially Col and myself (back when he was still in the band) we were really overly obsessed with a set of parameters that we would have had as kids. I remember when “Human” by Death came out – I refused to listen to it because they changed the logo. We were really adamantly closed minded about death metal – we were total purists. I think kids nowadays (especially with all of the proliferation of subgenres) are probably a lot more open minded than we were growing up – we were total dicks. If you were into Slayer and stuff – we were just like “Pshhh…we’re into Terrorizer, Slayer’s not fast…” it was like a really hardline fundamentalist level of fanaticism that we had as kids which has thankfully long since subsided. But I think that with this one if they’ve thought that something was missing from our other records maybe they’ll find it on this one. If not, we don’t really concern ourselves with it too much – We try to respect what the band’s about and not make drastic changes and shit but at the same time we still try to grow…Lyrically it goes back to the whole gore metaphor thing…Mostly this album is sort of centered around political themes. “Anatomy is Destiny” was kind of set around extastentialist stuff, but this album I was kind of writing the lyrics right around the election. I had the title before I had anything…I had it shortly after we recorded “All Guts No Glory” and I thought “Hey this is really good” so I just kind of chucked it around, and the whole theme of the album kind of took off from there. Not every song is about politics, but a lot of the stuff is…There’s stuff about corporations and consumerism and the state of politics and where we’re headed, but it is still all filtered through the death metal and the gore thing because I definitely think that’s where we’re headed. Musically, it’s still Exhumed…it’s definitely the kind of riffs that we’ve always written, just slowed down a bit. The last record was kind of fast all of the way through, and I felt like it got a little monotonous because of that. This one I think has a little bit more variety between songs because it was written in between tours here and there whereas the last one was written in one several months period – Like just four or five months of straight writing. This one was “write a couple of bits here, then come back to them a month later”. It’s still very much an Exhumed album, it’s not a bunch of tender love ballads – it’s still a total death metal record as usual.
RM: The drums for this record were tracked up in Corona, California, while the rest of the recorded was completed with Ryan Butler at Arcane studios in Chandler, Arizona. Was it nice to have a little bit of a change in scenery there to kind of split up the production? Did anything go wrong because of the way the production of that record was set up?
MH: Our philosophy is that John Haddad is a drummer, so he’s going to kind of know …I mean Ryan gets good drums sound as well … but I think John has a really quick instinct for this kind of stuff…He also catches things being a drummer that me being a drummer wouldn’t catch. He used to play in Phobia back in the day and he also did “Dead America” and a couple of other things so he’s very familiar with this kind of music and we were able to bounce ideas off of him quickly, in fact one of the beats in “Carion Call” he kept saying “You know, I was listened to the record and I just kept hearing this kind of Mick Harris or Pete Townshend kind of beat to it and we’re like “Fuck, that would actually sound really cool, let’s try it” and that’s just the kind of thing that you get from tracking with a drummer. Drummers hear more shit in drums than guitar players do. It’s just the way it is.
Conversely, Ryan is a guitar player and he has just stacks of gear, tons of great amps to choose from. He really gets the kind of tones that we like and people ask me about our tone and I’m just like “Fuck, I wish Ryan was here he could probably explain it better than I could!” And again, a guitar is going to catch more guitar stuff and have more than a drummer so it went really well. They’re the same studios that we used for “All Guts, No Glory” (2011) We didn’t run into any real problems but the only thing that was kind of hectic was that in the middle of recording (and we knew this going into it) we went to Japan with Cannibal Corpse for three shows. So there was a few days where you’d be in the studio for eight or nine hours, then we would load up the stuff we needed, and then drive across town and then we’d go to rehearse for another hour and half to two hours, so it was just a really long fucking day…like “Jesus Christ I can’t believe that I’m still playing guitar – I JUST WANT TO GO HOME AND SLEEP” But it was totally worth it because it was a great fucking time in Japan and an awesome place to go and a great place to play. We luckily had a little bit more time in the studio than we had ever taken before, so I think a lot of the ideas on the record that were sort of underdeveloped in the rehearsal room kind of evolved in the studio, so you’re getting a lot of spontaneous and fresh stuff on the record that’s not stale and been done before – we weren’t in a room for six months playing the songs over and over. We worked on the material here and there, but basically we had two weeks to knuckle down and have learned the shit and then get in the studio and record it, so there’s a lot of spontaneous drum fills and spontaneous lead breaks, changes that were made as we were recording – that kind of stuff. I think it’s cool because it keeps it pretty fresh. Even as I go back and listen to the record I catch myself going “Oh fuck, I forgot we came up with that, that’s awesome…a way better idea than we had originally” so it was a very cool experience.
RM: I thought it was interesting you had mentioned previously that you favor a traditional pop style format of song construction – Based on what you see within the industry, do you think that there are more bands currently doing that than most metal fans might expect?
MH: I think there have always been more people doing that than what the perception is. I mean really, you have Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, The End – that’s a pop structure. Whether the verse has blast beats or whether it has black metal croaking or whatever the fuck it is, the song’s set up that way. If you listen to “Master of Puppets” it still goes Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, The End. If you listen to Blizzard of Oz”, that’s how it goes. If you listen to Dio or Black Sabbath, that’s how a lot of those songs go. It’s something that’s always been around, and it’s around because it works.
There’s so much Throughcomposed death metal, That’s what I hear more of – I’m around death metal stuff and a lot of it is throughcomposed and really linear with very little repetition, which I personally don’t understand, I just don’t know why you would do that…I mean that’s cool, that’s what people are into if that’s what they want to create. It just seems a little gratuitous because the music is already challenging and comparatively complex – I mean, even our stuff is pretty complex compared to like Buckcherry or whatever, and we’re not really even a tech band. So the music is already abrasive and over the top and complex, it just seems to muddy the waters even further when you’re adding these sort of serpentine arrangements that end up being sort of a marathon. To me that’s just the way I think – I’m into repetition and catchiness, whether it’s a country song or whether it’s a death metal song, I like songs with good hooks and good melodies that stick in your head and we try to marry that with the heaviness that the band has always had. I hope that more people adopt it because that it because it’s just more fun to listen to that kind of music. (I think) At least for me. But then again, I’m in my late thirties so what the fuck do I know about what kids like? I have no idea…
RM: The reason why I ask is that there are so many death metal songs that have a pop song structure…I think fucking “Serpents of the Light” by Deicide is a fucking great pop song…
MH: “Serpents of the Light” is a fucking perfect example of a super catchy song that is just right in that pop formula…and I kind of lost track of that band after Legion, and when we toured with them back in 2001 I started kind of paying attention to them again…and I was like “Fuck man, this is a good fucking song…It’s just a catchy ass song…” Yeah, that’s a great example…There’s a reason why people enjoy those songs…We try not to over think things…
RM: How much does the technical aspect of your guitar playing factor into the final product that is Exhumed? When people look back on what you’ve done as a band 50 years from now, would you rather someone remember you as a great technical player or a great grind/death player?
MH: I would rather just be remembered as a good songwriter honestly…that’s what I’m really focused on. Obviously technique is sort of the tool that you use to achieve that…But I never want to fall into the trap of seeing technique as an end in and of itself. I think that’s sort of like looking at a drawing and judging it by good it is how many lines are in it or whatever…It’s like hearing a song that’s difficult to play – it doesn’t make it a great song. So many songs are objectively good – “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd is something that I guarantee there’s probably kids smoking weed and listening to that song right now…my Dad loves that song…I love that song…and that song is fuckin’ simple as shit…It says something to people because it’s simple in part and that’s why. As far as being remembered, hopefully people just think “Oh, this band was pretty good”…I mean, that’s the best we can hope for…It’s still death metal, I don’t know. I’m honestly surprised that after twenty years that I got into it that it’s still a thing…And that there are still so many bands playing and that there is so much interest in our band is crazy to me. We DO try to play as well as we can…We do give a shit – it’s not like the old days where we didn’t give a shit about anything except for buying Venom records. We try to stay in tune, stay on time, and try to coordinate things and we have enough grasp of theory so that it’s very easy. Bud and I are pretty traditional rock guitar players – We talk about things in terms of scales and in terms of modulation and other musical terms…So it’s definitely a very useful tool to have and it makes everything else go so much faster when the technical aspect of everything else go so much faster is locked down so it’s like “I have this idea and ‘Look, I did it’” instead of “Look, I have this idea – I’m going to struggle with it and fight it until I can get it under control.” So that it sounds good.
RM: What’s up next for Exhumed in the remainder of 2013 and the beginning of 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
MH: We’re going back to Europe at the end of the month for a festival in Denmark, and then when we come back at the end of September we have a couple of shows with Carcass in Los Angeles. Then we start a full US Tour with Dying Fetus. And from there we’re already looking at some other stuff in Russia and Eastern Europe. We also have some American dates coming up in December with Iron Reagan – we have a split with them coming out. I’m also recording some other stuff but it’s not been announced yet, so I’m just going to wait so the powers that be don’t get mad at me. We have some more cool stuff in the works as far as a new album –we’re still a long ways away from thinking about that, but we have some cool other stuff coming out that we’re pretty excited about…Just staying busy man, we’re just kind of a working class rock band – we play all of the time, that’s our lifestyle and that’s our job, so we just try to stay busy and just keep working.
Official Website: http://www.gorefuckingmetal.blogspot.ca/
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