Today, GuitarWorld.com presents an exclusive track-by-track rundown of Exhumed's latest album, Necrocracy, courtesy vocalist/guitarist Matt Harvey.
Necrocracy was released August 2 via Relapse Records. For more about Exhumed, check out their Facebook page.
"Coins Upon The Eyes"
Lyrically, this song was kind of inspired by watching my grandparents approach death. In their working lives, they were middle-class or upper-middle-class people who owned property and lived a comfortable lifestyle, but as they have aged, crippling medical costs, stock losses and inflation have really reduced their situation.
Not that they're sleeping in the streets, but it's almost like they never really owned anything at all, they just sort of borrowed it from the banks for a few years, and now, just as they're watching their health deteriorate, they're watching their financial fitness do the same.
So it's about greed and a system that degrades the individual from every direction, governmentally, business-wise and medically. The coins metaphor, paying Charon to ferry you across the river Styx and the afterlife seemed pretty apt. This was a title I had sort of lying around since 2005, and I was working on a song of the same name back before the band split up. The lyrical concept is loosely the same as in the 2005 concept, but the music ended up being totally different.
Sonically, we felt this was the most directly “Exhumed” track on the album. It was pretty immediate and catchy, hence it being the lead-off song on the album. The verse and chorus and even the bridge are put together in a similar style as “Waxwork” from Anatomy Is Destiny in that all of the riffs are kind of based off one progression, and the parts vary in tempo and feel while revolving around a similar melody/chord progression.
The verse has a bit of a Demilich-type vibe (In fact, one of the concepts I had for the musical direction of the record initially was Demilich playing arena thrash), while the chorus and bridge are a lot more aggressive. The pre-chorus, of course, is completely different, hence the breaks each time it cycles through and the call-and-answer type vocals.
I've always felt it's good to start the album off (maybe after an intro) with one of the strongest songs that's direct and intense to set the tone (a la Battery, Fight Fire With Fire, Blackened, etc.), and I think we succeeded with that here. Also, the last two albums had pretty involved eponymous intros, so we wanted to just drop straight in and start hacking away this time.
"The Shape Of Deaths To Come"
People keep asking me about the title, so I'll start there: It's not specifically a Refused reference. I got it more from the '60s stuff, like “The Shape of Things to Come” by Max Frost & The Troopers or “Shapes of Things” by the Yardbirds, as well as all the albums from that time period like and all of that stuff (which, if I'm not mistaken, is where Refused got The Shape Of Punk to Come).
I saw it lyrically as using the idea of working at a casket factory being a metaphor about the grind of going to work in the corporate sphere. Your work is making money for the same corporations that poison the air, undercut your salary and create the chemicals that will eventually give you cancer and kill you. You're essentially digging your own grave with every paycheck. It's pretty much impossible to work for a large or mid-sized corporation without somehow working against your own self-interest, no matter how attractive that 401k plan may be.
With this one, I started putting it together toward the end of the writing sessions for All Guts... but never had time to develop it into a proper song. The verse riff was something I've had for years and just never really had a song to go around it, and the chorus riff I wrote in 2005 or something, for the follow-up to Anatomy that never materialized.
I filled in the pre-chorus with an old riff from high school that was actually inspired by the bridge part in “Cherry Orchards” by Celtic Frost (I know, I know, haha! I have a sense of humor, so sue me). I really liked the double hits in the outro of that song and wanted to do something similar (Dismember also had something similar on the Pieces EP. I forget which song).
The arrangement for all these bits finally came together after I did the Death To All dates last year, which inspired the riff section in the middle, which is kind of a Death/Autopsy thing where Mike gets to lay in a ton of killer fills. His drum patterns on the verse really bring it to life and make it way cooler than the “Death Metal version of 'Trial by Fire'” that I originally had in mind when writing it, haha!
Since this is the title track, I suppose it's appropriate that lyrically this song is kind of a quick overview of the American political climate. The whole concept with the title is the idea that America is essentially a nation by, of and for corporations — who are technically people, even though they don't breathe, shit, fuck, eat or sleep. So we're being ruled by “people” that aren't alive. It truly is a “Necrocracy."
I stumbled across the word reading Christopher Hitchens' book God Is Not Great, and I thought it was just too cool not to nick. And I was writing the whole album last year during the election cycle, so that really tied into it. It depicts the voters as a lifeless parade of zombies writing their ignorant beliefs in blood and turning the entire world as ethically lifeless as they are.
We truly live in a society where the un-living have power over the living and people want to give fetuses more rights than living people. It's insane. Our appetite for excess and our myopic patriotism/militarism are dragging the country to ever more dangerous places.
Musically, this song took the longest to put together. It was the first song I completely finished, and it took four or five demo versions to get something together that I was confident enough in to show the other guys. The opening riff is something really old. I think I was 16 when I wrote it, but the bass/drum intro was something Mike and Rob came up with in the jam room, which really makes the whole build-up of the song a lot more effective, I think.
The chorus riff was yet another thing I wrote toward the end of the All Guts session, and I just didn't have a strong song surrounding it yet at that point. Once I tacked on the first riff, things started to move pretty quickly. I think it took a bit longer to suss out how the song was going to work because it was the beginning of the writing cycle when I still trying to get into the “more groove” mindset that was kind of my mantra for the record.
Usually body dysmorphia is related to eating disorders — women who believe they're fat no matter how skinny they actually are. In this context, it's the superficial, totally disconnected mindset that so many people have. Wearing a T-shirt that says “Hottie” or “Badass” doesn't make you either. In fact, if you have to tell people that you're either of those things, you certainly can't be.
It extends to the way people view the US. They're in such willful denial of how fucked up our society and our government are that they're as delusional as a 96-pound adult female who thinks she's fat. Basically there is a prevailing belief in a kind of Marvel Comics version of world history where the US has always been the “good guys,” and that makes people feel good and sleep well at night — and anything that contradicts that perception is either rationalized, dismissed as unpatriotic/part of a conspiracy, or simply ignored altogether.
I came up with the first riff in the song, and for a while I didn't have anything to go with it at all. It was actually a bit of a stumper. I kept trying to push the song to become more “brutal” and work in some kind of tempo change, and nothing seemed to work. I just had this one riff I really liked. In the end, I stopped fighting it and just allowed the song to be mid-paced and groovy. The acoustic section in the middle was just kind of where I felt like the song was going.
I knew I needed something to contrast the rest of the song, but it was just so typical of us to throw a fast thing in there, I wanted to defy expectations a bit. I honestly expected people to really hate it, but people have seemed pretty stoked about it to be honest. Again, the clean part has kind of a “New Order”-era Testament vibe, as opposed to the rest of the song, which is like an Obituary/Carcass/traditional heavy metal kind of thing.
This one doesn't have anything to do with the overarching concept, it's about being stricken with the black plague, literally being sickened into the grave. After re-skimming my old AK Press books and reading the Atlantic and the Economist on a semi-regular basis for a few months, it was pretty fun to just relax and write a song about a guy who gets sores on his genitals and then his innards liquefy. It's the simple joys in life ...
I initially wrote a lot of this song when I went through one of my “Dekapitator should be more death metal” phases. When I listened back to it, it was clearly too death metal for Dekapitator, even in standard tuning. The first riff kind of harkens back to the days when I just wanted to rip off “Hell Awaits” all the time, and the trade-off vocal part goes way back to the goregrind days.
I was tempted to bring the pitch-shifter into play here, but I wanted to keep things at a place where they could be replicated live. I actually kind of thought this one was going to end up as a bonus track, but Rob immediately identified it as his favorite song on the record and since it's released, it's one of the tunes that seems to get mentioned in reviews and stuff, so he was on the right track. Ultimately I'm glad it was included on the record, it's probably the most aggressive track on the album, and looks to become a staple of the live set.
"(So Passes) The Glory of Death"
Another of my oh-so-punny titles here, this one plays of the Latin phrase “Sic transit gloria mundi” — so passes the glory of the world. Originally the title was “Sic Transit Gloria Mortem,” which is in the chorus, but when we got to the studio, the guys pointed out how pompous it sounded, and I agreed. I kept the lyric but changed the title to English, and I think it fits in with the rest of the titles much, much better this way. Thanks, dudes!
The lyrics essentially declaring the American experiment dead and unsuccessful, burying it and leaving it behind to rot in its own corruption, as well as the end of the illusion that American history is some sort of glorious march to progress and “freedom.” When you get any kind of objectivity about politics or history, the kind of childlike patriotism that the mass media revels is quickly revealed as grotesque sham.
Again, there are some pretty old riffs in this one. The chorus riff was something Col and I worked in around 2006 when we talked about doing a “final” Exhumed album to put a better nail in the coffin (some of the riffs in “Funereality” were from those rehearsals as well), but the bridge and stuff was actually inspired by touring with Death To All and The Black Dahlia Murder.
I liked how melodic some of the BDM riffs dared to be, far more melody than some of our stuff, and I re-worked a progression from an old song and twisted it into the bridge, which is actually predominantly in D Major, which is pretty unusual for death metal, before succumbing to the relative minor key, B minor.
In fact, that kind of sums up the whole musical approach of the song. It's like a melodic song is trying to come out, but it keeps getting dragged down into the muck by these Napalm Death/Terrorizer grind riffs that keep rearing their ugly heads throughout the arrangement. The bit in 5/4 at the end of the bridge came from doing the DTA dates and having to play some of the later Death material. I had never really tried to play in odd time signatures before, and it was kind of fun for a change. It was a cool way to add contrast without yet another back-to-back solo section.
This one is about an all-consuming, blind greed that devours everything in its path in order to satisfy some kind of unnatural hunger. Another anti-corporate metaphor for sure. The kind of greed that it takes to justify a country that accepts the drastic wealth gap that we have in the US is just way beyond me.
It's the same thing that allows us to see homeless people sleeping in sleeping bags on the sidewalk in winter and somehow think that it's an acceptable side effect of free-market capitalism. As the global economic predators grow bigger and more powerful, more and more people are slipping through the ever-widening cracks into poverty and desperation. And somehow it's okay because it's in pursuit of “the American dream” — which is a fancy euphemism for greed without conscience and that might makes right.
The first two riffs were some of the first things I wrote when we started working on All Guts, No Glory, but the song they were in was nowhere near up to snuff. I culled those two and started putting this track together. The chorus was yet another riff I wrote in high school as a doom metal-type thing. I always liked it, but never knew what to do with it, so here it finally is in all its glory, haha!
The bridge has some cool open-note drone stuff in it that I would have considered too “experimental” back in the day, but with this record being a little more open and dynamic, I felt like it fit pretty well before plunging into the solo section, which I wanted to have kind of the same vibe as the tune “Dark Crusade” from Autopsy's classic Mental Funeral.
Again, this one is outside of the concept, it's really just about coming out and rocking out at a show or a party with like minded maniacs. Again, heavily slathered with allegory (emphasis on the “gory”), but it's basically our version of a Diamond Head or AC/DC song, lyrically. Heeding the "Carrion Call" is essentially giving in to the urge to come out to a show, get fucked up, bang your head and just let it loose. It's like I often say onstage “Let's make some bad decisions!”
This song actually got started at the urging of my buddy James Harvey (no relation, unless I'm his distant and considerably shorter cousin) who was talking about our old track “Vagitarian” (not “Vagitarian II” on gore metal, the one originally from our 1995 demo). He said he really liked the intro and we should do something like that again. I thought it could be cool, used that as a jumping off point and had the song mapped out in about in an hour or less from there.
The doom section in the break was really brought to life by our drummer Mike Hamilton in the jam room while we were working through the song. The chugging bridge part with the group vocals was something I literally came up with by asking myself, “what I do here at age 15?” which was back when I was penning ditties like “Oozing Rectal Feast.”
I think it'll go over really well live after hearing it fully recorded. The last riff of the song is one of my favorites on the record, it's just a good old fashioned crossover type riff, kind of Razor meets Discharge or something. Myself being more into punk and grind than typical death metal type stuff, I was kind of bumming myself out that there were more just straight-up fun punk-rock type riffs on the record, and managed to squeeze one in at the end.
Another tune that isn't tied into the overall album concept, this one is a reflection on the ubiquity of death and decay and how it defines our existence, our beliefs, and our actions. The lyrics and arrangement are basically a rip-off of an old XTC song called “The Loving” from the Oranges and Lemons album. Not the most metal point of reference, but hey, I listen to all kinds of stuff. Obviously I kind of took their concept and turned it on its head (or over in its grave).
Putting the music for this one together was really fun. We only had two weeks of rehearsal before going into the studio and it was just Mike, Rob and I bashing it out in the room, for hours and hours a day. After beating our heads into the wall on the songs that had already been mostly constructed, I came up with the opening riff to this song and played a couple different iterations of it, Hamilton put a drumbeat to it, and very quickly we had a new song.
We just put it together right there and it flowed really easily. The intro was supposed to have a “Consuming Impulse” kind of feel, and the verse and the pre-chorus were still kind of in the vein of the first two Pestilence records (with a bit of Kreator in there as well, I think), and it isn't until the chorus that things go full-on '02 death metal, with a sort of Carcass vibe, followed by the bridge, which is straight out of the “From Ensalvement to Obliteration” playbook.
The solo sections were kind of going for a late-'80s Testament/Kreator vibe, what I like to call “arena thrash.” Who knows how close we got to the mark there, but the song turned out pretty good for thee sweaty dudes bashing it out in 45 minutes or so, I think.
Andrew Bansal is a writer who has been running his own website, Metal Assault, since early 2010, and has been prolific in covering the hard rock and heavy metal scene by posting interviews, news, reviews and pictures on his website — with the help of a small group of people. He briefly moved away from the Los Angeles scene and explored metal in India, but he is now back in LA continuing from where he left off.