Hey there, this is Elpida and I welcome you to Metal Invader! Quite an honor to speak with you on an official basis, so thanks for taking the time! Is everybody alright? What have you been up to these days?
We’re all good, thanks! We’re currently on tour with Rotten Sound and Implore in Europe – I’m typing this backstage in Ostrava in the Czech Republic.
A few months back, your latest album “Death Revenge” was released. It’s a surprising album, I really enjoyed it. What has your feedback been so far? Are you satisfied by the crowd’s and the Press’ acceptance?
Thanks for the kind words on the album, it seems to have gone over fairly well. When we play the new stuff live, people seem to be familiar with it and digging it. I actually heard someone leave one of our shows complaining that we didn’t play enough new stuff, which is encouraging I guess.
What new have Exhumed to offer in this release? What’s different comparing it to your previous releases?
Well, it’s our first concept album and it’s the most varied record we’ve ever done. To fit the horror-story theme of the concept, there are various orchestral film-score type sections in between the songs, and we also have an instrumental track on the album, The Anatomy Act of 1832. I think it’s got a different sound than we’ve had before as well in terms of the production. It’s much more natural and up-front than the last two records we’ve done.
“Death Revenge” was again released via Relapse Records; feels like home, am I right? Must be more than a plain collaboration between two parties after all those releases!
Yeah, we’ve been working with Relapse since 1998, and we have always had a good relationship with the label. It’s cool to see that through-line from Gore Metal to Death Revenge and have some continuity there. When we signed in the late ’90s, Relapse was the only label that was interested in the band and believed in what we were doing, which means a lot to me, even to this day.
Musically speaking, Exhumed evolved from a mainly Goregrind band, to a Death / Grind one, to a purely Death Metal one, taking “Death Revenge” into consideration. Could we pin this to personal evolution as human beings and musicians or did you at some moments think you’re done with certain things, so the need to spice things up emerged?
I hear different things from different people. Some people have told me that they see us almost as Thrash / Death Metal band, for example. I think we have always had influences from Death Metal, Thrash and Grindcore, and the influences kind of ebb and flow so that things don’t get monotonous for us or the audience. This album has influences from film music and pop as well as New Wave of British Heavy Metal, so who knows anymore? I think it always sounds like Exhumed and that’s what’s important. We try to stretch the style enough to keep it interesting but not so much that we sound like an entirely different band.
Being around since 1990 means you’ve experienced much. What would you say has strikingly changed since those early days and what has remained the same?
I never thought this kind of extreme underground metal and hardcore would still be a thing all these years later. It has been a strange change of perspective seeing albums I grew up buying become “classics” or “old-school.” Of course the internet has completely changed the consumption of media, from books to movies to tv to music. It has made underground music widely available in a way that would have been impossible to imagine in the early 90s when we were dubbing cassette tapes to send to fanzines. I think the staying power of the music has remained though. Left Hand Path, Horrified, World Downfall, Dark Recollections, Severed Survival, Consvming Impvlse, From Enslavement to Obliteration, all of these albums that influenced the band in the early days have all become classic records because the music has always been really good. People’s tastes change and trends come and go, but those records are timeless and are still just as great today as when they came out.
Exhumed has been one of the bands that contributed into the formation and shaping of the extreme sound and the genres in general. It’s quite amazing when you think about it. How do you feel about that?
I don’t really think about that kind of stuff. I would like to hope that we’ve contributed to the genre in our own small way, and that the contribution is a positive one. In the late 90s and early 2000s I felt like we were one of the few bands fighting to keep the earlier Death and Thrash styles alive, and I hope we helped.
The band was formed in California in 1990; paint us a picture of Cali back then. How did things roll and how difficult or easy was it to get established as a band, let alone a band of extreme musical expression?
I turned 15 years old in 1990. At the time, Thrash Metal was HUMONGOUS. It seemed to be everywhere and Death Metal and Grindcore existed in the darkest corner of Thrash’s shadow. It was very difficult to get a band together and get established simply because of our age. I couldn’t legally drive yet, and had just gotten my first job. I’m from San Jose, which is an extremely suburban area, and it was difficult finding like-minded people who wanted to try to play this more intense style of stuff. We basically had a close-knit group of friends in a couple of schools who would always hang out and listen to the fastest, heaviest music we could find at the record store. It wasn’t that difficult to start getting shows though, because there were several metal clubs in the area. They used a “pay to play” system for local bands, meaning you were given a number of tickets to sell in order to come up with a certain sum of money to pay the club for playing the show. Being so young and naive, we were happy to pay $400 or whatever to open for Morbid Angel or whatever band, just to be part of the scene and witness all of our favorite bands up close and firsthand.
Matt Harvey is considered a pillar for Exhumed, being the oldest member and a founder of the band. Back then he was just a 15 year old. What made you form the band in the first place and what were your goals and expectations?
I formed the band to play the kind of music that I was into, have fun, and play some gigs. The goals were very modest. I wanted to do a demo so I could trade demos with other bands and get more stuff to listen to. Once we did that, I wanted to get a 7” EP or split that would be in the aXction records ad in Maximum Rock N’ Roll. After that, we tried to record an “album” but we didn’t really understand the preparation and planning needed to make a project of that magnitude done. After a few 7” splits and the split CD with Hemdale, the goal became to get signed and properly record a full-length album. That took a while, but we ended up doing 6 so far, so I guess it turned out okay. We always wanted to be fast, heavy, intense, gross and morbid.
In 2005 you announced that the band was going in hiatus, yet you returned in 2010. What triggered the initial break up and what the latter reunion?
We lost all the band members who played on Anatomy Is Destiny over time, which was really discouraging. We had tried to stay rooted in the same group of friends from the beginning, and it was clear that that would be impossible. I had to redefine the idea of the band – it went from being about a group of friends to being about a musical vision and pursuing that. Once I let go of my ideas about what the band was supposed to be “about” and realigned my approach, my interest in playing this kind of music really returned with a vengeance.
Exhumed fall into the list of the “prolific” bands; what’s your driving force and how do you manage to maintain your character music-wise while at the same time avoiding coping your own work?
I like to work on songs all the time. I’m always getting different ideas for stuff and as I’ve gotten older and more experienced I keep getting better and taking something from an idea to a finished project. I never wanted to do what a lot of heavier bands did in the 90s and experiment with changing the band’s core sound. I feel that you can do a lot of different stuff while still being firmly rooted in Death Metal, Thrash, and Grind without changing your style too much. There are always stylistic things that we do that have been there throughout the band’s history, which is fine – that’s how things become one’s “style,” but it’s a fine-line between staying true to your sound and falling into the trap of repeating yourself.
Any chance to see you in Greece sometime soon? Judging by your fans here, it’d be a hell of a night!
We’ve somehow only played Greece once, which is a shame. It’s such a beautiful country and the people there were incredible, as fans and just as nice, welcoming folks. Hopefully we’ll be able to return for a proper Total Whirlwind Autopsy Dose of Gore Metal madness before too long!
Alright, that’s all from me for now; thank you for your honesty and for making the time to answer everything. Hope to see you soon! Any messages you’d like to send to our readers?
Thanks for supporting the band – we truly appreciate it! Death Metal lives!