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Thoughts after reading Extremity Retained 

As I read through Extremity Retained,the excellent collection of Death Metal interviews compiled, edited, and given context by my friend Jason Netherton, it brings back a lot of memories and thoughts on the Death Metal scene and my now two-plus decade long involvement in it (yup, feeling old here!). It's full of great reminiscences from many of my peers and as well as from guys I looked up to in the early days of Exhumed. I can't help but feel a bit reflective and look back on the changes and course of the genre in general. The thing that still strikes me the most was the transformation in the sound of the genre between '90 and '95. I thought I'd use my band's blog as a place to spout off a few ideas about how and why the genre went out of fashion in the mid 1990s, much like Thrash Metal did in 1991. I suppose these reflections would have fit in better with my (generously included) contributions in the book, but reading it as a whole kind of spurred me into thinking about all of this and writing this all out.

If you don't have this book yet, fucking buy it!!

I don't remember exactly who I was talking to, but I was looking back on my days as a rabid Death Metaller from '90-'94 or so, and I was saying that after around '94 I lost interest in the Death Metal scene and got heavily into Thrash Metal and Crossover from the '80s. They responded, with a healthy degree of good natured ribbing, that '93-'94 was when I “gave up on Death Metal.” That sentence kind of hit me like a glass of cold water in the face. I would say I've done many things in my life, but one thing I never felt that I did was “give up on Death Metal.” I felt like by '93 and '94 Death Metal had lost the vast majority of what made it interesting to me. The bands that intrigued me the most (Carcass,Entombed, Repulsion,Carnage,Terrorizer, NapalmDeath,Death) had either moved on creatively to other styles of music or hadn't existed for a few years at that point (except for Autopsy, who were on the verge of splitting up by then). I felt like Death Metal had given up on me. With the rise to prominence of CannibalCorpse,MorbidAngel(I suppose they had always been prominent), and Suffocation– who, by '95 represented the last high-speed bands standing (Obituaryhad become quasi-groove metal by the time World Demise hit and NapalmDeathwas dabbling heavily in industrial metal), the punk-infused, loose and nasty form of Death Metal was in short supply. Unleashed and Grave had both slowed their sounds down by the mid-90s, and even Slaughter of the Soul, one of my favorite albums of the period, owes more to Dark Angel than it does to the obscure Death Metal of the band's earlier period. Certainly record labels had given up on Death Metal – with the exception (mostly) of Relapse, but even they were well on their way to creating an aesthetic that would enable them to sign a band like Neurosis (which was sincere, as well as a savvy business move). Not the best time to be a Massacre and Necrovore fan.

So, this begs the question – what happened between '88 and '93 that contributed to the genre's downturn in popularity in the mid '90s and its subsequent stylistic permutations? How did “the end of music as we know it” become such an over-saturated sub-genre ready to be supplanted as the de rigueur underground Metal style? Like any question covering an international artistic movement, there are a lot of answers.

- Part I: The “real musicians”

One thing that I think is often ignored, that still grates me to this day is that around '91-'92, we saw the the introduction of “real musicians” into the Death Metal genre. In 1988, every guitar nerd with a flourescent Ibanez guitar with a handle in it was in a Thrash Metal band of some iteration or other - funk-thrash was gaining a lot of traction around '91. Seriously. That was a thing.

When I was growing up, these were very popular rock and metal guitars. Yeah, it's not all "glory days" this and "good old days" that, let me tell you.

Why were they playing Thrash? Because it had the virtue of being intense and affording musicians more room to show off their chops but was still comparatively mainstream and had a wide enough audience that you would be showing off your chops to someone. Metallica,Slayer,Megadethand Antrhraxwere selling records by the truck-load and even Coroner,Voivodand Kreatorhad videos on MTV. 

If you had cable TV and nothing to do on a Saturday night in 1989, you could see this. It was fucking awesome.

But, as with anything, the popularity of Thrash Metal faded with its novelty – what was innovative in 1983 was trite by 1989. When Thrash Metal died out in about '91 or so (the “Clash of the Titans” tour effectively capped the end of the Thrash Metal era) fans were divided. Of course, some people no longer cared about music and became accountants that listened to the radio, but those who continued as members of a “scene” or avid record-buyers / concert-goes tended to split in two directions. Firstly, many younger males moved on from Thrash to Death Metal as Roadrunner and Earache began to gobble up record store rack space previously occupied by Noise Records and Combat. Older males and females across the age-spectrum of thrash fandom however, moved toward grunge – the logical endpoint of crossover. Grunge provided the volume and bombast of mainstream metal with the simplification and lack of pretension of punk, and succeeded in becoming a watered-down, commercially appealing equivalent of both. While Death Metal absorbed the far smaller portion of recently displaced music fans, that influx of audience members was a massive growth spurt for the previously super-underground genre.

Which brings us back to our Funk-Thrashing, Guitar-Center frequenting friends I mentioned earlier, eager for an intense form of music to show off their diligently practiced chops. They were a different breed than the original generation of Death Metal musicians, who never got into the genre with traditional ideas of musical development as instrumentalists, simply because Death Metal was beyond underground, and borderline unacceptable in the mid-80s. People that wanted to pursue "musicality" just weren't into Death Metal. When Death,Massacre, Xecutioner, MorbidAngel, Master, Autopsy,Carcassand NapalmDeathwere honing their craft, “real musicians” were just beginning to admit that Metallica wasn't a bunch of racket – but the sounds cranked out by the aforementioned bands? That was pure noise, bad comedy. Every Death or Black Metal band from the early 80s (Sodom, Kreator, Possessed, Bathory, Sacrifice, Possessed, et al) moved as quickly towards Thrash Metal as their musical prowess would allow. However, by '91-'92, these legions of Guitar for the Practicing Musician readers were joining, or worse, forming,Death Metal bands. By 1993, Headbanger's Ball (at least in America) was on its way out. But videos from Carcass, Morbid Angel, Death, and Napalm Death were part of its last gasp. So the genre was as close to mass-exposed as it would ever be in the states. The result was very similar to what happened to Thrash Metal around '87 or '88 – there was a glut of extremely competent, utterly uninspiring bands releasing EP's and albums cluttering up the scene. The terrible paradox was that the records were performed more competently than ever, but with very little identity and real passion for the genre.
I can't say Nocturnus wasn't original, but I can say they did not have cool hair.
Certainly many of the members of the innovative Death Metal bands mentioned above grew to become excellent musicians in their own right – but the distinction here is that DeathMetalwas the primary drive, not showing off their chops. As the '90s wore on, the speed and “extremity” of Death Metal increasingly attracted “musician” types who were out to prove that they were the fastest or most technical - which were substituted for intensity and individuality, spawning legions of extremely skilled and marginally listenable tech-death bands. The musically reckless, punk-infused side of Death Metal was waning by '93, so I retreated to pastures that more closely reflected my personal flavor of choice: raw 80s Metal - be it Death, Thrash, Crossover or just plain Heavy Metal, I spent the second half of the '90s obsessing over records like Incubus'Serpent Temptation, Razor's Violent Restitution, and Money Talks by Cryptic Slaughter. As much as I wasn't much of a black metal fan (although there were a considerable number of those records I liked at the time) I essentially sympathized with the Black Metal scene's attitude toward what Death Metal had become by the mid-'90s – safe, sterile, over-produced and over-saturated.

The classic "Anti-Scott Burns" graphic from Mayhem's Deathcrush EP. Even the catalog number of the release hates Earache Records.
Interestingly enough, the same bands that helped to push the genre's musical athleticism to new heights were also responsible for spawning it's most knuckle-dragger-friendly cliches. Suffocation balanced incredibly nimble, nuanced guitar-work with the simplest, heaviest riffing the genre had see with Effigy of the Forgotten, not only contributing to the technical prowess of the genre as a whole, but also providing the seeds for what would become “Slam” - probably the most rhythmically simplistic form of Death Metal out there, which seems to be incomprehensibly, yet intrinsically linked to the subject matter of pot-smoking and pornography. Cannibal Corpse arrived as a musical force with Tomb of the Mutilated, but simultaneously dragged the genre's obsession with gore and violence into a brand of petulant misogyny that only got more embarrassing with their next album, The Bleeding. Luckily, the band has eschewed that sort of cheap sensationalism as time has progressed and focused on horror and gore without overtly sexist themes after the departure of original vocalist Chris Barnes.

Although this song is admittedly very fucking badass.

- Part II: The labels

Of course, the host of mediocre, uninspired and uninspiring musicians playing Death Metal were far from the only culprits in the demise of the genre's brief commercial peak. Equally culpable (possibly more so) are record labels, with Roadrunner and Earache being the most egregious offenders. Labels, like any other business, were in a race to produce the most predictable return on their investment – a business practice that quickly leads to artistic stagnation. Roadrunner seemed eager to give all of the Death Metal projects to (the admittedly great) engineer / producer Scott Burns, who faced with decreasing recording artist talent, increasing workload, and decreasing budgets, spawned the “Morrisound Sound,” which while it was a good sound (probably because it was a good sound), was subsequently beaten into the ground. Between Dan Seagrave's ubiquitous artwork and Scott Burns' increasingly homogenous production, Death Metal albums were beginning to sound and look frightfully predictable. Your Monstrosity became not too unlike your Resurrection which wasn't that different from your Brutality. The problem with these albums isn't that they're awful – in fact they're actually pretty decent, and these records honestly sound better today than they did 20 years ago - simply because not every new album that you hear sounds like this anymore. The problem is that these bands simply aren't remarkable. None of them will ever have a Slowly We Rot or a Symphonies of Sickness in their catalogs. And in all fairness, I don't know that my band ever will either. I can live with that, but just saying... And if my band had gotten signed in 1991, we would have JUMPED at the chance to record at Morrisound and have Dan Seagrave cover art. Which is one of the many reasons we weren't ready to be signed in 1991. Also, we sounded like crap. 


Like I said... Pretty much crap. 



Exhibits A, B, and C. Not exactly sure what's going on in any of these ambiguously spooky album covers or how they relate to the album titles at all. And 20 years later, I still can't quite muster up the energy to care.

By 1991, even a marginally savvy record-buyer like myself (age 15/16) could tell that if it was a Death Metal album on Roadrunner, it would have the same production, the same artwork and it would be reliably decent. A genre can't grow and can't remain relevant on “reliably decent.” Thrash Metal lasted nearly 10 years because every year you would get a significant, “future classic” sort of record, Show No Mercy to The Legacy to ...And Justice For All to Beneath The Remains (and those are just a few of only the “commercially successful” thrash classics). Sure, there are tons of clunkers from tons of bands in the Thrash genre, but many of the best Death Metal bands with the most to say only made two or three albums in the genre before abandoning it for something less aesthetically constrictive. Heartwork is more closely aligned with Kreator or Megadeth than with Extreme Noise Terror or S.O.B.Wolverine Blues is I guess, sort of Death Metal? I dunno...

Still on the fence about this album 20 years later.

Equally as damaging was that by '95-'96, Nuclear Blast, Century Media, and Roadrunner had dropped most of their Death Metal bands. As soon as the genre's comparative popularity waned, most of the bands found themselves unsigned very quickly. Roadrunner even dropped Immolation for fuck's sake, so it wasn't just mediocre 2nd and 3rd generation bands getting the axe. Just as Death Metal had gotten musically complacent, the sensationalism of Black Metal came along and grabbed headlines with tales of arson and murder and a different (let's be honest - predominantly way shittier) sound. Soon treble-knob loving Scandinavians made Death Metal obsolete and the '90s iteration of Black Metal became the "extreme metal" of choice of the (truly awful) mid to late '90s, giving fat / really skinny dudes from Orange County a reason to either wear capes and buy drinking horns. That really sucked. 

Everybody had THAT friend in 1996.
- Part III: The inherent limitations of the Death Metal genre

Which brings us to the third, and probably most fatal problem preventing Death Metal from having any breakthrough or sustainable commercial success or aesthetic longevity (as a creative and innovative medium). When your goal is to put out the most extreme, horrifying and over-the-top record and you succeed (even if only in your eyes), there's no place to artistically go from there. You can either a) broaden your style, b) repeat yourself or c) simply quit, like Repulsion did. When you begin at the musical end of the line, with no melody, the fastest tempos your musicianship will allow and the most evil, frightening riffs you can compose, anything else you do is going to be either a slight variation on a theme or a watering down of your sound.

The best example of quitting while you're ahead in the history of rock and roll.
For this reason, to me, Death Metal represents the ultimate endpoint of the entire genre of Rock Music. We have to be realistic and concede that Rock and Roll is a 20thcentury phenomenon. Lemmy is in his late 60s, and most of the genre's originators are either dead or old enough to be great-grandparents. Current successful rock bands do little more than parrot genre cliches and Death Metal is no different. Taking Heavy Metal and punk to their logical endpoints of gratuitous volume, speed, and power, the genre effectively killed underground metal as a marketable commodity in the United States for decade or more. Certainly its intensity resonated on a larger scale and paved the way for bands like Slipknot and Deftones to bring heavier (still extremely shitty if we're being honest) sounds to larger audiences later on in the 90s, but that's hardly a mark of success. But realistically, Death Metal was never designed to be listenable or sonically acceptable. In fact, it's just the opposite. Not that it isn't musical or doesn't require talent (even though it really doesn't sometimes), but it's supposed to be abrasive, unlistenable and horrifying. It's fucking Death Metal after all.

That's one of the many reasons I have a difficult time listening to the “Death Metal” of the late '90s and beyond. Much of it is simply treading water on innovative ideas that had long since been thoroughly explored by more inspired practitioners (my band's records probably fall into that category) - or it's played by capable, well-meaning, but ultimately boring musicians who have confused “intensity” and “brutality” with the number of beats per minute in their drummer can quietly double-stroke his kick drums at or how many riffs they can cram into one “song.” Or, even worse, it's played by capable and well-meaning musicians who think that Death Metal would sound better if only it were blended with Jazz/Fusion or polyrhythms or dubstep or video-game sound effects or whatever the fuck kind of stuff musician types like to play. 

As far as younger musicians, they have always been competitively minded. Today, we live in a world that, via widely available technology, is more and more quantified and quantifiable. The competitive approach to playing at higher and higher beats-per-minute, does follow a specific type of logic (if a dreadful lack of imagination). In the 21st century, everything has become calculable – from how many people click on the links in your press release and how many fans your band has, to the music itself. Also, everything has become edited - from photo shoots to movies that are more CGI than film, to auto-tune to quantized bass-drum tracks on "death metal" albums. Younger people see the world in more quantified terms, and view and create art with these standards in mind - and rightfully so. They are a new generation that has never experienced life without the internet and cell phones, and they are the youth and should be making youth music. But the way they play “Death Metal” bears little resemblance to albums I grew up with like Consuming Impulse or War Master. Furthermore, is Death Metal or any kind of Rock and Roll really "youth music" at this point? After all, Seven Churches came out in 1985 - almost thirty years ago at this point. 

Please don't tell me this is "thrash" - it's literally called "Death Metal." How much clearer can it be?? So yeah - roto-toms are Death Metal as fuck.

I'm not saying that's bad, but I'm saying that it misses out on something intrinsic to the genre as I know it. That's why a band like Nunslaughter or Asphyxwill always be more Death Metal than a band with tons of super-fast blast beats or the “lowest” vocals. The quantifying of everything reduces art to something measurable and cheapens the expression. Of course, younger people won't see it that way, because they've grown up with a different set of aesthetic values than I have, and that's okay. I'm not saying that there's only one “true” way of Death Metal for everyone, but I know that there is for me. And I'm fine with that.

However... if there was only one "true" way of Death Metal, this would definitely be it.

- Part IV: “Classic Rock Syndrome”

Which brings me to my last point. If someone had told me when I was sixteen I would be pushing forty and still playing in Exhumed and that Morbid Angeland Carcass would still be touring playing “Chapel of Ghouls” and “Corporeal Jigsore Quandary” every night, I would have laughed them out of the room. Because really, how long is any kind of rock and roll movement supposed to last? The majority of the punk movement sputtered out within five years, Thrash Metal went from a regional curiosity in San Francisco, Germany and Los Angeles to a global phenomenon and then to a virtually dead style within eight years or so. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal went from about '77-'82. The superstars of the sixties rock world (Hendrix, The Beatles, The Doors) became permanently enshrined precisely because they didn't last.
No reunion tours currently in the works, at least according to Bandsintown. Sorry - too soon?
And yet here we have Death Metal bands whose creative peaks are long since behind them trotting out the hits night after night on the tour circuit. Like all bastard sons, Death Metal killed its father (or at least gave it the old college try) – mainstream rock and metal – and then proceeded to take on his most repugnant attributes – greatest hits tours, creative water-treading and, worst of all, artists giving the people precisely what they want - whether it's reunions, creatively stagnant but reliably consistent albums, or just more Altars of Madness shirts.
I can't wait for the reissue with "40 Years of Madness" on the back.

Ultimately it's bittersweet. Because, besides playing this music, first and foremost, I'm a fan of the genre and I enjoy reunion tours and Altars of Madness t-shirts. Being an optimist, I have to find it encouraging that all of the hellish racket captured on demo tapes, LPs, 7 inches and CDs in the 80s and 90s has created something that's still with us today. We live in a capitalist, commercial society, and those avenues ultimately become the litmus test for an artistic statement's viability. If there's a market for it, it's still around. And surprisingly enough, there is still a market for Death Metal, though not as booming or on the upswing as it was 22 years ago. But it couldn't be any other way.

- Epilog: Is music that big of a deal anymore anyway?

I'm going to end this on a question... Certainly in the 80s and early 90s there were large portions of teenagers that identified specifically as a social group based around music preferences - metal, goth, punk, rap, whatever. Whether that's the case now, I have no idea. And if it is the case, does the music mean as much to the audience when they get it for free from the comfort of their own computer desk? Or directly to their cell phone? To me – from an old curmudgeon's point of view – it's difficult to see how a musical movement can be as personal or mean as much to a teenager today when they haven't invested nearly as much time, effort and money into finding and purchasing the music. Or maybe it will mean a lot, but will it mean a lot for twenty years? They'll never have to ride their bike an extra five miles because the record store down the street doesn't stock Napalm Death. They'll never need to make mix-tapes in real time (they're lucky – that shit is tedious). I don't want to get into the whole “younger people have shorter attention spans” bullshit, because every generation says that and I heard it about Atari 2600 and music videos, so fuck that – but without the effort of spending your hard-earned money on music, having to actually turn up to gigs to see bands, needing to memorize information about bands or hold onto zines and mags, is it really as personal? I hope so, but the experience is so different today from what I grew up with that I really don't know.
I'm pretty sure these chicks were feeling it!
The entire attitude toward music in our society has shifted. It was always seen as financially tenuous and a bad risk, but now it's degraded to something that's nice, but ultimately valueless. It's something people give away for free. It's something that is so easy to steal, it's not even a crime to steal it. I've illegally downloaded stuff too, so I'm not putting myself above anyone here. I just think that the way technology has evolved, pop music (which includes rock, metal, punk, R&B, hip-hop, oldies, country, and anything else you might hear on FM radio) has become a disposable, public-domain type commodity. That change may open up a host of new business opportunities for music to someone far more creative and foresighted than myself, but as it stands now, it has created a culture that severely devalues music. Even streaming services like Pandora and Spotify are struggling from what I've read.

All of that said, one of the greatest things about being a “genre” fan and musician (it's the same in film, books, television, probably other arts as well) is that people who are really into the genre are lifers. Go to any Star Trek convention or ask a nerd about the Serenity TV show and you will see a tremendous outpouring of passion. People into metal – the more underground the truer this holds – have that same kind of Trekkie-level excitement about stuff like the Thyabhorrent Death Rides At Dawn 7” EP. They live for this shit and are the reason that Death Metal has never completely gone away. 

Pretty much the same thing.

This is a pretty good EP though.
The fact that Thrash got pretty damn popular in the 80s (I used to guilt my mom into buying me the magazine Thrash Metal at the grocery store for fuck's sake) meant that it's fade from the spotlight in the US was more pronounced - finding an American High Schooler into Exodus in 1996 was a virtually impossible task. Death Metal's comparative share of the lime-light was much smaller, so it didn't vanish the same degree that Thrash's did during the nineties. Instead, it mutated in different ways, many of which I may not have been too personally excited about, but at least it was kept alive. And ultimately, wouldn't it sound weird if the Death Metal of 2002 sounded just like the Death Metal of 1992, which sounded just like the Death Metal 2012? A genre can't stagnate and survive.

All those retro-thrash kids with puffy white high-tops nailed the color scheme, anyway.
And now, with our nostalgia-obsessed and (re)cyclical pop-culture, things have come full-circle. The summer Metal tour circuit looks more and more like 1992 – Obituary, Carcass, Morbid Angel and many more (including Exodus, Slayer, Megadeth, Kreator and their influences like Venom, Angel Witch, and Motorhead as well as a host of 2ndand 3rd generation bands influenced by any of the aforementioned) are on tour and playing to great turnouts. It may actually be the best time to be a metal fan in the history of the genre – the originators are still playing, and bands from every generation and style are active and touring. You can see NWOBHM, Thrash, Death Metal, Black Metal, and Grindcore at the same festival. With all of that happening, I can't see how any metal fan isn't excited in 2014. Especially with 40+ years of history and sub-genres to explore right at their fingertips. If I could have gotten the Thy Kingdom Come demo just by typing some shit into a computer when I was a kid, I would have literally shit my pants with glee. I just hope that in twenty years, the kids of today will still be as passionate about whatever shit they're listening to today as I still am about World Without God by Convulse.

Never, ever gets old.

The stories behind, and transcriptions for, "Open The Abscess" and "Sickened" 

Hello, guitar nerds. Here's some more tablature for you, and for those of you not so guitardedly inclined... Here's a little background info on the tunes.

Open The Abscess

When we were writing "Gore Metal" Col and I were deeply obsessed with German Thrash, constantly blasting Sodom, Destruction, Assassin, Protector, and Kreator and shaming anyone who wasn't as excited about wearing multiple bullet-belts as we were. We were zealots, and like all zealots, we were kind of dicks about the whole thing, but our enthusiasm shone through in the record - our "musicianship" definitely didn't. When we were working on "Open The Abscess" I envisioned it being our "Bestial Devastation," which I suppose is sort of Destruction's "Whiplash."

In the spirit of the Death Metal / Thrash crossover we were embracing, I stole the title from a lyric in "Out of the Body" by Pestilence - "No time to waste, just open the abscess, will you please help me?" Ross and I split the lyrics on this one, like most of the songs on "Gore Metal," although my memory is a bit hazy on who did more of it (probably Ross?). From the get-go, this was my favorite song on the album and we've played it live countless times throughout the varying incarnations of the band that have ensued since '98.

Here's a blast (beat) from the past. "Open The Abscess" live from our tour with Mortician back in 2001. Warts and all. Actually more warts than anything else.
 

Sickened

Sickened went through a weird process before making its way onto Necrocracy. Original Exhumed drummer Col Jones and I have a Thrash Metal band called Dekapitator and at different times, we've talked about taking the band in various tangential directions. In fact, after we did the first album "We Will Destroy... You Will Obey" in '99, we wanted to become a vicious, hyperspeed Sadus / Kreator hybrid, but then Hypnosia came out with their debut EP that was in that vein and impossibly great, so we scrapped that. At another point, we were considering getting a melodic vocalist and heading in a more Power / Thrash direction a la early Helloween.

Anyway, I was thinking of taking the band in a more dark Death / Thrash direction when I wrote what would eventually become "Sickened" for Dekapitator. After it became clear that nothing was really going on with that band (Col's busy with Cretin and Repulsion as well as adult stuff like a marriage and a career), I brought it to Gravehill when Rob and I were still in the band and we were writing for When All Roads Lead To Hell. We learned the song, with a different bridge and no blast beats, but Rhett "Thorgrimm" Davis decided the arrangement wasn't particularly Gravehill, which I suppose is true in hindsight.

I always liked the riffs for the song, and when I was listening back through my old pre-production recordings while writing Necrocracy I rediscovered this tune. After replacing a few polka beats with blast beats and re-tooling the bridge, I had a "new" Exhumed song. Like a lot of our more recent songs that seem to catch on, I thought this was kind of a throwaway tune that would be relegated to being a bonus track or something. Rob immediately pegged it as his favorite song on the album, and it's become a staple of our live set. It also got some nice mentions in reviews, which was cool, and more importantly, it's become one of the key "circle-pit" moments of our whole set, which is very satisfying.

Here's a cool video someone crafted for "Sickened" using clips from the new Evil Dead movie. And yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the remake. Certainly the goriest theatrical release movie I've seen in years. If I was 14 and seeing that, I'd want to start a Death Metal band all over again.
 
 
So here are the transcriptions for these. I use Guitar Pro 6 to transcribe well, pretty much everything at this point. I've posted the .gpx files from that program and .pdfs of the tab for those who don't have it. 
 
So here are the Guitar Pro files first.
 
 
 
And here are the .pdf files.
 
 
 
As far as playing these tunes, they're far from our most technical, Open The Abscess is really just difficult to hear on the recording, which I suppose is why folks have requested the transcription. The tempo shifts are very, ahem... "organic" on the record so don't pay too much attention to the tempos on the transcription.
 
Sickened is a pretty straightforward Death / Thrash kind of thing, lots of speed-picking going on. I've included the tapping sequence that's my "solo" and the harmony for it. When we recorded Necrocracy, this was the first song Bud recorded a lead for, and what you hear on the album is literally his first take. I have no idea what he did (and he probably doesn't either) but it's definitely beyond my ability to play or transcribe, so... good luck on that one, haha!  Anyway, enjoy.
 
Cheers,
Harvey and the usual gang of idiots

Let's talk about Leprosy 

So, full disclosure, this post isn't about Exhumed really at all. If you wanna read about Exhumed, I'm working on some new posts, I swear. 

After getting the deluxe reissue of “Leprosy” in the mail, I immediately headed for the liner notes. What can I say, I'm a liner notes guy, and I've heard the album hundreds and hundreds of times by this point, so this was something new to dig into (I did enjoy the rehearsal disc quite a bit though). I liked them, but I felt like I didn't quite get what I was looking for out of them, so I decided to write my own. That may seem unnecessary, or pompous, or both (probably both), but hey, it's my blog, so fuck it. I'm going to reitereate some thoughts that I shared with Death / Schuldiner intellectual property manager / lawyer (also Relapse's lawyer) Eric Grief when I met him the first time in Calgary. Eric booked our show there, and we chatted for quite a while about his involvement with bands like Morbid Saint, Viogression, Morta Skuld, Num Skull, and the early days of the Milwaukee Metalfest, but his management of Death was the topic I was the most interested in. The reason this is noteworthy is that my conversation with Eric is (I think?) one of the things that eventually led to my getting contacted to be part of the initial incarnation of the Death To Alltour – I'd like to think that that was in part due to the thoughts on Chuck and the band's legacy in general, and Leprosy in particular that I shared with Eric that night. At any rate, let's talk Leprosy.

I got this flyer outside my first metal show, Anthrax, Exodus, and Helloween at the Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium in April 1989. Although my parents didn't let me go see Dark Angel and Death, I had the foresight to hold onto the flyer. I also unfortunately colored it in with crayons - because I was 13 years old. Kids. Sheesh.
When Leprosy came out in 1988, Death Metal was still predominantly a tape-trading phenomenon. With the dissolution of the genre's originators Possessedthe preceding year, there was definitely a sort of Death Metal “Power Vacuum.” Up to that point, Possessed (along with Celtic Frost) had been the most visible Death Metal band, even though their swansong “The Eyes Of Horror” was more Thrash than Death Metal and their sophomore album “Beyond The Gates” was hampered by terrible production. Other (signed) bands that were arguably part of the seminal generation of Death Metal acts like Celtic Frost, Onslaught, Sodom, Kreator, and Sacrifice (yes, I know they're all considered “Thrash” now, but I'm talking about 1987 “Death Metal”) had unilaterally moved on to less extreme pastures by 1988. Thrash Metal had successfully broken through to a much wider audience in 1986, and people were waking up to seek out sounds heavier than Metallica.

That was the overall climate that greeted Leprosy –a golden opportunity for the right band to step up and put the burgeoning Death Metal scene on the map. There were thousands of rabid headbangers slinging demo tapes through the mail from Necrovore, Slaughter, Morbid Angel, Desecration, Necrophagia, Insanity, Genocide / Repulsion, Master / Deathstrike, Devastation (Chicago), Sadus and Autopsy, but Death had a serious leg up on the rest of the genre – a record deal. That may not sound like much in 2014, but this was the 80s, and to get out of the tape-trading scene and into the underground proper, a deal on a label like Combat Records (Metal Blade or Noise Records would have done as well) was essential. With all of those factors in place, Chuck and the recently co-opted Massacre line-up (minus vocalist and former Death drummer / vocalist Kam Lee) made what is referred to in the biz as “the right record at the right time.”
Press clipping from "Power Metal," sometime in 1988. "Power Metal" was Hit Parader's Thrash Metal magazine, and every issue featured Metallica, Megadeth or some combination thereof. The "writing" was terrible, but you could find out about new albums and get neat pictures to keep in a box for 26 years and then post on your blog later. Also, Chuck's quote there is endearing. 
Scream Bloody Gorehad been comprised mostly of marginally re-worked (see the no-longer-Satanic lyrics to “Infernal Death”) tunes from the band's demo days, but newer tunes like “Denial of Life” and the title hinted at Chuck's musical ambition. Those tendencies were prominently displayed on Leprosy -the album was easily the band's most “musical” record. It represented, for all intents and purposes, a quantum leap forward in musicality for Death, with articulate solos (and also solos by Rick Rozz), novel drum parts, occasional unorthodox time signatures, and sophisticated (for 1988) production values. That the album sounds so grimy and old-school in hindsight is a testament to the level of sophistication that (for better or for worse) has made its way into the genre in the ensuing years. This was the first widely available Death Metal album that was difficult for Thrash Metal fans to laugh off as noise – not only due to the album's comparative refinement, but also thanks to Slayer's Reign In Blood, which had readied the Thrash Metal audience's ears for harsher sounds.

A couple of observations regarding musicality and extremity in Death Metal circa 1988 are helpful to keep things in perspective, lest we start to laud Leprosy with unrealistic levels of praise. One thing that's disturbing is the cult of posthumous "Chuck-worship" that now clouds serious analysis of the band's musical catalog - I love Death, but crediting them with the "invention" or "revolution" of Death Metal in the 1980's is at it's most accurate, a drastic oversimplification. They were certainly the breakthrough band of the genre, but it's worth noting that None Shall Defy by Infernal Majesty pre-dates Leprosy by a year and boasts a level of musical sophistication and clarity well beyond Death and Possessed albums of the same time (in fact, their demo sounds much better production-wise than Scream Bloody Gore or Seven Churches). For whatever reasons, be it bad promotion / distribution, line-up problems, atrocious cover art, a stupid-looking logo, goofy band photos, or just being a Canadian band, they never caught on the way Death did. I've often wondered if some of the riffs on Leprosy and Spiritual Healing are indebted to Infernal Majesty. Furthermore, by the time Leprosy was released, Napalm Death (on their way to co-opting the Death Metal scene that would shortly return the favor) and Carcass were already cranking out far heavier, harsher sounds across the Atlantic, but wouldn't resonate with American Thrash Metal audiences for a couple more years (Carcass' tour supporting Death didn't hurt in that regard). Ultimately, Death was extreme enough to be musically shocking and something "new" to the larger Thrash Metal audience, but was still within the average Slayer fan's musical "comfort zone."
Let's be honest, this cover totally sucks. Great record, but... damn. 
Not only was the album sonically in the right spot, it featured professional cover art and an extensive cassette j-card, that even featured the logos of the band's instrument endorsers. There was no doubt from top to bottom that this wasn't just another tape-trading basement racket (as much as the aforementioned Leprosy-era rehearsals might put that statement to the lie at the songs' core) – this was a realband. 

Leprosy and Scream Bloody Gore J-cards compared. 
Leprosy (above) and Scream Bloody Gore (below)
J-cards, interior comparison
To be fair, I suppose both of the Death J-Cards are nicer than most Death Metal cassettes of the era, which looked like this - a thumbnail of the square LP cover with the logo and album title below.
That perception was cemented by their inclusion on the Ultimate Revenge II video tape. At the time, music videos for Thrash Metal bands, even those on major labels, were scarce, so a music video for a Death Metal band would be unthinkable. Now, not only were Deathincluded on a video, which was rare enough, their performance was actually moderately competent in comparison with the other, more ostensibly "accessible" bands featured (certainly tighter than Dark Angel's, although they lacked the polish and flash of Forbidden). Most importantly they certainly stood out as the heaviest footage on offering. Again, all of these factors, along with positive press coverage at a time when most Death Metal bands' demos were mercilessly slagged by the press, were telltale signs that this was a legitimate band to be taken seriously by Metal fans, a feat as yet unaccomplished by a pure Death Metal band at the time.

Ultimate Revenge 2 in all its analog glory, on VHS and Cassette. And yes, I just happen to have this crap lying around after 25 years. Don't fuckin' worry about it.

"Forgotten Past" from the Ultimate Revenge 2
Leprosy era article in Metal Mania from sometime in 1988. I had this on the wall at our rehearsal room when we were practicing for Anatomy is Destiny. We practiced so often I used to literally read the article while we were jamming.
The lyrics also had achieved a level of comparative "maturity" – gone were Scream Bloody Gore's lurid nursery rhymes about “Vomit for a mind, maggots for a cock.” In their place were cautionary (but still morbid - see what I did there?) tales about deadly disease, death by misadventure, and the inevitability of death and it's impact on life. Okay, well “Choke On It” may not have had much depth, but the fact that any of the lyrics had any depth was something in and of itself. Until Leprosy, the entire Death Metal genre's lyrics (except for Master's quasi-political, apocalyptic material) had consisted of two topics: Satanism (or occultism in general) and horror movies. Here was somebody at least saying something. Sure, the nursery rhyme aspect was still there, but lines like:

Life will never be the same
Death can never be explained
It's their time to go beyond
Empty feeling when they're gone”
(From "Open Casket")
had more to say than:

Trying to escape
They torture you by cutting off your cock
When you're dead, Upon your bones they'll feast
Your brains they'll eat and chop.”
(From "Torn To Pieces")

In the end, I suppose terms like “listenablity” or “maturity” are all academic if the album sucks. And Leprosy categorically does not suck. Front to back, it's all killer and no filler. Every tune oozes aggression and maintains a gloomy, morbid vibe. In short, it sounds the way Death Metal is supposed to sound, but clear. And the clarity of the recording only makes it heavier and more authentic. Where Scream Bloody Goresounded like it was recorded in a warehouse in between bong hits (mostly because it was), Leprosyboasts a clear, balanced and powerful mix. Bill Andrews' precise and creative (at least in terms of where Death Metal was in 1988) drumming and Terry Butler's dutifully clanking bass-lines fall seamlessly into alignment with Chuck's cranked Marshall. Songs like “Leprosy” and “Pull The Plug” exercise a degree of restraint absent in most Death Metal up to that point, allowing riffs to develop and build effectively (effectively being the operative word) rather than plunging hell-for-leather into chaos. Sure, speed was still there, but the band's sound had filled out and found a heaviness that hadn't been as prevalent since the Mantas days of bludgeoning Hellhammer-esque riffs. Was Scream Bloody Gore more deranged? Absolutely. Was it more evil? Sure, in fact it's still my all-time favorite Death album. But was it as good as Leprosy? Objectively, no fucking way. 

To top it all off, Chuck's leads were downright classy for a Death or even Thrash Metal band of the day (and were certainly miles ahead of leads by Slayer and Kreator at the time in terms of being “musical”). But just in case things were threatening to get "pretty" or overtly "melodic," Chuck was counterbalanced by Rick Rozz's frenzied divebombs and whammy bar abuse. A quick word about Rick Rozz's oft-maligned guitar-work: the guy knows how to phrase a catchy, memorable solo, which is no mean feat when 90% of his stuff is just tremelo bar pull-ups and dives. His absence on subsequent albums helped cement the band's reputation for musicality and guitar heroics, but at the cost of aggression in the leads. Rick Rozz fucking rules, end of story. And no, I'm not gonna call him DeLilo. To me, he will always be Rick Rozz. At any rate, the songs managed to tick all the musical boxes: heaviness; speed; skill; and they even managed the Death Metal genre's first real vocal hook with perennial crowd-pleaser “Pull The Plug.” My personal favorite track is still “Left To Die” which features my favorite Chuck vocals of all time and the best kick-snare beat turnaround since “Battery.”
So basically, what I'm saying is: "Nice job, these guys"
Now, twenty-six years later (Holy shit! I'm old!) it's painfully clear that Leprosywas the album that not only cemented Death's reputation, but put the entire genre of Death Metal, the Florida Death Metal scene, and Morrisound Studios on the map. Two years later, as Thrash Metal largely dried up creatively (and soon after commercially) the Death Metal genre was moving from strength to strength. A host of bands emerged from the same tape-trading scene that had devoured Death's “Back From The Dead” and “Mutilation” demos, and the whole movement had finally gained serious traction among underground Metal labels and fans alike.

By 1990, Thrash Metal had been rendered completely irrelevant to my circle of friends and I, and to many other like-minded kids around the world. New and more commercial albums from bands like Metallica, Slayer,Kreator and Testament were met by a collective shrug - our fandom had been wholly subsumed by the Death Metal movement that began taking the underground by storm with the release of Leprosy

Fresh Blood - (Some of) Exhumed's favorite opening bands 

As a guy that plays in a heavy metal band, I hear a lot of heavy metal. Because Exhumed is always on the road, I'm attending about 150 shows a year. So one thing that I don't really do is track down new heavy shit to listen to because I just get to be totally saturated with it – just like the guy that works at the Twinkie factory probably doesn't eat that many Twinkies. Okay, who am I kidding? That guy probably eats Twinkies morning noon and night – I know I would. Anyway, to balance out the heavy shit I'm bombarded by day after day, I listen to a bunch of different music – some of it sentimental, some of it funny, some of it atmospheric, some of it funky, whatever. That said, I always love listening to the classics, many of which I covered a couple of blogs ago, and every so often I come across a new band that really catches my ear. I've decided to dedicate a blog to spreading the love for some of the coolest regional openers (not bands we're touring with, you should hopefully know who they are by now) we've come across that are unsigned, marginally signed, or just not that well known. Hopefully I've talked enough about our original drummer's band with our old guitarist Mike Beams Mortuous enough that some of you have checked them out and the Decibel review for my buddies in P.O.O.R. should have nudged you in their direction (I also did a couple solos on their record), so I kept this to bands that we've played with since last summer. There are always more that I could mention, but I thought 11 was good for the sake of readability, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some of my faves, so please don't think this list is totally comprehensive. One of the questions I get a lot is, "what new bands are you into?" so here's the answer(s). If any of these guys tickle your fancy, please support 'em. They're all good dudes making good music, so whatever my endorsement is worth, these bands have it.
Cheers!
- Matt and the usual gang of idiots

Angelust – we played with Angelust in the unlikely locale of Peoria, IL – yes, Exhumed plays all the hotspots! Anyway, these dudes were a lot of fun live with their punky Black Thrash. Their demo is a bit lopsided, but the first track “Rock and Roll Funeral” was on heavy rotation in our van after the show for a couple weeks, which is pretty unusual - in a good way. If they can keep writing songs this good, Midnight may have some competition on their hands. Let's hope so, cos I can't really get enough of rock-infused Black Thrash.



Bastard Deceiver – I'm pretty sure this band broke up, which is too bad. If not, please let me know and I'll edit this post. This Tampa-based Grind band fused a lot of early Bolt Thrower into their sound, which was a cool contrast to the Terrorizer and D-Beat stuff that comprises most of their sound. Their “Normal Life Provides Nothing” EP is a fucking ripper. You can check it out at their Bandcamp page and download it for free (or pay if you're a nice person). We played with them twice in 2012, once in Tampa and once in Houston, and both times, they totally ruled. Yes, they have a female singer, does it really fucking matter? It's 2014 people. Anyway, check these guys (and girl) out.



Coffin Dust – We've become pretty good friends with Coffin Dust guitarist / vocalist Matt “Slime” Ferri. We prevailed upon him to design our recent “Ravening” shirt, as well as to tattoo Bud, Rob and myself with the Ghostbusters logo, which capped off one of the funnest nights in memory. But even if I didn't know him, I'd still think his band was awesome. Taking thrashy Goregrind into weird arrangements with killer melodies, their debut “This Cemetery, My Kingdom” is a kickass Death Metal album that you can actually sink your teeth into and get some repeated listens out of. Check it out for a measly $5 here. The songs are kind of long, but in a good way, each riff and melody gets some time to develop and be enjoyed. Very fucking cool stuff. If you meet Matt, ask him to show you his epic Slayer tramp stamp. Seriously.
 


Kaliya – I actually gave Kaliya guitarist Ben Cooper some guitar lessons and the more he told me about his band, the more I figured they must be pretty good. I was right. Metalized D-Beat with a nice touch of melody is what these guys are all about, and they do it really well. We played with them in Dallas on the Dying Fetus tour, and they were killer live as well. I was grinning with pride like I had something to do with it all night, saying “that guy took a couple guitar lessons from me, his band is awesome!” To clear the air, they were awesome before I had ever heard of 'em. If this sound is something you're into, give these dudes a listen.


Madrost – from a bit closer to home, these guys are an up and coming Orange County Death / Thrash band well worth checking out. After chatting with a couple of the guys before our show at Chain Reaction with Iron Reagan, they asked me to check out some of their set. They were really nice, sincere dudes, so I agreed just to be polite. To be honest, I get so burnt on checking out bands, I have a hard time getting the motivation to watch the locals, especially in an alcohol-free venue like the Chain Reaction in Anaheim. Anyway, I made sure to check them out and not be a totally jaded dick, and ended up being really impressed. The demo / EP CD they gave me was also killer, with nods to SBG / Leprosy era Death and mid-period Kreator, stuff I still listen to like it was brand new, 25 years later.  You can check out their "Maleficent" (wasn't the villain chick in "Sleeping Beauty?" Why do I know that?!?) here. Their riffs are nice and simple, which keeps things catchy and makes it easy to get into these guys right away. Killer stuff.


 
Mangled (Atlanta) – Not to be confused with the Dutch band of the same name - We ended up partying with these guys all day before the show we did with them in Atlanta in December of 2013, and they were great dudes. We all got along really well and they had killer taste in music, so I was really hoping I liked their band. It's always awkward when you get along with someone but don't like their band. Anyway, I didn't have to worry about that in this case at all. Their “Sewer Metal” EP is killer – shades of Engorged are present, as well as early (like, really early) Cannibal Corpse that make this the kind of crossover-infused, horror-obsessed Death Metal that I really like. Check out their demo for free (or pay for it if you're a nice person) here. These guys should be making a lot of noise, literally and figuratively in the scene very soon.
 


Maniac – We played a gig with these guys in Madrid in 2013, and we ended up enjoying the shit out of them. These guys (and girl drummer!) churn out Black / Thrash with a serious “Kill 'em All” edge, employing a barrage of killer riffs. Open A string grinding with power chords and tons of attitude always sound great. After their set, I had to pick up their “Black Legion” 12” at the show and I think you should too. Not sure where you can find it, but you can listen to it here. I have no idea what they're up to next, but I bet it's gonna be awesome.



Necrot - Our original drummer, Col Jones, is notoriously picky and pretty much hates every band that's not Repulsion, Iron Maiden, or Sodom. He introduced these guys to me as "the best Death Metal band in the Bay Area." Needless to say, that set the bar pretty high in my mind. These guys undeniably fucking rule and they're one of my favorite new Death Metal acts. Down-tuned, Swedish / Finnish early 90s style darkness that you can pick up for a mere $3 here



Seprevation – this Bristol, UK based Death / Thrash hybrid played all the UK dates with us on our 2013 tour, which were several – London, Newcastle, Bristol, Derby, Glasgow, Dublin, and Cork if memory serves, so we got a chance to see them a bunch of times and I enjoyed every one of their shows. Evoking all the right stuff – early Sadus, Death, Atheist, Kreator, MassacraDead Head (with occasional tinges of Megadeth and even Morbid Angel) and the like, while managing just the right touch of occasionally 'progressive' bits to keep things interesting, these guys are a great updated take on the most vicious thrash sounds of 1989, which is right up my alley. They have a great EP called "Ritual Abuse" (not to be confused with the classic Num Skull album of the same name, although I bet Num Skull fans would LOVE these guys) that you can get here, and a new album called “Consumed” coming out very soon that I would urge anyone into aggressive, energetic Thrash / Death metal to check out. The EP is really fucking good and the album is even better. If there's any justice, these guys should be a lot more well-known in a year from now. They even made a nifty official video you can watch below.


Teething – we did a couple shows with these guys in Spain in 2013 and they blew me away with their ferocious, hardcore (not like Hatebreed, the old, fast kind) infused Grind. Filtered through the notorious HM-2 pedal, Teething push everything into the red and keep it there. They brought a ton of energy to the stage and their records are just as good. Highly recommended grind, and you can download their excellent split for free with Ravage Ritual at their bandcamp page! It's fucking free, check it out! They also have some of the best shirt designs I've seen in years and are really good dudes, so win-win-win. 



Xingaia – We partied with these guys in Spokane after our show there with Suffocation and had a great time. They kind of remind me of Mangled (or vice versa, since I heard Xingaia first), but they're a bit more brutal, with some pretty blistering tempos and some quirky, non-typical technical riffs here and there. Again, I got a bit of an Engorged vibe from their kickass self-released full-length (not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination) from these dudes, especially with the samples between songs and shit (the Aqua Teen Hunger Force sample here is genius) but they're definitely doing their own thing, and ruling the shit out of it. You can preview the record here.


Inside the Electric Circus: Exhumed's life on the Intoxicated Holocaust US tour, Part I 


Exhumed Intoxicated Holocaust tour diary: the US leg part I

When we were approached about this tour, we were on board as soon as we heard about the killer line-up. Toxic Holocaust, Ramming Speed and MammothGrinder are bands that I actually listen to, which is pretty rare for bands formed after 1985. I liked that all the bands were different, Toxic doing their crust-thrash thing, RammingSpeed doing their NWOBHM-infused crossover, and MammothGrinder with their down and dirty caveman-level death metal. After all the touring we've done, it's become obvious that a good package helps to get people in the door – we'd already played all these markets with Dying Fetus in October and then played half of them again with Iron Reagan in December. We had our customary weekend of rehearsals before embarking on the road. We added “Your Funeral, My Feast” to the set – it was the last song on All Guts... we had yet to play live so we figured we should go for the complete set. We also worked out “Carrion Call” from Necrocracyfor this tour but it wasn't coming across live the way we wanted it to, so we dropped it after a few shows.
"Your Funeral, My Feast" and "Limb From Limb" live in Santa Ana January 2014

Mike, freshly relocated to Tampa, Florida, flew into San Francisco, as did Bud, albeit from North Carolina. Rob took a train from Santa Ana to Grover Beach and hung out with my visiting girlfriend and I (speaking of commuting, she's from the UK) for a night before the inimitable Dr. Philthy came and picked us up in our battered van. Our van's sliding side door didn't open and neither did one of the back doors, and it quickly developed an oil leak which you'll hear more about later. So we started the tour in a rolling death-trap.

We drove north to San Jose to rehearse in the Cretin(featuring Exhumed alumnus Col Jones and Matt Widener) jam space, which was empty since they were recording their new album “Stranger.” Bud's parents still live in San Jose, in the same neighborhood I and all the original Exhumed guys grew up in, so we crashed there for a couple of nights. After scraping the rust off on during the first day's rehearsal and raiding Bud's parents' liquor cabinet that night, we dropped my girl off at the airport and went back in early for the second (and final) rehearsal so we would be done in time to catch the 49ers / Seahawks NFC championship game. The rehearsal was a success, the game not so much, but the pizza and beer more than made up for it. After plundering Bud's folks' liquor againI decided to call it a night when Rob and Bud's wrestling resulted in cracking one of the walls. The next morning I was feeling pretty hungover as we headed north to Chico for the pre-tour warm up gig we had scheduled for Monday night.

Our Monday night gig turned out far better than we had expected, with a hundred people coming out and making us feel very welcome in their small college town. We headed to the promoter's pad to crash where we enjoyed his very large dogs and semi-functioning hot tub. We had the following day off to drive up to Seattle to start the "official" tour, which we spent touring the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico. The tour is free, informative and most importantly they give you tastes of different beers. All you have to do is book a tour in advance (we booked it the day before). One caveat, make sure your ID is valid, because mine is expired and I didn't bring my passport, which meant I wasn't able to taste any of the beers. Ouch. We grabbed In-and-Out Burger and spent the rest of the day and night in the van.


The badge of shame I had to wear since I didn't have a valid ID with me.


L to R, Bud, Dylan, and Rob testing hops at Sierra Nevada.


Mike with the Sierra Nevada vats as beer gets heated (if I remember correctly) along the way to deliciousness.


Yes, that big copper thing behind Mike is full of beer.


The Sierra Nevada brewing facility is disturbingly clean and sterile.


Entrance to the shwag store.


The view from the taproom where I enjoyed some really delicious... lemonade.

We arrived in Seattle with plenty of time to spare and were soon met by the RammingSpeedguys in their patented rusted-out short-bus. We had met them at the end of the DyingFetustour when we did a one-off show with them in Raleigh. We hit it off with them swimmingly, by that I mean we drank until about 4:00 am with them, shouting IronMaidenmelodies. We were very familiar with the venue, Studio Seven, which has become our go-to venue in Seattle, so as soon as doors opened we loaded in, grabbed showers, and made ourselves at home. We play there so much we've become friends with the owners and always have a great time there. The Mammoth Grinderdudes rolled up in Toyota, which was a bit unusual, but we learned that Mammoth Grinder and Toxic Holocaust were using Ramming Speed's backline – so we were carrying about four times the gear of all the other bands combined. It was the same case when we toured with Fetus , I guess we're stuck in the 80s mindset that excessive guitar cabinets and elaborate drumsets are essential. I can live with that

The Seattle show was predictably killer and we ended up partying at the venue until about 5:00am. The next day, the other bands headed to Canada for the Vancouver tour stop. We opted to play it safe and stay in the good ol' US of A, even though we were admitted into Canada last year with Fetus, we felt it was too dicey to risk for one show after getting turned away in 2012 (on our tour with Municipal Waste and Napalm Death). Even if the Canadian border cops decided to allow us in the country, we could potentially be charged $800 just to cross the border (Mike, Bud, the good Doctor and myself all have drunk driving convictions – leading the Canadian government to require us to each to purchase “Temporary Residence Permits” each time we enter the country for $200/person, or potentially not let us in at all as happened ) so we opted out and instead headed to Spokane, Washington to do our own show.

My favorite thing about playing the Hop in Spokane is the shop Time Bombacross the street. When we played Spokane with Suffocationin April, I had spent $60 on Marvel Super Heroes Slurpee cups from the 1970s. Yes I have a girlfriend, and no she isn't imaginary, I swear. This time however, Time Bomb was closed, but a sister store, GiantNerd Books, had opened next door. I was able to pick up a couple of very rare Jack Kirby comic mags from the 70s – SpiritWorld and Days of the Mob. To say my day was made would be a dramatic understatement. The show was pretty decent, our friends in Xingaiasupported (and Christine, one of their girlfriends, their pr person and all around fun gal brought us insanely delicious baked goods to munch on again, which ruled), playing their thrash-infused hyper Death Metal with a sneer and some hilarious samples spliced in. We went to one of their houses for a party afterward, but I bowed out relatively early after a rapid succession of vodka-and-something shots. The next day I was still in pretty rough shape.

Our van was also in pretty rough shape. The oil leak we'd spotted hadn't improved - in fact it had gotten worse. We went to a mechanic who fixed the leak, and then informed us that our transmssion was in terrible shape – which we kind of knew already. The mechanics were literally shocked that we intended to drive from Portland to Oakland the following day and predicted categorically that we'd be broken down on the side of the road than to be enjoying a juicy Nations hamburger in the home of our favorite football team. Sufficiently spooked, we seriously considered that our semi-faithful van (we had already put a new engine in it) might not pull through. We scrambled for options, and ended up finding a rental van in Portland through Bandago – who specialize in renting vans to touring bands. Their services aren't cheap, but inlcude a decent amount of mileage, roadside assitance and brand new, perfectly maintained vehicles. We decided to bite the bullet and spend the cash on the rental van, which meant that we'd all be going home with a significantly smaller amount of money than expected at the end of this tour, especially since we were planning on buying our plane tickets for our already-scheduled European tour with ToxicHolocaustout of the profits from this tour. But we simply couldn't afford to drop a new transmission in the van right at that moment (we didn't have time to anyway) and we couldn't risk not being able to finish the tour in our old van. We hitched the trailer to the rental van, and decided to drop off our van in San Jose at Bud's parents (who are total lifesavers). The Portland show was fun, but because my ID was expired, I wasn't able to drink any beer at all again (I think between that night and the brewery tour, I've learned my lesson) and we ended up at Sizzle Pie, the pizza joint owned by Matt Jacobson (who also owns Relapse Records, you might have heard of them?) for some complimentary slices. We finally left town about 3:00am with both vans, and headed to the Bay Area.


The Oakland Metro Opera House before the show


Mike Hamilton, booze advisor


Turning garbage into gold: Mike's old drum head with some of my scribbles, an old set list (that was there already) and our signatures. This netted us dozens of... cents at the merch table.

I love the Oakland Metro, love the city, love seeing old friends, hanging with Mike's brothers and assorted family members and even just driving by the Oakland Coliseum makes me a little misty-eyed, even if it's been 12 years since I've had reason to be optimistic about a Raiders season (and yes 510 purists, I know I'm from the suburbs!). We did end up enjoying that delicious Nations cheeseburger after all (salmon burger in my case, if you wanna get technical about it) before the show, enjoying an East Bay tradition. We had played the Metro with Iron Reaganand local support from the awesome Necroton a Monday night in December and it had been a solid show, even after having been in San Francisco five weeks eariler with Fetus, so we were anxious to see how it would go on a Saturday night with a fully stacked tour package. Suffice it to say, the night did not disappoint.

We had to split fairly soon afterwards, to drop our ailing van off at Bud's folks in San Jose and then stop by my place in Arroyo Grande to drop off some gear and pick up some other gear before the following day's in-store at Grill 'Em All in Alahambra and show at the Joint in Los Angeles. We had a great time and a great meal at Grill 'Em All, who added their first vegan item to the menu for Toxic Holocaust (Joel's been a vegan for four years or so), some TH-themed fries. I went for the spicy Napalm Death-themed burger and did not regret it at all (as much as my underwear might disagree). The staff were awesome, welcoming, and generously pulling pints of beer, so it was a great warm-up. The show at the Joint (where we had hosted our Necrocracy listening party night) was destined to be packed – the venue was woefully undersized, really more of a bar than anything and it was quickly sold out. While we played, I could see kids looking in through the windows, watching the show from outside. It was a trip. We partied with tons of friends and familiar faces, then after the show we headed further south to Santa Ana to crash at Rob's.
The line at Grill 'em All.


Exhumed, immediately after gaining 8 pounds at Grill 'em All in Alhambra. 8 delicious pounds.

Mike was up early the next day to pick up our sound-guy for this tour, Cephalic Carnage guitarist Brian Hopp who was in town for the NAMM convention. While he was being productive, I dragged my carcass down the street to Charlie's Best, the local taqueria / burger joint for some much-needed greasy fare. Soon we were back at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana, where we had just played a sold-out show with DyingFetus in October, and even after that, we had played locally with Iron Reagan in Anaheim in December which was a killer show in its own right, so we figured that the show would be a corker. Before the gig we shared a dressing room with the Toxic guys and got a taste of just how much they loved awful music (maybe even more than us??). After being treated to some obscure christian metal jams from the '80s courtesy of Joel and Phil (Nick just sort of hung his head dejctedly and said “welcome to the last four years of my life” as Joel and Phil delighted in knowing every cringe-worthy lyric), we had a killer set, feeling much more at ease with a seasoned guy behind the board.
"Sickened," "Gravewalker" and "The Matter of Splatter" in Santa Ana

After the gig, we piled in the (admittedly much more comfortable) rental van and headed for Phoenix, where we predictably showed up at Ryan Butler's doorstep at 9 in the morning. Ryan is a saint, aside from engineering and co-producing our last two records and playing guitar in the awesome Landmine Marathon, he lets us hang out at his place every time we roll through on tour (which is about five or six times a year), watch cable TV, shower, do laundry and hang out with his dog Leia (who makes an appearance on our split EP with Iron Reagan). We had played in the area just five weeks earlier with Iron Reaganand had a good show, even after just playing there in October with Fetus, so we felt like we were pretty much a glorified local band at this point. We'd been having consistently good shows in Phoenix, and the package was killer, so we weren't too worried. Our confidence was rewarded, and the energy in Phoenix was killer. 

We always swing next door to Asylum Records to hang out and check out the stock, and I somehow resisted the temptation to buy the Japanese pressing of Spellbound by Tygers of Pan Tangthat they had there, remembering how much extra we were spending on the rental van. At any rate, we made our traditional stop for late night Mexican at Filberto's with Buter and a few friends before packing back into the van to drive to Albuquerque for the following day's show. But that, as they say, is a tale for another blog.

Tabs from the slab continued... 

Here's more guitar tablature for you guys to chew on. This time, I've tabbed out the first track from All Guts, No Glory, "As Hammer to Anvil" for you.  It's a pretty straightforward tune construction-wise. The verse, chorus and beginning of the bridge is all built around deconstructing the intro riff, which features a bit of string-skipping alternate picking that's pretty easy to master once you get the hang of it. I got the idea years ago after reading something by Erik Rutan talking about string-skipping exercises he did. The transitions are simple hammer-on ascensions that are our takes on the opening licks in "Back in the Village" by Maiden - or as we referred to it - the "...And Justice for All" lick backwards. Playing it much faster and against F# key of the song (technically C# in our tuning) gives it a different feel than either the Maiden or Metallica takes on the lick (that are in Am and Em respectively). The timing of the chorus riff is loosely based off the chorus riff in "Hypertension" by Razor and the bridge features pretty obvious nods first to Slayer (a bit similar to "Captor of Sin") and then to Carcass (riffing off the chorus in "Swarming Vulgar Mass of Infected Virulency").

I've included the transcription for my solo (or a very close facsimile thereof) here. In doing this, as often happens, I've realized how far what I've been playing live every night has wandered from the initial recording. The first half has some typical stuff that I do a lot, interspersing Adrian Smith-worship minor stuff with occasional spurts of bluesy bits with lots of hammer-ons, pull-offs and triplet timing, and then it goes into a total "Creeping Death" type descent that was just too easy and fun to do, before rounding it out with a quarter-note triplet melody stuff that I so often fall back on for feel and vibe. I'm not sure what Wes played here, but his solo is a killer. If you run into him, ask him for me.

The file I posted here is a Guitar Pro 6 file, which is what we use to send transcriptions back and forth internally. I'm not sure if there's a free way to open the (.gpx) files as I'm not the most internet-savvy guy out there, but the program itself is pretty reasonable - something like $45. I highly recommend it for any guitarists, I use it to write midi drum patterns and all kinds of shit. I tried exporting the file as a .pdf, but it turns into a ridiculously long thing that is of no use to anyone, so... Hopefully you have the program if you're interested.

And for those of you who aren't guitar players out there that are still reading (anyone?  hello?), I wrote an alternate draft of liner notes for All Guts, No Glory that featured a track-by-track breakdown. Here's what I had for "As Hammer..." circa 2011:

I wrote five or six songs for a new album back in 2005, and this is one of the two that we actually recorded for “All Guts, No Glory” (the other being “Cold Caress”). Even at the time, the consensus was that this was the strongest track I had come up with, and it's held up well. Getting it ready for this record, I did tighten up the arrangement (originally there was a weird tempo shift where things slowed to a crawl and there was some atmospheric whammy bar stuff that didn't work that well even then, and definitely didn't jive with the zeitgeist of things in 2011) and shorten the song a little bit to keep it taut and aggressive. One part I kept was one of Mike Beams' old riffs as the tail to the bridge part. I originally wrote this song right before he left the band, and this particular bit was something from his early 90's death metal band Burial. They were a great band, chock full of Mike's amazing riffs, and really good friends of ours in the early days. Their singer, Mark Smith recorded the “Cadaveric Splatter Platter” demo with us back in 1993. Mike was a true gentleman about the riff and was stoked that we used it on the record. Leon actually inspired the title years ago. When Satyricon's “Nemesis Divina” album came out, Leon would always quote the line “I am the hammer, you are the (you have to say this with an exaggerated Scandinavian accent) anwil” which would crack me up. So I had some kind of Hammer / Anvil thing in mind – plus we had already spoofed the band Anvil with “Forged In Fire” back on “Slaughtercult”, so it kind of fit an ongoing motif. I had written lyrics back in '05, but lost them somewhere in the many moves I've undertaken since then, so I just kept the title and vocal patterns (as best I could remember them) and wrote new ones that are probably pretty similar, in all honesty. The bridge part is a little homage to a Tolkein poem about dwarves and their “hammer fells like ringing bells” or something like that, haha!

All right guys, enjoy. Tour updates and photos are coming here soon - here's the link to get the tab.

http://www.mediafire.com/download/61f5cngi6cqjau1/As_Hammer_To_Anvil.gpx

"As Hammer To Anvil" Live at the Roxy at the Scion / Relapse showcase in early 2012

March 2014 - Under the Influence 

Hey there, meant to update this while we were on the road, but... you know how things go on the road - Hangovers, layovers, fatigue, lack of internet... Anyway, we finally finished two back-to-back tours with the truly indulgent and most excellent dudes in Toxic Holocaust across the western half of the USA and the vast majority of the  European continent. We're going to be do something really weird next - take six months off touring (with the exception of the Scion Rock Fest in Pomona, California this May) so we'll actually get a bit of time to relax. Anyway, in between catching up on all the TV I've missed while on tour, I've been going through my computer and tidying up files and such (oh yeah, I know how to have a good time) and I came across something I wrote for a Finnish webzine called Imperiumi. They have a feature called "Pirun Tusina" (which translates to "the Devil's Dozen") where different musicians talk about the thirteen records that have had the biggest impact on them and their musical development.

I love this kind of thing and had a blast writing this up, and it turned out to be pretty long-winded. Anyway, I'm not sure if they ever did translate / post it, but I came across the document and thought I'd share it here. I doubt anyone who knows much about me or the band will be surprised at all, but, if you dig this kind of stuff, hopefully you'll find it a decent read. I'll be back with more new content, tablature and - yes, I have heard your numerous requests - I will resume the tour diaries. Anyway, enjoy this for now.
Cheers,
Matt  

#1. Metallica Master of Puppets


I first heard this around Christmas of 1987. I had turned 12 a couple of months earlier and was gettting into Dio, Maiden, Ozzy, W.A.S.P., and all the requisite 80s mainstream / hair metal stuff. I tried one of those record club 12 cassettes for a penny deals (remember when that was a thing?) and Metallicawas a name I had vaguely heard of somewhere, so I took a stab in the dark and ordered Master of Puppet (Peace Sells... But Who's Buyingwas also in there, which I added on the list because it had cool cover art). After I had sifted through all the stuff I got (Ozzy“Tribute,” QuietRiot“Metal Health,” W.A.S.P.'s first album, Dio“Sacred Heart,” and a bunch of other stuff I've forgotten) I came to the Metallicaand Megadethtapes. I had saved these two for last, since they looked the most frightening and were unknown commodities. I was at my grandparents' for the holidays and was the last person awake. I remember sitting in the empty living room with the tree and all the presents and listening to music in the dark on my Walkman - that's where I first heard Metallica.

At first I thought, “This isn't a heavy metal tape, this like... Spanish music or something,” until that angular, aggressive verse riff emerged from one of the greatest build-ups in Metal history. When the drums kicked in, I was literally shocked. While I listened, alone in the dark, eyes closed, I literally felt like I was on the most intense roller-coaster ride of my life. When “Battery” ended, I had to stop the tape to catch my breath. I remember looking around the room in disbelief – something fucking amazing had just happened to me, something inside me had woken up – and I was a little surprised that the living room still looked the same, because I felt that things had become, well... fundamentally different than they had been before I heard that song. I took a moment to collect my thoughts, and then proceeded to get into the second track. I wasn't sure exactly what the lyrics were about, and I worried (the pitch-shifted laughter in the bridge actually frightened me at the time) that I would get grounded or something for listening to the record if my parents found out it was satanic (it wasn't). The title track ended and again, I stopped the tape to try and make some sense of what I'd heard. I decided that this record was completely worth the risk of getting grounded and that I would press on through the rest of the album. It was that revolutionary to me, that even listening to the record felt like an act of defiance. And it felt damn good.

A couple of weeks later I saw an issue of Hit Paraderor whatever rock mag it was, and there were all these guys with huge hair and sparkly pants, and then there was Metallica and they were just... these four guys. They weren't puckering their lips for the camera – they were scowling, or laughing, or skateboarding. They didn't look like “rock stars,” they just looked like dudes from the nearby high school: ratty jeans; band t-shirts; leathers; puffy white hi-tops. When I saw them, I thought – “Maybe I could do that.” I had been thinking about picking up an instrument, but I never quite made the leap of trying it until I saw Metallica.I thought: “they're just regular guys, and they're blowing everybody else out of the water – no robot dragons, no hairspray, no music video, and they're the most interesting band on the scene. Fuck, if they can do it, why not me?” And so I did. And I'm still playing white guitars, wearing tight black jeans, sleeveless shirts, wristbands and high-tops 26 years later, so I'd say the influence can't really be overstated. So much of what I've done musically stems directly from that night in December 1987.

Even as an adult, I never, ever, ever get tired of listening to this album. Each song is great in its own right, and it has just the right mix of... well, everything. There's youthful aggression, thoughtful passages, touches of Cliff's emotive psychedelic influence, lyrics that are just deep / juvenile enough to stimulate a kid in school but not embarrass an adult, and of course, an endless array of the best riffs in the fucking universe. To me, this album (and to a lesser extent Ride The Lightning) epitomizes how great Heavy Metal can be. For every defiantly triumphal melody, there's a lumbering colossus of a riff or a straight-ahead, face-ripping Thrash section. These guys make using these seemingly disparate elements look easy. I could probably write 800 words on each song, but I'll leave it at this for now.

#2 SlayerHell Awaits
After discovering Metallicaand Megadeth, (who seemed to my young ears to be an inferior albeit enjoyable band to listen to when you were tired of Metallica) anything seemed possible in the realm of heavy music that was just opening up to me.And then... Enter Slayer.I got ReignInBloodfirst, and was of course overwhelmed by the speed and aggression (I even ruined the “listening to students' music one day a week in class” in Seventh grade by playing “Altar of Sacrifice” and shocking the “cool teacher” at school who was very nonplussed) but I ended up spending more time with Hell Awaits. Sure Reignwent for the throat, but Hell Awaitswas fucking scary.

I remember buying that cassette (I religiously bought everything on cassette back then, which I profoundly regret in hindsight) very distinctly. I was having a sleepover sometime during early 1988 at a buddy's house, and we went to the record store together where He bought Appetite For Destruction,and I bought Hell Awaits. Back at his dad's apartment, we compared purchases. As I listened to the Gn'R album (which I now completely love) I was cringing with disgust - all I heard was another generic MTV-ready glam band (again, that's a 12 year-old's opinion), but my buddy was totally into it. Then I popped in Hell Awaitsand it was clear he just as bummed out with what he was hearing as I had been with Appetite. The next morning when I left his house, I knew that we would never hang out again. And we didn't. I got this feeling that I was on a different path- keep in mind I was twelve years old here, I was changing and everything seemed new and laden with significance – leading to someplace darker, faster and heavier than ever before. Hell Awaitswas pointing the way.

This album is verging on pure Death Metal – especially for the time: the dark tremelo picked riffs, songs about hell, necrophilia, serial killers, vampires, and uh... well, amphetamines. Even the bass was audible in the mix! As much as I love Show No Mercy(I used to have it in my auto-reverse tape deck to play over and over while I slept), I feel like this is the album where Slayerbecame Slayer, or rather SLAAAAAAYER!!! This is the sound that defined their greatest moments, the sound of two guitars slashing and hacking instead of soloing, weaving minor riffs fraught with sinister atonality and quirky harmonies around Dave's breakneck drumming. They streamlined and perfected the formula on Reign In Blood, but give me the experimentation and the sinister feel of Hell Awaits any day. The rough-hewn production and not-quite-professional-yet vibe of the songwriting and instrumentation is something unique and very close to my heart.

#3 ExodusBonded By Blood

I got Exodus' sophomore album, Pleasures of the Fleshsometime in early 1988. I liked it, but didn't fall in love with it. I think I had a lot of company in that analysis. The atrocious drum sound and hollow production didn't do the excellent songs any favors. That said, I liked it enough to get Bonded By Blood, which completely blew me away. It was the missing link between Kill 'Em Alland Show No Mercy, but I think it's quite a bit better than either of those albums. When I hear that intro – I feel my blood pressure rise and the intense desire to just find someone to beat the shit out of. And it feels fucking good. By the time I heard this record I had a few thrash cassettes, and was getting a feel for what the genre was about. This record encapsulates what Thrash Metal is perfectly. It may be the quintessential Thrash album. 

It retains the classiness of pure British metal with Holt and Hunolt's articulate, melodc solos, but pairs it with the nastiness of those... fucking... riffs... Riff after riff just completely rules. Baloff's almost tuneless vocals sound like the roar of a guy you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. There's a palpable sense of danger and menace bristling through every aspect of the record, propelled  by the pummeling drum work of Tom Hunting, one of the most criminally underrated drummers in metal. His fills and fluid bass drumming animate riffs that would sound stale with the Lombardo Polka beat.

I love the lyrics to this album more than I can express. There's an arrogant cruelty and complete lack of taste throughout. It isn't about fighting glorious battles or killing your enemies, it's about stabbing people in the back and raping people's wives. There are absolutely no fucks given and no holds barred on this lyric sheet. The lack of refinement and sentiment is refreshing – there's no pretension there. Slayer used big words like “abascinate,” Exodus were okay with just saying “Bloody corpse, makes me feel great.” Because really, what else do you need to say?

I was talking to a friend from the crossover band WhatHappensNext? about Exodus years later, and before becoming a straightedge punk, he was a thrash kid and, being a bit older than I, attended the infamous “dead poseur” show at Ruthie's Inn in Berkeley - The show where the “Slay Team” (Exodus' entourage) dragged some random guy in a Rattor MotleyCrueshirt or whatever on stage and kicked his ass pretty badly. The show fell apart and the band left the stage, but the crowd remained behind, chanting “Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!” for several minutes. As he related that story, he ended with “...and that's why I got out of metal.” I simply responded, “That's why I got intometal.”

#4 Celtic FrostMorbid Tales



When I saw this tape in the record store, I had seen the band's name on a couple of compilations, but honestly, Celtic Frost didn't seem that cool of a moniker to me. It still sounds like the name of a soap (maybe Irish Spring's rival?) to me if I think about it objectively. But between the heptagram cover art and the cool song titles, I bought it anyway (I found a ton of great records that way, like The Force by Onslaught). As soon as “Into Crypts of Rays” kicked in... all thoughts of soap were banished. Now the words "celtic frost" could only mean CelticFrost.The dark, dingy sound of the record was totally different from anything I'd heard before. The riffs remain the heaviest of all time, and this was done without down-tuning and in 1984. That blows my mind.

What made the album even more personal to me was that it was one of the few tapes I had at the time that I could actually play along with on guitar from start to finish. Sure, I knew all the riffs on Kill 'Em All, but it didn't sound like Kill 'Em Allwhen I played it (crappily). But when I played “Nocturnal Fear,” it sounded like “Nocturnal Fear.” I spent so much time playing to this album, its style became engrained in my guitar-playing. By the time I heard Terrorizerand learned their power-chord sliding riffs, my first thought was - “Oh, it's like CelticFrost, but 4 times as fast, I get it.”

Another thing I really liked about this record was that the cassette I bought had no information on it whatsoever beyond the cover art and song titles. I knew absolutely nothing about the band, the image, the lyrics, anything. That, coupled with the relentless heaviness of the music, the grimy recording, and those ubiquitous “unghs!” created a kind of personal mystique for me (that was promptly shattered when Cold Lakewas released later that year). Despite Fischer's attempts to re-shatter it years later with his probably-too-candid autobiography, I can still recapture it when I hear those thunderous, graveyard shaking riffs and every previously “heavy” riff instantly sounds wimpy compared to Morbid Tales all over again.

#5 VenomBlack Metal



In October of 1988, my best friend (then and now) and original Exhumeddrummer, Col Jones handed me the Black Metalcassette and said “Happy Birthday.” We sat down and listened to “the band that Metallicastarted out opening for” as we knew them at that time and were blown away by what we heard. What drew me in was the hell-for-leather abandon of it all. Behind the inverted crosses, piles of amps, racks of endless toms, bombastic monikers, and excessive dry ice was something rare and beautiful – a great sense of humor. Any band that could write a song like “Teacher's Pet” and also help inspire teenagers in Norway to burn down churches over a decade later is clearly covering all the bases.

The sloppiness of the proceedings were extremely appealing to a naïve young guitarist struggling to master the main riff in “Pleasures of the Flesh.” It's a lot easier and more fun to just play “To Hell And Back,” where the verse riff is essentially two chords. I think by this time we felt comfortable listening to heavy music, because I remember grinning ear to ear when I heard this record. I felt like I was in on a brilliant, tongue-in-cheek farce. Slayerhad already cured me of any religious beliefs, so the Satanic stuff had become pure theater for me at this point, titillating but no longer frightening; fear has been replaced by something purer – stimulation. Not sexual, but visceral. Once I saw The Ultimate Revenge, Venomfascinated me even more, and for a good number of years they were be my favorite band. I loved the bombast and the way they were able to make three guys playing sloppy Satanic proto-thrash seem like the biggest deal in the universe. It wasn't just the pyro and the explosions (although those helped), it was the band's swagger and attitude. A life-long love affair with Venom started on my 13thbirthday and  continues to this day.


#6 KreatorPleasure To Kill


Maybe Black Metalwas more fun then scary, but there was no laughter in the room when I heard Pleasure To Killthe first time. I remember listening to this record in early '89 (still thirteen at the time) while eating cereal before leaving to catch the school bus. I sat there shoving honey nut cheerios into my cake-hole and thought “holy shit – this is faster than Slayer!” After randomly catching the “Toxic Trace” video on MTV's Headbanger's Ball, I had to get a Kreator album. Endless Painwas the one that was in stock at the record store around the corner from my house, but I hadn't quite found what I was looking for until I picked this one up.

All of a sudden I felt like there was a new level of speed available to bands, and I wondered why they weren't allplaying this fast? Why wouldn't everyone want to scream on the verge of comprehensibility like Mille and Ventor do on this album? Why stop at ReigninBlood?!?!? The solos here make Slayerlook like Eddie Van Halen, the drumming is off-time and sloppy, the toms sound ridiculous, and some of the riffs are so chromatic they almost accidentally wander into major keys. But who really gives a fuck when it sounds this powerful. This album sounds like it's about to explode out of your speakers and destroy everything in it's path. You feel like you almost have to get out of the wayof this album, it's so aggressive. If I could sum this album up in one word, I'd say it's fucking mean. Even the sort of nice parts (the bridge in “Riot of Violence”) seem like a monster giving a girl flowers and accidentally crushing them in his hand and terrifying the girl anyway. There's an energy to this record that is uniquely powerful, and although I love all their early records, this one really pushed me to want to play faster, along with bands like S.O.D., D.R.I., and CrypticSlaughter.

#7 VoivodDimension Hatross



It wasn't all about speed and brutality, though (although it mostly was). There was room for something a bit more... dare I say cerebral? Voivodwere always the most unique Thrash band, then and now, and Hatrosswas THE ONE. The record was completely different from its peers from the ground up: fueled by science-fiction concepts, broken English, and dissonant, off-kilter guitar-riffs, the instrumentalists of the band had three uniquely bizarre styles that interlocked in a way that sounded unlike anything else. Maybe if I was jamming KillingJoke, DieKreuzen, and KingCrimson in 1988, I would have had some frame of reference for what I was hearing, but I had never heard of any of those bands yet. I was still popping zits listening to Slayer.

The record brought something really appealing to me personally, a long-time comic book and science-fiction reader - a heady and interesting concept that had nothing to with Satan or any other Metal cliches. There was no treading of the same old waters here – the paradigm wasn't shifted, but shattered. Still retaining the heaviness and aggression of their early years and just beginning to tap into the progressive futurism of the Nothingfaceera, the band was (and still is) light years ahead of their time. I think this album sounds as innovative and unique in 2013 as it did in 1988. I loved the fact that everything was centered around this weird concept that they could take it in these strange new directions. Best of all, there's an unassuming aspect about this album: in that it's technical and skronky without being showy about it. The music sounds how it's supposed to sound: expressive and personal, whereas most “progressive” or “technical” music sounds stale, contrived and overthought. This is Voivod sounding like themselves: unique and untouchable.

#8 Sodom Persecution Mania



Growing up in the Bay Area, even a thirteen year-old could figure out that Metallica, Exodus, Testament, et al were pretty fucking popular in 1989. As much as I loved (and still love) the Bay Area Thrash movement, I wanted something faster and more brutal. I wanted that same adrenaline rush that I got the first time I heard “Battery.” Like any addict, I just needed more. Sodomseemed like Kreator's crueler little brother. When this cassette landed in my circle of friends it exploded like the nuclear bomb sound effect in “Nuclear Winter.”

There's not really anything innovative or ground-breaking going on this album, it just kicks fucking ass. Witchhunter's endless tom fills rain down like a hail of bombs (a “Bombenhagel” - see what I did there?), Angelripper's sneering growl spits out tales of Armageddon with a movie-villain German accent, and Blackfire's guitar work borders on tasteful (especially in comparison with Kreator's solos) adding a sheen of “musicality” to the proceedings. The cover art alone is worth buying the album for. We spent lots of time in our parents' living rooms plodding through cover versions of “Persecution Mania” and “Bombenhagel” (as well as “Riot of Violence”) in 1989 and I haven't stopped spinning this record (or many of their other ones) since.

#9 DeathScream Bloody Gore



With Kreatorand Sodomreleasing brilliant but comparatively safe sounding records in 1989 (ExtremeAggressionand AgentOrangerespectively) it was time to look elsewhere for brutality: Florida. The first time I heard SBGI was actually a little confused by the extremity and the basement-level production. After repeated listens I got it: this album was the deranged, bloody audio equivalent of the B- horror films I loved. Chuck's voice sounded like someone was literally torturing him while he played, and the riffs were a less developed version of what Slayerhad done, but still unique. I quickly set to work learning every single fucking riff on the album and we added “Sacrificial,” “Mutilation,” and “Infernal Death” to our semi-competent repertoire of cover songs. 

I remember xeroxing the lyric sheet in the CD (I only had the tape) so that I could pour over couplets like “Vomit for a mind, maggots for a cock.” Once again, there was an element of cruelty to the music. Completely un-PC (and probably regrettable in hindsight) lyrics like “I celebrate, a faggot's death, human disgrace” were actually shocking. I thought after Slayerand Venomthere was no shocking me. Wrong. Another friend of ours had “Leprosy” which is obviously the better album in all respects, but I loved SBG more, then and now, and not just because I could play all the riffs at thirteen. Even after honing my playing and getting down the Leprosy (and eventually Spiritual Healing) stuff, the more straightforward arrangements and willfully atrocious lyrics somehow had wormed their way into my heart and have stayed there ever since. One of the greatest pleasures of my Metal "career" was playing and singing "Zombie Ritual" with Gene Hoglan and other Death Alumni at Neurotic Deathfest. Talk about surreal. 

#10 Napalm DeathThe Peel Sessions



The first time I heard NapalmDeathwas towards the end of 1989 and I hated them. It was a bunch of racket. It was garbage. Questions arose like: “Is this even music? What the fuck was wrong with them? Why would anyone wantto make that sound?” And then, inevitably came the next sentence: “But... play it again.” I wanted the fastest, the most brutal band in the world, and I had finally found them. Within a few months, they went from “the dumbest band ever” to being my favorite band. More than any other extreme band, they represented a paradigm shift in my musical tastes and identity. Just as Metallicaand Slayermade listening to Cinderellaun-fucking-thinkable, NapalmDeathended up doing the same thing to Metallicaand Slayer.

As much as I love (pretty much all) the band's proper records, this recording just shocked me and made such a massive impression. The drumming literally just sounds like an explosion, while the riffs benefit from that distinctive late 80s Bill Steer guitar tone and his great Reek Of Putrefaction-era whammy bar antics make a few appearances too. At the time I heard this record, my friends and I had already been talking about forming a proper band, but before long our original drummer Col and I were holding our own practices where we were free to pursue our love of blast beats. The other guys were still listening to stuff like Coroner, and we were ready to embrace the bash-and-crash style popularized by Mick Harris and the lads.

#11 Carcass Symphonies of Sickness



By summer of 1990, my pimply-faced friends and I were knee deep in Death, Obituary, MorbidAngel, NapalmDeath, BoltThrowerand Entombed.Earache stuff was still really difficult to find in record stores (for a fourteen year-old anyway), but on a trip to San Francisco with my parents, a quick stop at Tower Records allowed me to locate the SymphoniesLP. I didn't have a record player, so I had to listen to the album in the living room on my parent's record player. It's worth mentioning that I had to listen to it on headphones, since there was no way in hell my dad would let me play the god-awful noise I was into at full volume on his stereo (I would buy blank tapes and record LPs onto cassette immediately, then shelve the LP). I remember opening the gatefold and being blown away by the intricately morbid photo collage. As the brief intro slithered to a conclusion and “Reek Of Putrefaction” kicked in, I was not exactly hooked yet. The lyrics were printed in crappy blue font directly onto the gatefold collage and between that and the medical terminology, it was impossible to figure out what the hell they were. My initial thought was that it was like early NapalmDeathgone Death Metal. That of course, doesn't even begin to cover it.

The lyrics were what hooked me in first. I've always been a reader, my mom was a nursing professor so the medical aspect was resonant, and the large words created an insular nerdiness to being into the band that I wholeheartedly embraced. A couple months later I saw the band open for Deathand Pestilence in Oakland. They were the first established band on Earache to play in the Bay Area (as far as I know), and finally hearing guitars tuned that low and blast beats in person pushed my friends and I fully into playing the more extreme stuff. That was when everything clicked for me - that this band was fucking amazing, not just an interesting stream of weird words. On the ride home that night, after being blown away by Carcass, very, very impressed by Pestilence and disappointed by Death(the band only played a few songs as fill-in guitarist Albert Gonzalez of Evildead had insufficient time to learn the material), we decided to merge our bash-and-crash sessions with our proper “songs” and thus the concept for Exhumed was crystallized in the back seat of a Honda Civic on October 14th, 1990 in Oakland.

#12 Repulsion“Horrified”



When you're a bit of a nerd and obsessed with bands, a natural question that arises is "what are my favorite bands' favorite band?" In 1990, my favorite bands were NapalmDeath and Carcass, and in both cases the answer to the above question seemed to be Repulsion. After being intrigued but not blown away by their track “Radiation Sickness” on the Grind Crusher compilation, I tracked down the “Horrified” CD, and... almost didn't buy it because Matt Olivo was wearing a Tina Turner shirt in the band photo. For whatever reason, I pressed on and bought it, and holy shit, am I glad I did. After realizing that Napalm had nicked the opening riff to “Stench Of Burning Death” (for their Peel Sessions version of "Deceiver") I started paying close attention. 

I realized by reading the liner info that everything was recorded in 1986, was was (and still is) astounding. The record manages to combine Death Metal and Grindcore before most people even credit either of those genres as existing. I still think that this is the single most intense Death Metal or Grindcore album ever recorded, period. It has the killer Slayer / Death type riffs, with the snarl and attitude of Discharge, Celtic Frost and Slaughter and the speed of... well, no one else at the time.
Behind all the intensity is some quality guitar work from Matt Olivo, another criminally underrated player, and some genuinely catchy riffs and arrangements. Even their shortest song, “Pestilent Decay” at 1:05 is still a proper song, with hooks and some kind of musical development. The solos flail wildly against the ceaseless battering that Dave Grave inflicts on his drum kit, all beneath the sneering vocals of Scott Carlson, who manages to infuse Death Metal vocals with attitude. 

That's the thing that really sets this album apart and keeps it sounding fresh. If it were simply “the fastest demo of 1986” it would be a novelty. But it's chock full of great songs and a swaggering, sarcastic rock and roll attitude that is so sadly lacking in modern metal. It's no wonder the American metal scene wasn't ready for this band in 1986, they were years ahead of everyone else and remain totally unique.

#13 AutopsySeveredSurvival



Every summer as a kid I would spend a couple of weeks with my grandparents (until I got a job in 1991 when I was 15). The last summer I spent with them was the summer of 1990. I spent most of my time at their house by myself in their spare bedroom with a downtuned Epiphone Les Paul learning the riffs on Severed Survival and attempting the solo in “Gasping For Air”- still one of my favorites.If any band makes me think of the adjective “sick” it's Autopsy.The lurching doom riffs on the album are literally the sound of a chill creeping down your spine and vomit creeping up into your throat. 

I know it's Death Metal, but this record sounds really fucking alive. It feels like you're in the room with the band, the oppressive heaviness of the riffs closing in around you like a coffin lid shutting. Chris' vocals literally sound like he's throwing up the entire time, and Stevie D's croaking bass adds a level of real depth missing on every Death Metal from record from Florida of the era.

Just as I thought I was getting away from “rock and roll” and into something much more extreme and dark, the solos on this album showed me that it's all still rock and roll. There are deranged pentatonic leads everywhere, keeping things loose and nasty, when the entire genre was moving towards being tighter and tidier. They've never walked that path, and my ears are extremely grateful for that. The first “real” show Exhumedever played was opening for Autopsy in January of 1992 (our fourth or maybe fifth overall) and just watching them soundcheck was electrifying. The fact that they were cool guys who were nice to the sixteen-year old nerds playing with them makes that night even more special.
Honorable mentions:
Sepultura Beneath the Remains - the perfect Death / Thrash metal crossover
Entombed Left Hand Path - the perfect template for Swedish Death Metal
Possessed Seven Churches - the blueprint for Death Metal
Bathory Under the Sign of the Black Mark - an album so evil I literally hid it from my parents
Bolt Thrower Realm of Chaos - the grungiest riffs paired with blissfully nerdy cover art
The Cure Pornography- the most fun you'll ever have feeling completely depressed
Sonic Youth Daydream Nation - dissonance that's both jarring and fragile
My Bloody Valentine Loveless - a whirlwind of obscure, beautiful sounds
The Swans White Light From the Mouth of Infinity - the most depressing album of all time
N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton - the hip-hop Reign in Blood
Beastie Boys License to Ill - the ultimate party record and the first cassette tape I ever bought with my own money

Coins Upon The Eyes Transcription 

I'm going to try and stick with posting a transcription a month here. We'll see how that goes. We use a lot of tab for writing and communicating between the band, since we all live 4 hours away from each other minimum, and Bud and I live on opposite sides of the country. The point there being that a lot of our songs are at least partially tabbed out already, so I should be able to get a lot of them up.
 
Here's the first track from Necrocracy - "Coins Upon The Eyes." I figured I'd start here since a few folks on FB mentioned it. I'll post some of the older stuff soon - you'll may be surprised at how bone-headedly simple most of the stuff on the first two records actually is. We use the Guitar Pro 6 program to write / tab in, so I've posted the original .gpx file that the program creates as well as a .pdf. The .gpx file will be far more useful and easier on the eyes, but the .pdf should get the job done if you don't have GP6. 
 
The transcription only includes my solo, as Bud doesn't tab out this sort of thing and he usually incorporates a fair degree of improvisation live as well. My solos are usually 85% planned out by the time I get done recording them. My leads are also easier to play, which makes them easier to replicate both live and in tablature form. At any rate, enjoy and happy shredding in 2014.
 
Cheers,
Matt and the dudes
 
"Coins Upon the Eyes" guitar tablature as a .gpx file
"Coins Upon the Eyes" guitar tablature as a .pdf file

 
 

Winter 2012 Tour Diarrhea part IV: The long and grinding road 

After the end of Municipal Waste / Napalm Death tour in Tampa, we were feeling good about how everything had turned out on "If You're Not Wasted, The Day Is" jaunt across the good ol' US of A, even though we missed the Canadian shows. The morning after the Tampa show, Dr. Philthy, who out of necessity as our van driver maintains a sober lifestyle on the road, unwittingly ate a pot cookie, and as he is not a stoner at all, ended up being incapacitated for quite a while, so we hung out, cooked some breakfast and watched football for a few hours. Rob had gone to party at some other friends' house, so we picked him up on our way out of town. Mike was staying in Florida for a few days and flying out to meet us in California for what was supposed to be the last show of the tour in Fullerton on December 5th. But plans were about to change.
 
I woke up in the wee hours of the third of December in Spanish Fort, Alabama. We had pulled over for what I assumed was a routine piss stop, but the reason for our lack of forward progress was actually an engine problem. As soon as Dr. Philthy restarted the van and I heard how badly it was knocking, I could tell that whatever was wrong with it, it wasn't good. Not that I know much of anything about working on cars, but I've owned enough shitty cars in my day to have experienced almost every possible car problem. We were parked a few hundred feet from a Goodyear tire / repair shop and when they opened at seven am the following day, we were there, bracing for bad news. The news was even worse than we were expecting. They got the van in to take a look at it and quickly surmised that we probably needed an entirely new engine. Whoa. After giving us a ride to McDonald's to get some breakfast and coffee, they referred us to a place down the street, told us we could leave our trailer in their parking lot for as long as we needed to, and didn't charge us a cent to run the diagnostic on the van. Truly some stand up people.
 
Crash course in van surgery
The van limped down the street to Advanced Transmission. After a little false hope that we would be looking at a $700 problem, they confirmed the earlier diagnosis: we were looking at a new engine. This would be way more than what we could afford, especially after taking a pretty serious financial hit missing the Canadian shows in November. Luckily, we got some crucial help from Relapse - thanks guys! - and signed off on the repairs. To further complicate things, between getting the engine and installing it in the van, we would be in Alabama until that Friday. We managed to reschedule the Fullerton show for February, and since we would be staying in Alabama for a week, we decided to add some shows on the way home to try to stem the financial hemorrhaging we were experiencing. The folks at the transmission shop were also great, they let us loiter there for a couple of hours while we formulated a plan of action and the lady who co-owned the shop gave us her personal car to drive around while we were stuck in town, since both of their loaner cars were already out with other customers. That's what I call Southern hospitality. We gathered our personal luggage, bought a lock for our trailer hitch, and headed off to nearby Mobile, Alabama to set up camp in the very affordable and only moderately sketchy Red Roof Inn there.
They also had to pull out the front console to get everything set up.
Since we were implementing austerity measures, we stocked up on groceries and hunkered down in the hotel for an incredibly boring few days. At least the weather was nice. We took a trip to the site of the Battleship USS Alabama, which was moderately interesting, ate some continental breakfast at much nicer nearby hotels and watched basic cable.
The gang gets America on everyone's asses.
Rob Babcock, dumbass first class, reporting for doody.

The USS Alabama. History buffs... you're welcome.
We found a nearby record store and hung out there for a while, and it turned out that the guy who worked there knew who Exhumed was and actually used to hang out with Felix Havoc and the whole Minneapolis grind / crust crew back in the 90s. We also bought some very goofy records pictured below.


 
Mike arrived Thursday night, and to celebrate we went and watched the Raiders / Broncos game. I should have put "celebrate" in quotes, because that game was awful for the silver and black. We shrugged off the disappointment that has been the constant burden of Raider fans for the past several years and prepared to be reunited with our van the next day. That Friday afternoon, at long last, our van was back in action with a brand new engine and we were headed out to Lafayette Louisiana to start playing our way back home. Honestly, just to be heading westward was an incredible feeling. The show was predictably small, but we were just having fun playing and not being stuck at the Red Roof Inn. We were also treated to some delicious homemade gumbo and crawfish which was great. We partied with some locals afterward, and ended up grabbing an acoustic guitar and entertaining everyone with some off-the-cuff country covers, Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe, and a few others. Bud is a killer harmony vocalist, so that made us sound like we knew what we were doing. We then crashed at the promoter's house / compound which was awesome and had tons of room  before heading off to Space City the following day.
This dude was delicious.
Hangover hijinks with Body Bag Babcock in Lafayette, Louisiana.
 
Houston was an ideal situation because we jumped on the Bastard Deceiver show that was already happening. I was stoked to see them play again, especially since the sound wasn't all that great when they played with us in Tampa. They were predictably great. Frank from Turbokrieg set up the show, and they fucking ruled as well - great straight up powerviolence / grind. The guitarist's other band Cervical Mucous Meltdown played right before them and they were also excellent, more of ROP-era Carcass thing. The place was pretty damn full and people were raging. All in all, it was a great night. Even the guy who owned the club was really stoked and gave us a bunch of free shots at the end of the night.
 
We rolled out that night for Austin, Texas. Austin is one of those places that everything runs really, really late. We didn't even have to be there until 7:00 PM, so we had quite a bit of time to kill. Mike got tattooed by John Zig, whose killer artwork should be familiar to just about any Death Metal fan. I drank 7UP and worked through my hangover. While Mike was wrapping up, we headed to the venue and loaded in. Now that we were headlining, we could actually hang up our banners properly, which was cool. Before we played we grabbed some food at "Peruvian Creole" food truck called Llamas that was ridiculously good. I ate a cow heart. Yeah, a fucking cow heart. It was so good I went back there before we played so I could eat one of their sandwiches after the show.  The show was pretty fun and I got to catch up with some old friends, T.A. from Hod and Ancient Wisdom, Jeff from Birth AD and JT from Dixie Witch, and we headed back to Zig's place to crash out.
Medusa Tattoo in Austin.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, why did I forget to frame the shot so my stupid reflection wouldn't be in it?

Fucking cow heart. Yes!!!  Soooo tasty!

Hamilton in the chair and Zig on point, Medusa Tattoo, Austin Texas.

Finally, the correct way to put up our banners.
The drive to San Antonio the next day was pretty short, so went out to lunch at a sit-down Mexican place in Austin that was pretty good and then hit the road. We were playing downstairs at the Korova, where our old buddy Beer from Hod was working the door which was awesome. We also met Adrian from Cannibal Bitch who brought some much-appreciated barbecue and swag. The show was a little underwhelming, but we usually only play Austin or San Antonio, not both, and considering how last-minute it was, it wasn't a surprise. Regardless, it was fun, Pillcrusher was really good, and we crashed at Adrian's place. He works at the long-running and excellent Hogwild Records and had a prodigious record collection that we enjoyed nerding out on well through the night. We left early the next morning for Midland, Texas.
 
We had met the promoter, Jay, in Fort Worth when we played there in November (and where Mike broke the hotel fountain for no apparent reason) as he was a friend of our on-again / off-again merch-slinger Kevin Stewart-Panko. Jay was a stand up dude who put us up in a local motel and brought us beer, water and snacks there. The show was in a totally DIY space, and the only drawback of that was that it was seriously fucking cold. The show was pretty fun, not a barnburner, but far from shitty. And it was in Midland Texas, so we weren't exactly thinking "Wacken Open Air" going into it. We crashed out in the hotel briefly and got some rest for the long drive to Albuquerque.
The last drum head art I did on the tour... This one actually turned out to be my favorite.
Again, we didn't have to be in Albuquerque particularly early, since the venue, the Launchpad was hosting a wedding for the day / evening. We got there in the early evening, got our usual meal vouchers for the excellent Blackbird Buvette down the street (one of the many nice things about playing the Launchpad) and chowed down before the show. I started getting back on a healthier eating track after all the cow hearts and Texas barbecue I had rashly consumed the preceding week. The show was pretty good, especially considering how last minute everything was. We were all getting anxious to get home at this point, so we headed straight from the venue to Arizona to return our trailer to the U-Haul we had rented it from in Chandler (right near Arcane digital recording) and exchange it for another, one-way rental, trailer for the last few days. That wouldn't have been too bad if we were headed for LA like a sensible band, but we were playing Vegas that night, so it was definitely a detour.
Gas Station in Roswell, en route to Albuquerque. UFO conspiracy idiots - you're welcome.

Dr. Philthy, a not-so-little green man, and Rob.

There was also an awful lot of this on the way home.

The Rob Babcock garage sale extravaganza! We've got oven mitts, we've got headphones, if it's on the table, we'll sell it. Hugs are still free, though.
Detour or not, I was stoked to wake up in balmy Phoenix. The 80 degree weather was a welcome change from the 20s and 30s we had experienced the preceding few days. We didn't end up returning the trailer, they just inspected it and re-rented it to us as a one-way rental which was convenient. After some pho for lunch, we were on our merry way to Las Vegas. Our show was right near the "Fremont Street Experience" at a really nice venue with a great sound system. That said, the room was obviously way too big for us. We were in the same room Soulfly would be playing. The show was okay though, and Spun In Darkness are always killer to watch. We were all really tired by this point, and focused on getting the fuck home. As soon as we were loaded out, we were psyched to be on the road into California.
 
The next day, we were finally back in the golden state. Before we got into LA, we hit a Bass Pro Shop for our free picture with Santa. Luckily we still had the goofy Xmas sweaters we had bought in Atlanta. I think the picture turned out pretty damn good. That night, we played at the Key Club, and the show was moved at the last minute from the small room to the big room due to a cancellation upstairs. We had our friends in Gravehill, POOR, and Apoplexy on the bill and we were just super psyched to be almost done. We played a really long set that night, since we had our sometimes front-of-house guy Alejandro with us. The show was a little underwhelming, but we had just played LA less than a month before at House Of Blues, and it was raining (which in LA is a totally normal reason to not go to a show - even the Rainbow wasn't that crowded for a Saturday night due to the rain). Regardless we had a lot of fun hanging with friends and draining a bottle of Grey Goose, some Fireball, and some Schnapps (the last two are Xmas booze, in case you're wondering why our drinks weren't manlier). We grabbed a few more drinks at the Rainbow after the show and headed south to crash with some friends in Carlsbad, just north of San Diego.
Talking moose. Yup.
Stupid picture + clip art + logo = win. You owe it to yourself to view the full sized image so you can be blown away by Rob's sweater vest.
We had finally reached the last show of the tour... I woke up weakened - hungover and feeling like I had a cold or something from fatigue and all the different altitude / climate changes of the last few days. After a refreshing barf, I spent the early afternoon hanging out on the couch watching episodes of Cheers on Netflix, which should put anyone in a good mood. We got to the venue, The Yard, around 4 that afternoon. The Yard is the ultimate DIY spot - it's a converted backyard. Luckily, the trademark great weather of San Diego came through yet again and it was pretty nice out for the show. We were all really burnt and laid around the green room (a living room) until it was go time, eating delicious vegan shepherd's pie and catching up with friends from Disgorge and Noisear.  Before the show started, we were all feeling like we should have just wrapped things up in LA and gone home, but once we got onstage, we had a great time. The environment there was really like a party, and the kids were going ape-shit. It ended up being the perfect ending for the whole tour, with Dr. Philthy pouring blood on the kids from the roof. We dropped off Bud at his sister's place in San Diego and headed back to Carlsbad and hit the local watering hole where Rob made friends, then enemies, then friends again with some gang members (a guy with a neck tattoo, bandana, and probably a gun, told me that he loved Rob) and then concluded the night with some burritos. The next morning, we woke up stoked that the whole trek was finally drawing to a close. We ate a hearty breakfast, dropped Rob off at his new apartment in Santa Ana, then deposited Deedee, our merch girl for last two shows, at her home in Los Angeles. Then the good doctor, Mike, and myself continued the drive north to San Luis Obispo County.
 
Finally, a store that sums up my personal philosophy. Who would have thought it would be in San Diego?
All in all it was a killer tour and a lot of fun. I want to take a minute here to especially thank a few people who made it awesome. First off, Relapse for coming through in the clutch, secondly our agent Dan Rozenblum for throwing two separate weeks of shows together at the last possible second, all the promoters that stuck their neck out for us taking these last minute shows, and most importantly - all the killer humanoids who made it out to in Buffalo, Kent, Denver, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Boise, Lafayette, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Midland, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Hollywood, and San Diego - you guys showed us a lot of love and support when we were in some tight spots and we really appreciate it. Without you guys there, those shows would've sucked!  Anyway, that about wraps up our year. Even though I didn't get to write about all of our misadventures throughout the year, you should have a pretty decent idea of what we're all about and our various trials, tribulations, and triumphs on the road. There are definitely more updates to come, so see you next time, true believers! Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.
 
Excelsior!
- Matt and the boys.
 

Fall / Winter tour diary part III: The never-ending party (?) grinds on, and on, and on...  


Let's pick up where we left off, shall we... 

November 20th, Nashville, TN

We were playing the same venue in Nashville that we were at a few months prior with Cannibal Corpse, the Exit Inn, but this time, we arrived in town much earlier. We decided to head downtown to check out the heart of music city USA. It was kind of cool, very kitschy. We ran into the Speedwolf guys at the Ernest Tubbs record store (which carried both kinds of music, country and western), checked out an awesome vintage guitar shop and ate some amazing barbecue not far from the club. I know I started off the last update by saying I was eating healthier and cutting back on meat, but this was an occasion that definitely called for eating some serious red meat. I ate something called Cowboy Sushi, which was a chunk of hot link with a jalepeno inside, wrapped in a strip of barbecued beef brisket. If you think that sounds amazing, you are correct. At any rate, we finally moseyed over to the venue and were still a bit early. Kevin and I went and checked out a weird old bookstore across the street that had been closed the last time we were in town. The bookstore was plastered with right wing clippings, cartoons, Romney / Ryan stickers, and also had signs everywhere banning cell phone use, loud children, unsupervised children, etc. etc. Needless to say, it was not a friendly atmosphere. That said, the place was crammed full of old books. Almost half the store was Civil War history (I wonder whose side the owners were on?) and most of the books were at least 50-60 years old. Between a hesher in tight black jeans and a leather jacket and a half-black Canadian, we got a lot of dirty looks from the old man who presumably owned the place. At any rate, it was finally time to load in and get settled at the venue. We finally got our whirling saw blade props up and running, after carrying them around for a couple of weeks since the Vermont show. The show itself was pretty decent, not mind-blowing but definitely solid. We partied for a while after the show and Dave Witte turned me on to some of his private reserve stash of extremely unusual and unusually strong micro-brews. Somehow I went from kinda drunk to severely wasted instantly. By the time we got in the van a little while later I was super riled up and wanted to rage. The other dudes were seriously wondering if I was on coke, PCP or what. I started blaring classic Death Metal albums and pounding on the dashboard screaming along at the top of my lungs and being a very obnoxious jackass. I'm a bit hazy on the rest of the night, but it may have involved some random vandalism on my part, and it definitely ended (for me anyway) with a meal at Waffle House where I finally started to calm down before the imminent passing-out to come.
I did manage to find this gem among the racks of country. A true diamond in the rough!

It's okay to eat meat when it's cooked in a giant choo-choo shaped BBQ, right?

This dude definitely knows what he's doing!

Dave Witte - his seemingly bottomless craft beer arsenal will getcha!

Mike surveys his handiwork, mounting our fancy spinning saw-blades at last.
November 21st, Lexington, KY

We got to Lexington pretty early in the morning and met some folks that knew some other folks Bud had met in Vermont. We had parked at their place, which is where I woke up, cotton-mouthed and confused. I met the dudes that lived there and we walked quite a ways to where the other Exhumed guys had gone to get some coffee. After killing some time, we headed to the venue, which was really close by. I learned that Dave had given me Barley Wine the previous night, which I will absolutely pin all my obnoxious behavior on. It was Dave's fault! Whatever it was, whew... Anyway, the show was pretty cool, a lot better vibe for us than the Summer Slaughter stop there without Cannibal Corpse had been. After the show we headed to our buddy Mark's house. We had met Mark when he was doing sound on the Black Dahlia Murder Canadian tour we did earlier this summer and we hung out with him, his brother and some of their friends watching Robocop and Poultrygeist and drinking Jack Daniels well into the early morning.
Bud gets cozy in Kentucky
November 22nd, Day off

Holidays are never that cool when you're on tour, unless you're headlining and you route to your Mom's house or something. The next day's show was in Richmond, VA, Municipal Waste's hometown, so they had planned well and were probably already home by the time we left Lexington around noon. We stopped at Cracker Barrel for Thanksgiving lunch / dinner, figuring that would be the closest to a home-cooked all-American meal we would be likely to find off the interstate. My mom approved of our choice of restaurants so I guess we did okay. We stopped to break up the drive and watch some football in Charleston, West Virginia. We ordered a couple of towers of beer, and ended up meeting a couple of flight attendants who came over and partied with us for a while. They had a tower of some fancy beer that we helped them dispose of pretty quickly. One of the flight attendants got pretty sloshed and then they went out for some “fresh air” and totally took off, ditching out on their bill entirely. Luckily the waiter was pretty cool and didn't charge us for their drinks. When we got gas a little later, we met a hilarious redneck gas station attendant who was bemoaning the lack of good methamphetamines in his area and his unwillingness to use his nephew's drug hookup because his nephew was just a kid. Slice of Americana right there. Without further incident, we headed out for Richmond VA.

November 23rd, Richmond VA

We rolled into Richmond really early, and I was inexplicably awake at around six AM. That is not like me at all. At any rate, since we were so early and it was black friday, I decided it would be as good a time as any (and hopefully cheaper than most) to get a laptop. By the time we got to Best Buy around nine in the morning, the real maniacs had already done their shopping and it was a fairly sane shopping experience. Since we had so much time to kill, we headed to Barnes and Nobles for some free wifi. I dicked around on my computer for a few hours while the guys checked out the mall, got coffee and whatever else they do. At any rate, eventually I got in a nap, and we were at our late load-in with plenty of time to spare. This would be the last day of the tour with Kevin Stewart-Panko along for the ride. He was unexpectedly called away with a family emergency. This is the second tour we've done with him, and he hasn't finished either of them. Was it something we said? Was it my incessant farting in the van? At any rate, there was a matinee show at the club before ours so we couldn't even load in until 8PM, and of course it was a total clusterfuck. But it was worth it. The kids were going apeshit, and the place was packed. I managed to sneak out for a beer or two with Albert Mudrian, author of “Choosing Death” and Decibel magazine's intrepid editor-in-chief. It was good to get caught up and look at his oh-so-cute baby pictures. After the show, we dropped Kevin off at the airport in Richmond and headed south for Bud's house in Charlotte, NC.

November 24th, Charlotte NC

We got there early in the morning and headed into Bud's pad to get some inside sleep while Bud caught up with friends in town. By the time he came back I had slept and showered and we were ready to head to the venue, the Tremont Music Hall. We had done a very underwhelming headlining show there, but tonight was much better. I think after coming back with Cannibal and again with Napalm Death we might be starting to get a little traction in Charlotte. A friend of Bud's brought us her Thanksgiving leftovers which were much appreciated. The green bean casserole was great even cold. At any rate, the show was cool, and afterward we headed to Bud's local watering hole, The Thirsty Beaver, to have a couple of beers until last call. We ended the night on Bud's couch and recliner before an early van call for the drive to Chattanooga Tennessee.
Two of my favorite drummers not named Mike Hamilton, Danny Walker, or  Col Jones - in Charlotte, NC
November 25th, Chattanooga TN
I woke up at a Wal-Mart where were getting our oil changed. Now I know that Wal-Mart is an atrocious corporation that preys on small towns by destroying local business infrastructure and reducing the average wage level to below the poverty line, but when you're on tour, it helps to buy goods and services at national chains because you can actually take advantage of their warranties and return policies no matter where you are in the country. At any rate, this seemingly trivial detail will attain at least a semblance of significance as you read on. So... This show had been moved from Knoxville to Chattanooga due to the venue in Knoxville getting shut down. The place in Chattanooga was a tiny bar with very little PA or any space for staging equipments, banners, etc. We were all stoked when we saw it. Especially after having so much fun “roughing it” in Buffalo, Denver and Cheyenne we were excited for such an up-close and personal kind of show. Again loading in and out wasn't particularly easy, but after getting everything figured out as far as sharing equipment to minimize logistical hassles, we headed off to grab some food at the Yellow Deli, another find from the Happy Cow app. The food was killer, and we headed back to the venue ready to have some fun. The show had a great energy, and when Reed from Speedwolf dedicated “I Can't Die” to a biker in attendance, things really got going. It was one of the many nights after Oakland where I kept thinking I might end up going to get more stitches in my lip. Thankfully, Steve, who was running sound for us and Napalm Death on the tour, helped me keep the microphone and my face more or less out of harm's way. I met a super nice kid named Dave who gave me his band Aortic's cover of “Decrepit Crescendo” on CD, which was not only accurate but pretty well done. The place was so small that after we played, I hung out in the merch area most of the rest of the night where we worked on a bottle of whiskey and somehow ended up leaving with a mounted boar's head. Good times. While I was sippin' Tennessee whiskey, Mike Hamilton was regulating shit next door during the Municipal Waste set. Mike was onstage trying to help Dave with his kit during one of their songs, and got dragged into the pit, almost getting into a brawl until Tony stopped the song and explained the situation. Later that night, we ended up crashing at some dude's apartment with the Speedwolf guys. The apartment was a little weird because a) there was no toilet paper / paper towels / tissues anywhere and b) the room Dr. Philthy stayed in had a strap-on dildo on the dresser. We had to split pretty early the next day so we didn't even get a chance to thank him or get an idea of what kind of freaky shit goes on there on a daily basis. We may never know, and that's totally okay with us.

November 26th, Birmingham AL

We had to split earlier than we'd planned from the casa de strap-on due to Wal-Mart never giving our keys back after yesterday's oil change. After going about 40 minutes in the opposite direction, we got on the road to Alabama in earnest. Again, we were at the same venue we had played earlier with Cannibal Corpse, so it wasn't too much of a surprise. This time we skipped the cool downtown area with the hilarious statue of the goat man reading books to the little animals and just hung out at the venue once we got there. The show was cool, not as intense as when we played with Cannibal, but still a really fun vibe. Nothing too incredibly interesting happened, so onto New Orleans...
Barney making one of his 1 zillion guest appearances, this one with Municipal Waste on "United Forces" in Alabama. 
November 27th, New Orleans LA

The last time we had played in New Orleans we made a grievous mistake before the show. We headed to Bourbon Street for “a couple of beers” at around 2 in the afternoon. Needless to say by the time we played ten hours later, Rob could barely stand and the rest of us could barely play. We left the show angry and wasted in the pouring rain. We were determined to notrepeat that experience and to make it up to the folks that attended the last show – which may have been the worst show I've played since high school. We instituted a self-imposed ban – Exhumed is not allowed in New Orleans until seven PM. We killed time about a half hour away soaking up our hangovers, scouting for more stage props (unsuccessfully) and of course, sitting in the van. By the time we got into town, it was time for load-in. Our plan worked and the show turned out to be really fun. They had totally revamped the kitchen at Siberia for the better. Dinner was delicious, and after we played I got a killer asparagus sandwich, anticipating the need to soak up the undoubtedly copious amount of alcohol in store. After the show, we headed to the outskirts of Bourbon street with most of the Municipal crew, Mitch from Napalm, and the Speedwolf guys. Interesting things that happened that night / morning: Reed from Speedwolf bounced a guy out of a bar, not sure why; a random dude in a suit gave me 10 dollars to monopolize the jukebox with; Rob almost fought a guy because Rob didn't like his bike; Bud got up to piss after passing out and left his shorts in an alley; and, to top it off, we saw a bad-ass midget on the ride to a friend's house at around 7am.

November 28th, Day off

We woke up sometime in the afternoon and headed into the Garden district to get some excellent Mexican Food (not like barrio style, more like Mexican fusion, but fucking delicious) at Juan's Flying Burrito, which is becoming something of a tradition for New Orleans mornings for us (even though our New Orleans mornings usually start after 2PM) and hung out loafing until around six in the evening when traffic on the way out of town died down. It was a long drive to Jacksonville, Florida that I was eager to sleep through. We did manage to get pulled over for the first time on that drive, for failure to stop at an agricultural inspection station. The State Trooper turned out to be a pretty cool good ol' boy and we went along our way without ticket or further incident.

November 29th, Jacksonville FL
Now, anyone that knows me knows that Florida is not one of my favorite states, classic Death Metal notwithstanding, but in late November, Jacksonville is an awesome place to be. I gleefully donned shorts for the first time in a couple of weeks, did laundry and then we headed to Jacksonville beach for a few minutes of sea and sand before finally checking out the latest James Bond flick, Skyfall. I love Bond movies in general and really enjoyed this one as well. At any rate, after the movie, we headed to the venue which was in a weird strip mall kind of place. The venue was huge and cavernous, with multiple stages and rooms but seemed very unorganized and set up really oddly. At any rate, the show wasn't all that great, but it was a good day, the weather was nice and we had some good Mexican food for dinner near the venue where Shane from Napalm ate an enormous burrito in one go. Now we know how he got the Brujeria gig. We were all psyched to hang out with friends in Atlanta so we hopped in the van and got moving pretty soon after the show.
Jacksonville Beach, FL. Beautiful place.

Vern, Napalm's drum tech takes on a formidable burrito challenge in Jacksonville.

November 30th, Atlanta GA

Again, we got there very early. It seemed like all the drives toward the end of the tour were just a bit too long to stay in the town we played in, but short enough to where we seemed to arrive at around seven or eight in the morning the following day. At any rate, we woke up and headed to Little Five Points to hang out for a bit. We picked up some supremely ugly Christmas sweaters at a thrift shop, poked around some other stores, ate lunch at an excellent natural foods store in the neighborhood where I got an amazing jerk-style tempeh sandwich that was one of my favorite things I've eaten all tour. After that we hung out with Mike (Longoria) from Withered and checked out their jam space until it was time to load in. The club was a new place I'd never heard of or played before but the it was really nice. Next to the club was an event facility where a swanky wedding was taking place. Apparently the wedding was being filmed for a reality show about weddings which was odd, but there were a lot of well-dressed, good looking women going in and out of there all night which was cool. I met up with my old buddy John Mincemoyer who writes for Iron Fist and Terrorizer (among others through the years) who took us to Mellow Mushroom for some pizza. Their spinach and feta pizza was killer. The show went over really well, and afterward, I headed off with Mike (Thompson) from Withered and our Mike (Hamilton, for those of you keeping a tally of all the Mikes in my life) to another bar for a quick drink, then we made it back to the venue in time for a killer beer / meat tasting hosted by micro-brew master Dave Witte and a friend of his who is a professional butcher. It was cool hanging with Brann from Mastodon and the Royal Thunder crew as well, all while enjoying some delicious meat like blood sausage, pork pate with pistachio and pork skin, hand sliced prosciutto and other exotic carnivorous delights alongside Dave's extensive selection of beers, everything from stout to sour to porter to you-name-it. I cracked a couple more beers with Ryan and Phil on the Municipal Waste bus before we took off for Tampa that night – our last night on tour with Municipal and Napalm.

Ted gets a little TLC in Atlanta. Poor guy's been through a lot!

Beer and meat tasting prep. Yum!

Brann from Mastodon and Bud - Contamination tour 1999 reunion!
December 1st, Tampa FL

We woke up in Tampa at Rob Barrett from Cannibal Corpse's place, where his lovely wife received us and made us an amazing lunch. Rob was on tour of course, but his lady was a great host. By the time we headed to Ybor City for load in we were fed, showered and had managed to watch some Dirty Harry movies. It was the last night of the tour for us and Speedwolf, and it was definitely a celebration. The show was kicked off by Bastard Deceiver, an awesome grind / crust band from Tampa, which was an excellent surprise. We organized another group stage-dive during “Suffer The Children”, and as I watched Napalm's last song, “Instinct of Survival” from the side of the stage, Shane walked over and handed me his bass so I finished the song out with the band, which was awesome. While that happened, the other Exhumed and Municipal guys came out and started doing jumping jacks. It was definitely a party vibe. We were all bummed to not be continuing on to Miami and the cruise, but looking forward to heading home and getting some rest. Between the recording, Japan, and the tour, none of us had really been in our own beds since September. Of course, that didn't stop us from heading down the street to the Boneyard for more drinks. Toward the end, somehow country started dominating the juke box and it ended up being us and Speedwolf singing along to David Allan Coe (and even a Garth Brooks song, I admit it) and being drunk idiots. We headed back into town to crash out at a friend of Mike's and get psyched for the loooooong drive home. The drive would end up being quite a bit longer than we anticipated, but we'll get into all that in the next installment of the continuing adventures of the drunk, dumb and ugly that is our collective life on the road.
Body bag in the swamp. At least his beard is right at home.


Barney guesting on "Iron Fist" with Speedwolf in Tampa. 

Last pic of Barney, I swear! Barney and I at the afterparty at the Boneyard in Tampa. 

'Til next time – face front, true believers!
Cheers,
Matt and the lads

About

Exhumed has been one of the California Bay Area's longest running death metal bands.  At their release of 'Gore Metal" in 1998, Exhumed established themselves in a genre of their own "Gore Fucking Metal."  Reinventing death metal, Exhumed aimed to bring back the brutal, in-your-face sound while not falling into trends of excessive double bass. Their most recent release,'Necrocracy' has been named among iTunes Best of 2013 in the metal category.  At almost 25 years, Exhumed is touring internationally regularly, playing shows anywhere from headlining festivals to intimate shows at small venues. Stay tuned for more Exhumed, Resident Rock Star's featured national artist for February
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