Interview with guitarist and vocalist Matt Harvey | By James Alvarez
California death metal titans Exhumed are back with a ripping, quasi new album in tow. It’s the complete re-recording of their classic debut album Gore Metal. Released in late 1998, Gore Metal was a filthy slab of chaotic death metal that helped launch Exhumed to underground prominence and served as chainsaw infused jolt to the entire scene in general. With its low-fi production, bloody cover art and savage batch of tunes, Gore Metal perfected a gritty, horror film chic that would inspire countless imitators over the years. For all its ugly charms however, there’s no denying that sonically, Exhumed’s debut is a difficult record to sit through. That’s how Exhumed frontman Matt Harvey feels anyways. We caught up with Harvey to get the inside scoop on Exhumed’s complete re-imaginging of their infamous first record.
What got the whole Gore Metal redux project going?
We did the Municipal Waste, Napalm Death tour a few years ago and our van broke down and we needed a new engine. Relapse [Records] got us a new engine. With Necrocracy we had just fulfilled out contract but we thought we should give them something else because they just threw a new engine in our van which is a lot of money. It was coming up on the fifteen year anniversary of the record, and I thought maybe they would be into putting this out.
It’s weird that it’s just out now, because we recorded it in January/February of 2013. We planned it for the fall for the fifteenth anniversary of the album, but then Necrocracy got delayed so we said, “Okay, it’ll be a sweet sixteen.” Then Relapse said, “Hey we have this twenty-fifth anniversary thing coming up in 2015 and we’d like to start it off with Gore Metal.”
Could you describe the re-recording process for us?
We didn’t want to try to turn bologna into filet mignon. I kind of reigned myself in: “Don’t do what you’d do now. Don’t start overdubbing stuff and doing all this shit. Let it be what it is, it’s Gore Metal, it’s supposed to be raw.” Let it be ya know? For me I guess it’s what you might call a vanity project.
I basically like all of our albums, except the first one. I thought the first one really stunk, even when we recorded it. I liked the songs but I didn’t like the way that they came out. But it’s not a do over not just for me but for the whole band. When we started talking about doing it, we contacted Ross [Sewage, former bassist/vocalist] to do some vocals, Mike Beams our old guitar player to lay down some solos. The only one who didn’t record was Col [Jones]. Recording two different drummers in two different studios with two different drum kits doesn’t make for a cohesive album.
What was it like reuniting with your previous band mates? Ross Sewage has even joined Exhumed onstage during the West Coast dates of your current tour.
The thing that I hated the most about Gore Metal, was that Col and Ross, we all grew up together; we hung out everyday after school at that time in your life when your friends are your whole world. When you’re seventeen and don’t know how to talk to chicks. We all read comics, played role playing games… we were a really tight knit group. Around Gore Metal was the time where we were growing up and we were growing apart. To me it was like the mess of the album represented the schism in our friendship.
To go back and re-record the album and get the other guys involved in it, for me turned something that was a negative experience into kind of like a positive, healing type thing. That sounds really cheesy and slightly new age-y but we’re all good now. There’s a level of mutual respect and friendship now. Having Ross come out and do these five shows with us; for a long time he was doing Impaled and we were doing Exhumed and there was this Metallica/Megadeth rivalry but it’s really funny. Just hanging out with him over the last few days all the stuff that I was angry about fifteen years ago is like so far in the rear view mirror that I can’t even remember it. It’s so trivial now compared to all the things we’ve been through in our lives as adults with actual problems, not like oh our rock band stuff.
How do you feel regarding Gore Metal and Exhumed’s legacy?
It’s kind of weird because when we were writing the record we had this really strange mixture of extreme egotism and extreme humility. On one hand I was like okay the record will come out, most people will hate it, it will be in a few record stores but now we’ve made a real record. On the other hand I thought there’s no other band, certainly in America, mixing early death metal, grindcore and thrash. Nobody sounds like us, nobody is doing what we’re doing. The album is called Gore Metal, like [Venom’s] Black Metal, we’re gonna make a statement that’s going to change the scene! It was this really bizarre mix of unrealistic idealism and extreme realism of like, “Yeah it’s just another album that most people will think sucks.”
Part of me thinks, “You see, I told you this stuff would be important in 20 years!” It’s nice that people still want to hear “Open the Abscess.” We play some of these songs every night and they still get a reaction.
Everybody’s journey of getting into metal is a very personal thing. I remember for me it was Master of Puppets, then Reign in Blood, Morbid Tales and Black Metal and Under the Sign of the Black Mark and records like that. So when people tell me that one of our records is like that, and say, “Oh I remember the first time I heard Gore Metal” or “I bought it because of the cover and I didn’t know what to expect and wow…” that’s pretty neat because to me I know all those records mean a lot to me personally. If one of our records means a lot to someone like that well that’s pretty fucking nifty. That’s the best you could hope for. We knew when we were starting out that we weren’t going to be driving sports cars or dating supermodels, we just wanted to make some noise.
Grab the new and improved version of Gore Metal [with even gnarlier album art!] right here.