Matt Harvey of Exhumed Discusses To the Dead, Comparisons to Carcass and How Hiatus Strengthened the Band

All images courtesy of Getty Images/Wiki Commons/Exhumed

EXHUMED's MATT HARVEY: "Ultimately For The Scene To Survive, It Can't Just Be, Like 10 Legacy Bands"

The early 90s saw a burgeoning assortment of delectable delights via extreme metal. One such scrumptious morsel was “gore metal” outfit, Exhumed.

After a barrage of split 7-inches over the course of the decade, the band finally struck gold in 1998 with the aptly named Gore Metal—an influential album that would go on to help establish its own micro-genre. That ingenuity set forth would define Exhumed and its de-facto leader Matt Harvey.

While many bands sought to adhere to trends, Harvey looked to establish them through Exhumed. However, trailblazers in the music scene often need thick hides and a determinedly relaxed mindset. Matt has both in strides. “I have had people tell me that we’re basically a thrash band. I’ve had people tell me that we’re a death metal band. People told me that we were a grindcore band.”, jested Harvey.  “When it comes down to it, as long as you come to the show and buy a fucking shirt, you can call us whatever you want.” [laughs]

But those of us seemingly impervious to the nonstop pounding of the pavement can be worn down, even commander-in-carnage Harvey. The six-stringer chose to put Exhumed on ice in 2005, leading to a half-decade hiatus.

2011 saw the band release, All Guts, No Glory, the first album of original material in 8 years. Harvey and the boys haven’t slowed down since, issuing album after album of masterful, spine-chilling metal. Recently released, To the Dead is no different. And Matt believes it’s a special album fans will relish track by track. “It’s a record where every song stands on its own.”, resolved Harvey. “Something worth listening to. I love records such as Master of Puppets or Somewhere in Time, where you can dig into every song. Spend a lot of time with each cut.”

Metal Castle met up with Matt via zoom to discuss To the Dead, the bothersome and endless comparisons to Carcass, and how Exhumed’s hiatus strengthened the band.

Exhumed on the Real-Life Grave Robbing Story that Inspired Their New Record | Bandcamp Daily

Let’s start by discussing To the Dead. What was the series of events that led to several of your former band members coming into the fold for the album’s writing process? What did the process look like considering the number of people involved?

A buddy of mine sent me a text that said, “Hey man. October 2021 will be 30 years since you guys played your first show.” I thought, “Well, that’s kind of depressing. But it’s also momentous.” The band and I started thinking about what we wanted to do to commemorate that. Of course, the pandemic played a factor in deciding how we would have that accomplished. Doing a show was certainly not guaranteed, so that was out. Then we considered re-recording some old songs. But we’ve already done that and lots of bands have done that. Then I thought, “Everybody is home more because of the pandemic. Having potentially excess time on their hands. I wonder if guys that used to be in the band would consider writing songs for the record. That’s how we can celebrate.” I was not confident in how well the idea would work, because I didn’t know how responsive people would be. But everybody was extremely responsive.

As far as the process, the whole band is scattered to the winds anyway. The person closest to me is Ross [Sewage], and he’s a four-hour drive away. So, we’re very used to working remotely. Sending files back and forth. Doing demos and sending emails. All that kind of shit. That was the same way that the process worked with the guest writers. It felt natural. It was very much like our typical process on a broader scale. I told everybody, “Just send me what you got. I’m going to have some editorial oversight. I’ll send you my changes and that will be that. Unless you think I destroyed what you were going for, we’ll go from there.” Everybody was receptive to that. I love the songs by the guest writers. I’m so familiar with my style that it occasionally feels repetitious to me. It was nice to get some fresh perspectives for the album.

How do you feel the fresh perspectives from the guest writers contributed to the final product that is To the Dead?

They made the record a little more dynamic. I’ve known all these guys for 20 years minimum, so each song has their unique hallmarks. “Defecated” was written by Matt Widener. It has this weird harmonic interlude. It’s something that I would never have thought of, at least not in the context of Exhumed. But I think it totally works. “Undertaking the Overkilled” by Leon [del Muerte] has his quirky sense of timing. Again, something that I wouldn’t have come up with that I really enjoyed. Those types of things overall made the album, as I said, more dynamic.

Exhumed exhibits a high level of technical musicianship which, I imagine, is something you want listeners to be able to appreciate. However, there is also a certain signature style of gritty rawness that the band exudes. When you’re working on a record, such as To the Dead, how do you balance those two sonic elements to produce something that you feel satisfied with?

Clearly, you listened to the record and paid attention. That was precisely the kind of dilemma that we were in. There’s so much metal that has come out in the last 20 years that’s so well produced. It’s so well played and executed. It ends up sounding almost polite because there’s not a note out of place. Nothing’s ever even slightly out of tune. It really is just about finding a balance for us. This style of music sounds best when it’s raw.

We went into this record with a concept for the sound we wanted to achieve. I was sending our engineer Alejandro things like the first Goreaphobia seven-inch, Morbidious Pathology and Mucu-Purulent Miscarriage by Necrony. I told him, “I want it to sound like this, but good.” [laughs] We ended up changing our guitar tone for this record. On the last few records, we used a very traditional 80s Marshall tube screamer kind of thing. This album is all solid-state preamp emulation stuff. We went into it with a much harsher tone. It was all to find the right balance that worked for us.

I have seen some people complaining about the production online. I knew that was inevitable. We know how to make a record that sounds good. Everybody can make a record that sounds good. The challenge is to make a record that doesn’t sound like everything else. That’s what we were going for—character above perfection. I think we succeeded in that respect.

Matt Harvey of Exhumed | This is Matt Harvey of the San Jose… | Flickr

Do you have any favorite riffs or solos from the album?

I liked the solo that I did in “Rank and Defiled”, which was a song that Ross wrote. When he originally presented it, that section did not exist. I shoehorned it in. I thought, “Alright, let me just do some cool shit here.” [laughs] A lot of our music is really fast. My strengths as a lead guitar player are playing slower, more melodic, legato-type passages. The last record had zero. This time I wanted to set myself up for success. Allow me to present my playing in the best light possible.

I love the solo that Sebastian [Philips] did in “Lurid, Shocking, and Vile.” The passage before the solo is eerie with weird timing; Then it breaks into fury. He goes balls out, like a fucking runaway locomotive. I think it’s super effective and extremely interesting. We tried to have better solos on this album. Allow ourselves space to present our guitar playing more musically. The last time around was just attack, attack, attack.

My understanding is that over the years Exhumed has begun to use the gore subject matter as an allegory for other topics. Are there any metaphorical songs on To the Dead?

On “Rank and Defiled” Ross was gonna do some sort of political take, but he told me it wasn’t working. It ended up being about us playing rock music, the way that we do it. I’ve always been fond of songs like that. I’m a big new wave of British heavy metal fan and half the songs are just about rocking.

“Undertaking the Overkilled” has one of those recurring themes that I keep falling back into. Look into the abyss and the abyss looks back kind of thing. It’s about being desensitized to other people’s humanity through infotainment. Cable news culture, which tries to gradually mold society into thinking you can put people into categories. Then dismiss some of those categories. It can be quite a malicious process.

“No Headstone Unturned” started out being about desecrating a graveyard and smashing some coffins. As I was writing it, I realized, “I think I’m writing about tearing down Confederate monuments.” We need to tear down these sacred cows of the past or else we’re gonna be confined by them. At the same time, it’s still about trashing a graveyard. [laughs]

Exhumed is often described as gore metal or death grind.  How do you feel about those terms being used to describe the band?

I think that people are gonna categorize you. That’s just part of creating and having your creation out there in the public eye. It’s the reason we called the first record Gore Metal. We knew people were going to try to categorize us, so we decided to put our spin on it first. Try to set ourselves apart from the rest of the extreme metal coming out at the time. When that first record came out in 98’, there was a lot of technical stuff, slam, and whatnot that was hanging around. On top of it, we had been lumped in with bands like Haemorrhage and Regurgitate. We are big fans of those bands, but we are not a goregrind band. Although, we were heavily influenced by grindcore. I don’t give a shit what people call us at this point. When I am dicking around on guitar, I know when I come across something with the Exhumed sound. If I don’t know what we sound like at this point, we’re in deep shit. [laughs]

The only thing that bothers me is when people say, “You’re just like Carcass.” Yes, Carcass is one of our influences. Absolutely. They’re not our primary influence nor are they our only influence. If there were like 10 or 15 bands, they would definitely be in there. But we’re not General Surgery. We’re not The County Medical Examiners. We have our own take on everything. It feels reductive to say otherwise. It didn’t start to really bother me until Carcass reformed. I thought, “This is gonna be annoying now.” I mean, it was great as a fan. I got to see Carcass a bunch of times. It’s annoying as a member of Exhumed though. You have People that have only heard like 20 death metal albums, and a Carcass album will be one of those. They will go, “You got two lead vocalists and a large lyrical vocabulary. You guys must be like Carcass.”


During Exhumed’s hiatus, you played in a variety of other bands. What did you bring from those experiences to Exhumed when the band reformed?

It was an informative period in my life. I needed to get some perspective on the band and myself. I had an idea of what success was or wasn’t. In my mind, if we weren’t bigger than Morbid Angel or Cannibal Corpse in five years then we failed. That was my mindset at 22. Playing with Repulsion, Scarecrow, and Dekapitator amongst others affirmed to me that I like playing guitar in front of people. I like being in a band, and I like doing everything that comes with it. It’s important to me. I realized I needed to stop putting external pressure on myself for reasons that have nothing to do with why I started making music. I started because it makes me happy. I was able to let go of that stuff. That allowed me to come back to Exhumed.

When Exhumed reformed it was a better situation from the jump because everybody there was focused on being a musician. In the early days, that wasn’t the case. We had a drummer who said, “I love death metal. But ultimately, once I graduated college, I’m going to become a chemist.” It’s tough when everyone in a band isn’t on the same page. On top of that, there is this naïve, testosterone-fueled, adolescent pride hanging around. That’s a recipe for dissatisfaction. I learned a tremendous amount during that period and grew a lot as a person.

 Joe O’Brien (@JoeOB1005) is a contributing writer for Metal Castle and may be reached at





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