Exhumation- Master's Personae (Album Review)

May 14, 2024


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Indonesia’s Exhumation is a band that’s been on my periphery as far back as 2014’s Opus Death, but prior to this year’s Master's Personae I hadn’t explored their material in-depth.  Originally formed back in 2008 with an emphasis on old-school death metal that fell somewhere between Morbid Angel and Vader, with each album Exhumation’s sound has continued to shift and pull in different influences.  Since 2018 the group has functioned as a duo, with a wide range of guests brought in to provide additional instrumentation, and this is once again the path they have taken on Master's Personae.  This effort continues the mix of black and thrash tinged death metal that emerged on 2020’s Eleventh Formulae but takes things a step further, opting for a bit more melody and tense atmosphere alongside the chaotic and frantic riffs. 

As mentioned earlier, the core duo of Ghoul and Bones have brought in a variety of guests since Eleventh Formulae to help bring their vision to life and this time around they have recruited the likes of Sindre Solem (Obliteration), S. Iblis (Possession), Shyaithan (Impiety), and Sabbac (ZOM).  With this in mind it’s not surprising that Master’s Personae bears some resemblance to some of those bands, with the sound often coming closest to Obliteration’s 2018 effort Black Death Horizon.  There is also a lot of Scandinavian DNA alongside earlier death/thrash from other parts of Europe, as Exhumation has plenty of fast and furious passages where the riffs and drum work feel like barely controlled chaos that ebb and flow like a tornado emanating from your speakers.  Opener “In Death Vortex” is appropriately named, as it begins with an ominous melodic lead that explodes into a flurry of fast paced riffing.  The intensity remains at a high and around the two-minute mark a scorching solo comes in that captures that same unhinged feel as early death metal and thrash where the notes seem like they could unravel any second.  Compared to its predecessor Master’s Personae is a bit more melodic and gives time for some darker atmosphere to build, as the production grants a bit more space for each instrument to breathe.  That doesn’t make the material any less furious, but it does make the slower transitions on tracks like “Chaos Feasting” stand out thanks to their thick and foreboding melodies.  Exhumation gives listener riff after riff to focus on, and even the two interludes work a bit better within the context of the album when compared to Eleventh Formulae.  “The Martyr’s Lament” in particular is haunting and gives a nice respite from the attack.  There are a few moments that run together given the tempo and frantic nature, but these are minor complaints on an otherwise strong effort.

Bones’ vocal work has only gotten more intense with each album, and his performance makes an immediate impression.  It doesn’t take long for his raspy screams and growls to come blaring out of your speakers on “In Death Vortex”, and each verse seems to get more distorted than the last.  Exhumation’s production also enhances the vocal work, as it allows for the different pitches to break through without letting them overpower the instrumentation.  At certain points Bones breaks into a shout that brings Auroch and Bölzer to mind, as there’s a slightly cleaner tone but it sounds like the words are being yelled from the tallest mountain peak.  On other songs there are also chants, and compared to the average band of this type Exhumation brings a lot more diversity to the table which helps them to stand out even further.

Exhumation has continued to pivot towards the more rabid death/thrash of decades past while injecting a bit more melody and thicker atmosphere into their songwriting.  The result is an album that’s a wild ride full of twisting and turning riffs as well as blistering solos, providing plenty of reasons to hit the repeat button and get battered all over again.  Listeners are sure to note similarities to some of the more chaotic pioneers of the genre, but Exhumation still has enough of their own nuances to be well worth spending some time with.  Master’s Personae is available from Pulverised Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg