Bear your likely introduction to the desperate ruiné of Indonesian bicephalic terror Exhumation by way of this third storm of cythraul, ‘Eleventh Formulae’. The weight felt beneath their upward echoing scream is a universal dread shouldered with concern for the souls of all men — Viewed without ceremony, or compassion, as vessels for putrid corruption and purposed in three notions against piety (formulae). A treatise on the temptation of death in trance of worship, alchemy, and a poisonous heraldry shared among death metal music’s numbed and cacophonous black legion this work slashes through the chaos of today with a rusted, infectious blade of the past to make quick and unfeeling sacrifice of the unworthy. Elite, cloaked and sightlessly clicking their razor-sharp riffs in dark corners — The deep reverberating gusts of classic death-thrashing abandon emitted by way of these Yogyakarta-based possessed posit the fiery ‘soul’ is not only irreparable once lost, that Death is the one true ‘God’, and that yours sits powerless to their vampiric blender of riff once its proboscis breaches the thickness of the skull.
Not to be confused with the somewhat forgotten Greek melodic death metal band, Exhumation have arisen from the grand traditions of black/death metal within south east Asia that’d truly fired up back in the late 80’s where bands like Sabbat, Abhorer and Impiety would slowly build towards a early-to-mid 90’s peak blend of classic and extreme metal tenets. Of course I’m being a little bit generalist here, the early days of Exhumation (see: ‘Hymn to Your God‘, 2012) were probably more tightly related to the Deicide influenced sects of Polish death metal in the mid-90’s a la Hate or Damnation. Their second album (‘Opus Death‘, 2014) kicked it even more ‘old school’, adding plenty more room to the production and morphing their expression towards a sound that’ll invoke the blackened death-thrashers within Chile these last two decades (Perversor, Force of Darkness, etc.) This was a point of celebration as their death metal rituals felt doubly serious, riding on adrenaline and attuned to the darkest pits of late 80’s/early 90’s death attacks. ‘Eleventh Formulae’ still deals in those interminable structures for its bulk attack offering some of the ‘variation on a theme’ that characterized ‘Opus Death’ at face value but now arranging the listening experience for effect, injecting new ideas and energy that help Exhumation stand out from the crowd; These eventful transitions, interludes, and some experimentation with song structures may not be enough to thrill the uninvested sub-genre dabbler but should impress anyone in the know.
Even if you are already familiar with this band’s prior records no doubt the fucking wrath of opener “Mors Gloria Est” will floor you with it’s death/thrash by way of its ‘The Nocturnal Silence’ blazer of an intro. There are countless bands who can modulate their sound between the bestial precursors of black, death and extreme thrash metal within a single song but most make some concessions in terms of riffs, this is where Exhumation will stun the unsuspecting listener with exacting strikes of fidgeting death/thrash, blackened death metal, and some of that good ol’ ‘Beneath the Remains’ machinery. Vocalist Bones has made some adjustments to his tone, a little more more towards the early Autopsy-esque howls of ‘Sleepers in the Rift’ and guitarist Ghoul is undoubtedly channeling some true obsession with the riff, some wicked fire or ambition that lands above-average and ends up ‘making’ the record. There are plenty of intricacies to note and changes to describe here but I gotta say, the major point to get to is the riffs. Plainly stated, you want ‘Eleventh Formulae’ for the absolute class of the guitar work and everything else is just gold-plating one some level. It also bears mention that this third time around with session/live drummer A.K. is his finest work to date, a visceral and insane performance that stands strong within Exhumation‘s echo chamber.
The wailing dive-bombs and descending group-shouts of “Vicious Ecstasy” are a fine example of the eighth generation napalm-slapped ‘Hell Awaits’-spurned conclave emanating from this record — It is a daemonic summoning, majestic as it is traditional in ancient conjuration of dark spirits. I’m not some jaded old asshole (depends who you ask, eh) but a death metal record rarely stuns me this much with its composition in action, where I’m not just admiring the structural whip of it but -glazed- by the rip of its performances. The sheer force of ‘Eleventh Formulae’ is magnetic and it’d all be too overwhelming to soak up at once if not for the space offered by the three ambient “Formulae” pieces that separate the album into loose chapters, ending each phase with dark ambiance, invocation, or in the case of “Formulae II: Ironheart Rapture” a four minute piano piece.
There are two ways I’d view these bookmarks, first as an experimental strike at a conceptual album that could become more blatant with future ambitions or secondly, as thematic space between groups of three or four songs implying they are intentionally related. Chapter markers, more or less. The real genius of this tracklist comes when the album is left on repeat and the invocation that ends the album (“Formulae III: Eleventh Vessel”) bears an instrumental finish that leads right back into the power-surge of “Mors Gloria Est.” This compares favorably to the previous album, where 2-3 songs might’ve felt similarly themed but would overwhelm on the full listen, by spacing these pieces into sections I could be mystified by the segue or reflect upon the massive amount of detail applied to the prior 2-3 songs within each section of the record. I am grateful to get a few chances to take a breath and let it all sink in after huge songs like “Perdition Spells” and the aforementioned “Vicious Ecstasy.”
Riffs, rests, and righteous rips of the olden ways make this one of the best releases of February and one of the most energizing death metal records early in the year. Before I’d heard ‘Eleventh Formulae’ I would’ve said, sure, this band is cool but you’re gonna forget ’em in a month! Instead they’ve struck upon something special and vital on this third album. Of course results will vary if you’re not prone to the sweeping curse of extreme thrash or ‘old school’ blackened death metal but hell, I am, and I’m completely satisfied and still thrilled by my time with this record. Very high recommendation.
Very high recommendation. 4.25/5.0
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