The last time Exhumed played in Des Moines, it was the middle of July. If you’ve never been to Iowa in mid-Summer, imagine being trapped in a giant pair of sweatpants and forced to walk through someone’s sweaty, overheated crotch; now you’ve got a pretty good idea of what humidity in the Midwest is like. It’s the kind of heat that causes old people and animals to spontaneously drop dead. Now, imagine a tiny venue with no air conditioning smack dab in the middle of that nasty-ass environment. These were the conditions Exhumed were forced to weather their first time playing our little one-horse town, so it’s something of a small miracle that they actually agreed to come back. Granted, they’re in the midst of a high-profile tour with death metal kingpins Cannibal Corpse (for more on them, wait for my upcoming review of their new album, Torture), but still, I can’t imagine that initial encounter made a very good impression.
Fortunately, Exhumed were playing a larger venue with actual climate control for their second assault on Des Moines, and being that All Guts, No Glory was one of my favorite albums of 2011 (and one I still revisit regularly), it was pretty killer to have them back in less than a year’s time. The fact that no one had to deal with heat advisory level temperatures only made the prospect of seeing them again that much more enjoyable. My wife and I got to the venue while the opening bands were doing their thing and met up with guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey (my wife and Mr. Harvey are former co-workers) for beers and catching up, but before we knew it, it was time for Exhumed to slaughter the stage.
Immediately launching into the one-two punch of “All Guts, No Glory” and “As Hammer to Anvil,” Exhumed proved from the get-go just how tight a live band they’ve become thanks to a ridiculously rigorous touring schedule. However, in spite of the precision and professionalism with which Exhumed layed waste to their set, you could tell that they were also genuinely enjoying themselves. They were giving it their all and having a good time doing it, and that infectious energy was absorbed by the audience; harnessed into appreciative moshing, headbanging and horns-throwing.
The quartet’s sickening set leaned heavily on their latest album, plowing through “Necrotized” “I Rot Within” “Death Knell” and “Distorted and Twisted to Form” in addition to the two aforementioned opening songs, reinforcing the notion that this is some of the band’s catchiest and most musically accomplished material to date. They also played my two favorite oldies, “Decrepit Crescendo” (the very first Exhumed song I ever heard on a random Relapse compilation) and “The Matter of Splatter” from 2003’s Anatomy is Destiny, an album which was thought by many at the time to be the band’s last gasp and to this day remains criminally underrated. The set was further bolstered by classics from across the band’s discography, such as “Torso” “Limb From Limb” and “Open the Abscess” and each song played seemed to get the crowd even more riled up. Exhumed excels at mixing the ultra-gnarly, razor-sharp attack of death metal with a catchiness and attention to songwriting that recalls the best of Bay Area thrash, and that lethal combination was in full effect for the duration of their time on stage.
To sum it all up, Exhumed were feral, filthy and flawless; I heard more than one Des Moines metalhead saying that the headliners would really have to step up their game and that the Californians had stolen the show. I watched Cannibal Corpse while my wife headed down to the car for a nap (she’s not a fan, what can I say?) and afterwards, we met up with Mr. Harvey for more beers in the backstage area, where a lengthy discussion about doom, garage rock and the many merits of KISS ensued. We offered them lodging, but the fellas instead opted to head to a karaoke bar that was crawling with yuppies jamming on Rick Astley before making the two-and-a-half hour drive to Omaha, NE. A great time was had by all and I hope that Exhumed will continue to make the Midwest a regular part of their touring regimen.
Extra special “no thanks” to the so-called “security staff” at People’s Court. First they, hassled us for attempting to bring a camera into the venue for this article (hence the shitty cellphone pics), in spite of us being on the list. I know at this point you’re probably thinking, “it’s your own fault for not requesting a photo pass, dumb-fuck!” but you see, less than a month ago we were on the list for Ghoul/GWAR and were able to bring a camera into the venue with no problems and were therefore under the impression that photo passes weren’t needed, so I’m going to go ahead and blame the venue for inconsistent enforcement of policies on this one. Then, there was the tool who kept trying to kick us out when we were waiting around to chat with the Exhumed fellas after the show was over. Keep in mind that this “security guard” was roughly four feet tall and sported a haircut that caused him to resemble a penis, so he really wasn’t doing himself any additional favors by running around acting like a little hard-on. Grow another 2-3 feet, put on about a hundred and fifty more pounds and then maybe, just maybe you’ll be able to intimidate someone, douche. Don’t get me wrong, People’s is a great venue that has been doing quite a bit of late to help bring quality metal to Des Moines, they just need to be a little more choosy about who they employ.