Review: Exhumation – Eleventh Formulae
In a year of death, Exhumation are the kings.
I’ll put it out there right from the start—we’re four months into 2020 now, and despite an onslaught of good stuff coming out this year, Eleventh Formulae is my favorite death metal release to come out this year so far.
Indonesia is not a country that is really associated with death metal, and let alone death metal of this variety. In spite of a lack of the scene or support network that similar bands in the States or Europe would have (per the metal-archives, Indonesia has had a third the death metal releases than just California alone across the last ten years), they’ve been operating for more than a decade now, with two previous albums under their belts; each release has seen the band grow and refine their deadly power, and Eleventh Formulae is the culmination of that sinister development.
The most obvious comparison here is Obliteration and their stretched-out take on the classic Autopsy formula—a comparison that’s only strengthened by the malevolent melodies and lead guitar that regularly come to the forefront of the mix over the rhythm guitars. That’s not to say, though, that Exhumation lack their own sound. Despite the fact that the core of many of the pummeling riffs is that Cutler-esque sensibility, the sheer velocity that Exhumation keep their songs at helps to differentiate, and the complex song structures combined with that sense of melody and sometimes near-psychedelic help place the band in their own category.
Each riff is complimented by an inferno of quick drum hits from session and live drummer A.K., who despite not being a member of the core band has performed percussion for Exhumation since the band’s first record. The drums sound killer in the mix, and A.K.’s choice of beats and velocity keeps any point of the record from feeling stagnant. Another point of focus aside from the stellar instrumentation is the extremely varied and poisonous vocal performance by Bones. Ranging from a powerful shout to higher shrieks to lower growls and beyond, Bones is one of the more dynamic vocalists that I’ve heard in modern death metal. It’s rare to listen to a death metal record and feel like the vocalist is anything other than interchangeable, but Exhumation relies on every part of the band to push beyond the sum of its parts, and the vocals are no exception here.
An aspect of Eleventh Formulae that some fans may be a little less excited about is also one that likely comes from the now-veteran band trying to show off their experience—the introduction of several long interludes. Given the clear thought that went into writing each piece (called “Formulae” by the band), I feel that they work well given how relentless most of the songs are, splitting up the album into more digestible chunks of bloody meat than the experience might otherwise provide. I particularly like “Formulae II: Ironheart Rapture,” which simultaneously calls back to a song from the band’s second record while providing a pretty piano piece that I’d dig even outside of the context of the record; that being said, nearly a third of the album is tied up by interlude and outro tracks, and that’s not always a popular move. Major respect to Exhumation for taking the risk on trying it out, and even more for making it actually work.
Eleventh Formulae comes in defiance of the biggest trends in death metal right now, and comes in defiance of the trends of the band’s home country. If you’re looking for a record with major depth to dig into, this is for you—and if you’re not, you sure wasted some time reading this.