Exhumed, Iron Reagan, Necrot, Oakland Metro Operahouse, Oakland, CA 09/12/2013

The boys are back in town... Move yer ass!

Two days after the fact, and my ears are still ringing from the aural beatdown they received at the latest Exhumed show here in the Bay Area. At some point, I'll have to start watching out for my health regarding these things, but for now I'm still too busy getting my spot up front to give any thought to such matters.

The show took place at the Oakland Metro Operahouse, a staple within the Bay Area punk/metal scene. Do no be misled by its moniker, the Operahouse is nothing if not bare-bones. But its environs are perfect for some fine, fine thrash-n'-grind -- on a Monday night, no less.

Local acts Volatile Substance and Necrot opened things up. V.S. played a short-n'-sweet set of old-school hardcore material, though they looked like they hadn't quite gotten their sea legs in terms of live performance. Nevertheless, not a bad opener. Necrot was next, trafficking in classic, crushing death metal that was both brutal and well-paced. Inventive time signatures, too. This was the band that really got the crowd ready for the onslaught.

Iron Reagan seem to be kindred spirits with Exhumed, if not in musical style then in spirit. They oughta be, as they appear on a split EP with the necrocrats themselves, out January 7 on Tankcrimes Records. And indeed, their live show did not disappoint. A raucous and jovial set thus commenced, with the Reaganites taking an enthusiastic crowd through the crossover-infused sound they spearheaded on their 2013 debut, Worse than Dead (A389 Recordings). None of the songs reached past the two-minute mark, which meant frenzied (and friendly) microbursts of energy in the pit that were nearly as fun to watch as the band. Throwing in covers of both Cro-Mags and Cannibal Corpse material, it was clear these young Republicans don't mind mixing their punk with their metal. I certainly got a chuckle out of the song titles (Eat Shit and Live, anyone?), though, truth be told, I'd worked a long day and was saving my energy for what was to come. Which brings us to the main act.

The San Francisco Bay Area certainly has no shortage of heavy bands to which we are fiercely loyal, and which we never tire of seeing live. Off the top of my head, I think of the Melvins and High on Fire. Well, Exhumed most certainly belongs in this pantheon. Bay Area metalheads, native or otherwise, have a soft spot for these dudes, and for good reason. They're just a damn good time, combining the shit-eatin'-grin spirit of old-school thrash with the brute force of disgustingly good gore-grind. My friend and I noted that, with their triple-V (two guitars, one bass) attack , double-stack amp arrangement, and full-ham stage moves, these dudes totally vibe off a time when metal belonged in arenas. To see such a dynamic show in such a small space felt pretty damn cool.

So, anyhow -- the music. I added my banging head to the wall of hair at the front of the stage as Exhumed blasted through material both new and old. Songs off their latest album, Necrocracy, sound fantastic live -- Coins Upon the Eyes was a devastating opener, Dysmorphic got the heads a-bangin', and of course, the title track was a barn-burner. But then, these guys have been around for a minute, and it's the old material that really warms the hearts of seasoned heads. Short-n'-ugly standards like Open the Abscess, Limb from Limb, and Decrepit Crescendo saw the faithful screaming right along, and watching guitarists Matt Harvey and Bud Burke trading shredding solos got the crowd's fingers a-wigglin' in their direction. What do we call that? Not quite jazz hands… shred fingers? Who knows, but seeing as the stage was only about two feet off the ground, that meant these fingers were usually right in dudes' faces as they laid down the six-string law.

Needless to say, Exhumed shut shit down, and the final nail in the coffin was the bottom string of Harvey's guitar snapping during their run through The Four Horsemen. Those who made it out this Monday night provided a hearty send-off to Exhumed and Iron Reagan as they set off on tour, a fact which Harvey gratefully and humbly acknowledged at the end of the night. Catch them in a town near you, suckers!