(In this July 2017 edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews all the albums of the Norwegian band Execration, including their recently released 2017 album, Return To the Void.)
Recommended for fans of: Morbid Angel, Autopsy, Blood Incantation
With a sound that blends together the most fundamental elements of classic Death and Black Metal – yet which, for various reasons, you’d never describe as “Blackened Death Metal” or “retro” – Norwegian quartet Execration are a hard band to fully pin down.
The fact that their music also incorporates numerous strains of Prog, Doom, Punk, and Thrash only makes this task even harder.
Still, there’s a good chance that anyone who’s a fan of grim, grimy, guttural Death Metal, with a penchant for weird, acid-fuelled atmospherics and moments of spasming dissonance, will find a lot to love here.
SYNDICATE OF LETHARGY – 2008
Unsurprisingly, the band’s full-length debut (following on from their similarly rabid, yet unrefined EP, Language of the Dead) is the roughest, rawest album in their back catalogue, with much less of the strange progginess which would come to infect their later work.
But what it might lack in that respect it more than makes up for in meaty, Death Metal riffage, kicking off with the chaotic chug ‘n’ churn of “Fleshfire” before proceeding rapidly into the fret-mangling finger work and doomy, despair-stricken chords of “Disciples of the Suffering”.
The title-track, “Syndicate of Lethargy”, is a whirling dervish of chattering, low-tuned guitars and harsh, overdriven bass that is both staggeringly heavy and so utterly, irredeemably filthy that it may leave you feeling grubby and stained for at least a few days after listening… although the sheer savagery and rapid-rife blastery of “Kuroi Kiri” is probably harsh enough to scour away more than a few layers of accumulated filth if you listen to it at a high enough volume.
At a solid eight minutes in length, “Swarming Locusts” is the first sign of the band’s burgeoning ambitions to be more than *just* a Death Metal band, morphing between brutal chugs and buzzing tremolo and gut-wrenchingly heavy doomery, before concluding in a disturbing display of bizarre dissonance, and is followed in quick succession by the brutalizing strains of “Voracious” and the frenzied blastbeats and hideously hooky riffs of “Subconscious Warfare” (which is easily one of the album’s stand-out tracks).
“Submission to Falsities” is another track which starts to hint at the more abstract and unusual path the band would go on to take, what with its rough interweaving of traditional Death Metal pummeling and more angular, dissonant elements, but it’s the eleven-minute “Clinging to Existence” which sees them really pushing the boat out, the grisly guitar work of Jørgen Maristuen and Chris Johansen switching between chug-heavy, subtly technical brutality, foreboding, spectral atmosphere, and malicious, maddeningly infectious melody with little to no regard for convention or the boundaries of acceptability.
ODES OF THE OCCULT – 2011
As good as their debut was, Odes of the Occult was where the band really started to kick into high gear, beginning with the brutish “Ode to Obscurity”, which proceeds to shiver your timbers and rattle your bones with a procession of booming riffs and bone-shaking drums for five and a half gruesomely groovy minutes, after which “Unction” picks up the pace in a storm of scattergun blastbeats, buzzsaw guitars, and warped, anti-melodic atmospherics.
“Entheogen” is a nasty piece of work, make no mistake, all slithering riffs and unsettling, angular twists designed to keep you from getting too comfortable, while the monstrous “A Crutch for Consolation” is ten minutes (and change) of pure filth and fury, replete with some of the gnarliest vocals and sickeningly infectious riffs that the band have ever recorded, as well as a hefty dose of mind-mangling, Gorguts-style dissonance and some oppressively doomy overtones.
With the Bloodbath-esque “Soul Maggot” the band really get their chug on, while also finding time to throw in a flurry of spitfire blasts and a bevy of twisted, surprisingly technical riffs along the way, while the punishing Death-Punk of “Grains” ups both the tempo and the intensity by several notches in order to give your ears a suitably brutal battering that builds towards a stupendously dark and creepy finale.
The six-minute savagery and strangeness of “Obsession” neatly encapsulates why it’s so hard to pin down Execration’s sound, with its multiple twists and turns and sudden shifts from ferocious aggression to eerie, slow-burning menace, all pinned together by the complex, kit-wrecking performance of drummer Cato Syversrud, who just seems to instinctively know when to ease off on the gas, and when to go hell-for-leather, for maximum impact and effect.
The album concludes with the pulverizing “Left in Scorn”, which brings together pretty much everything that people love about Death Metal – the energy, the electricity, the sense of barely suppressed darkness and danger – and slaps you right in the face with it in a stunning display of metallic venom, proving that, while Morbid Dimensions tends to reap the lion’s share of the praise these days, Odes of the Occult deserves just as much attention and recognition.
MORBID DIMENSIONS – 2014
The band’s third album introduces a much heavier dose of unorthodox melody and narcotic atmosphere into the mix, making for a much trippier, much stranger descent into the abyss this time around, beginning with the Black–Sabbath-gone-(Blackened)-Death-Metal march of “Cosmic Mausoleum”, which takes its sweet time getting going, but which really ratchets up the tension and the weirdness factor before the eventual eruption of strangling tremolo riffs and bestial, bellowing vocals which follows.
“Ritual Hypnosis” marries passages of off-kilter pseudo-melody and nerve-jarring dissonance to a backbone of palpitating grooves, all designed to get under your skin and stay there like some sort of particularly persistent viral strain, while the seven-minute madness of “Doppelgangers” channels prime-era Morbid Angel and mixes it with the sinister sadism of Mayhem, as well as some deliciously deviant progressive elements, resulting in one of the band’s finest, and most disturbingly catchy, compositions.
The title-track finds the quartet rolling up their sleeves and tightening their belts to deliver a metallic mélange of deathly riffs, doomy atmospherics, thrashy rhythms, and moody melodic horror which never fails to send a shiver down my spine, after which the brooding “Tribulation Shackles” continues things in a similarly doom-laden direction, and takes you on a nerve-shredding eight-minute journey into the grim depths of your own psyche.
The malevolent creep and crawl of “Vestiges” has a much more Black Metal feel to it, from its jangling, dissonant un-melodies and fizzing, electrified tremolo runs, to its raucous, ramshackle blastbeats, but doesn’t skimp on the hefty grooves or oddly-progressive fretwork either – nor does “Ancient Tongue”, which manages to be just as bleak, blackened, and belligerent as its predecessor, but potentially even weirder and more unsettling at the same time.
“Miasmal Sabbath” is, as you might expect from its title, a slower, doomier, and altogether darker number, its stripped-down riffs, primitive hooks, and all-round aura of gloomy groove proving to be both deceptively complex and yet utterly infectious, before the hook-filled, punked up assault of “Funeral Procession” brings things to a fittingly raw and ruthless close.
RETURN TO THE VOID – 2017
Continuing on from the steady growth and development shown on their third album, Return of the Void finds Execration in a much more blackened mode, opener “Eternal Recurrence” riding a jagged spine of scything, razor-edged riffs and punchy, pugnacious drumwork, and follow-up “Hammers of Vulcan” going for a creeping swagger of murderous grooves and menacing melodic touches, with both tracks seeming to channel a touch of Rebel Extravaganza-era Satyricon.
“Nekrocosm” is packed full of high-voltage riffs, taut, rippling bass lines, and scorching hooks, as well as a plethora of warped melodies and groovesome, doomy moments, all of which build towards a climactic, deathly gallop, after which the ominous, slow-burn intro to “Cephalic Transmissions” brews and broods for almost a full minute-and-a-half before finally erupting into a pitch-black parade of cruelly contagious, Satyr-esque riffage and shockingly violent (yet surprisingly versatile) drumming, all driven by a pugnacious, punkish energy, that eventually transitions into a lengthy passage of eerily atmospheric string work and haunting, proggy ambience.
Following the somewhat throwaway interlude of “Blood Moon Eclipse”, the bone-grinding grimness of “Unicursal Horrorscope” lurches into view like some monstrous leviathan rising from the depths, driven by the fuzzy, distorted bass lines of Jonas Helgemo, whose gargantuan low-end presence helps anchor the song’s distorted, doom-laden dissonance on this physical plain, even as the song threatens to come apart under its own prodigious weight.
After another slightly superfluous interlude, the title-track goes for the throat in a rampant display of morbid, blackened guitar work, strutting priapic grooves, and sinister melody that builds into a pummeling second half of big, choppy Thrash riffage and pounding drums, before “Det Uransakelige Dyp” (“The Inexhaustible Deep”) sees the band unleashing their darkest, most progressive ambitions in a warped display of riveting riffs and spine-tingling atmospherics and sudden, unpredictable dynamic shifts.
New School, Old School… Death, Black… or whatever in between… if you like your Metal on the darker side (of the moon) then Execration might just be the ones for you.
After a preview or two, I’ve been skeptical to Return of the Void, but hearing at least half the album in one go puts it in a different light all together. All in all a good write-up, leaving Execration with an impressive report card.
Just bought RETURN TO THE VOID last night. It’s impressive and reminds me of Horrendous a lot. That’s a damn good thing!
Great review (“eerie, slow-burning menace”. i love it).
This band is awesome, all their albums.