Nordic death group Execration push genre boundaries, dare to dream with ‘Morbid Dimensions’

ExecrationIt’s been a pretty good year for death metal that pushes the boundaries of creativity. Yeah, it’ great when bands adhere to the OSDM formulas, but when you can add some new twists and turns to the sound, that’s just as good. You don’t have to look much further than Morbus Chron and Horrendous to find examples from this calendar year.

Now, with 2014 crawling toward its conclusion, we have a great late-year entry to throw into the mix of death bands who want to shape the genre the way they see fit. Execration, the decade-standing maulers from Norway, offer their fair share of head-scratching, body-crushing death on their new record “Morbid Dimensions,” their first in three years and debut release for the always reliable Hells Headbangers. I’ve been lamenting this a lot lately when reviewing what’s been a strong crop of late-year albums, but I hope this doesn’t get lost in the shuffle because of its December arrival. It’s a damn fun, riveting record, and there are so many twists and turns during its nine tracks and 60 minutes that you have to keep your head on a swivel in order to anticipate the next attack.

Execration coverThe members of Execration pretty much have remained intact since their 2004 launch. On guitars and vocals you have Jorgen Maristuen and Chris Johansen, on drums is Cato Syversrud, and on bass is Jonas Helgemo, the only guy not in it from the beginning, though he’s been a member since 2006 and has appeared on all of their full-lengths. This record really is a step up for them, though there’s nothing to complain about with their previous efforts “Syndicate of Lethargy” and “Odes of the Occult.” Instead, the praise for where they are now is based on how they’ve stepped up their sound, improved their strange magic, and have become one of the most interesting death metal bands in the world.

“Cosmic Mausoleum” is the first cut, and it has an echo-laden, doom-infested beginning, with a cold trickling sense to the guitars. It opens up, with grisly vocals, mean and riveting guitar work, and a tempo that keeps building and getting deadlier. Speed begins to rule, with tenacity brimming and the soloing sounding razor sharp and inspired. “Ritual Hypnosis” is punchy as hell, with gravelly growls, leads that boil and give off steam, and drums just clobbering. There are some bizarre, ghostly transmission in the center of the track, and the ending brings all the explosive elements back to the front. “Doppelgängers” is both spacious and clobbering, demonstrating some of their branched-out thinking, with the guitars setting up a fit of pure hypnosis. The growls are deadly as always, with doom re-emerging and howls of, “We enter the portal of hell!” reminding you that danger surrounds. The title cut rumbles and gallops hard, almost as if they’re riding a NWOBHM wave briefly, and later some black metal melody makes its way into the picture to darken the scene. The playing gets tricky and smoky, feeling like Krallice at points, and the cut ends in punishment and savagery. “Tribulation Shackles” is a monster at 8:23, with strong riffs leading the way and the death growls feeling alien and detached. The guitars are flushed with air and atmosphere, but then the axe falls again, crushing anew with dark noises taking the song to its conclusion.

“Vestiges” is built on eerie leads, gruff vocals, and a chugging tempo that injects new heaviness into the picture. The lead work is mind altering, giving hints of some of Iron Maiden’s more mystical moments, and the vocals absolutely crush your will to live. It’s just devastating. “Ancient Tongue” is all over the map in a good way, with melodies encircling and suffocating, the rhythm section just obliterating, and another foray into black metal’s circles that makes this such a blistering lesson. “Miasmal Sabbath” has a fitting title, as there are sections that sound like Black Sabbath worship, which is always a good thing. The track drives slow and hard, with a horror house soundtrack sense bleeding forth from every pore. Much of the noise hangs in the air like a ghoul, with the final moments putting on the last punishing touches. Closer “Funeral Possession” brings the fire to a raging point, with scary, flesh-crawling melodies rolling in, cool riffs making this chunky and bruising, and weird progressions keeping everything interesting. The fury is raw, as are the vocals, and the power gets kicked into high gear, as the band takes a last chance to show their inventive playing, their gory hunger, and their penchant for destruction. Fittingly, the final sound you hear is a gut-wrenching grunt that cracks you across the face and ensures that your eyes are wide open.

Execration are in a really good place 10 years into their run, and “Morbid Dimensions” is their new high-water mark. Every second of this thing is compelling and engaging, and it’s awesome hearing the guys putting a new spin on their interpretation of death metal instead of just treading the same sections of water. This is a band on the rise, one that’ll benefit greatly from their association with Hells Headbangers, and should be looked at as a group forging a blazing new path to tomorrow.

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