Execration appears to be quite the popular name for death metal bands, so I’ll begin with a clarification: this review concerns the Norwegian death metal band Execration – not the Italian death metal band Execration or the Colorado death metal band Execration (who themselves are not to be confused with defunct Michigan death metal band Execration, nor with disbanded Arizona death metal band Execration). Norwegian death metal is relatively rare, and with this album, Execration are threatening to make it even rarer by changing nationality genres. Previous album Odes of the Occult was a fairly straight-up death metal record full of Incantation and Immolation-isms – but with Morbid Dimensions, Execration find themselves venturing deep into black metal territory.
Initially the most obvious change is in the production. Odes of the Occult went for a very dark and heavy guitar tone and wonderfully punchy yet natural sounding drums that matched the bludgeoning, occult death metal perfectly. On Morbid Dimensions, the sound is much lighter – the guitars are not as distorted and contain much less low-end, the drums are not nearly as aggressive, and the vocals are layered with more reverb. Combined with prominent, mildly distorted bass, the production sits somewhere between Hail Spirit Noir’s Pneuma and Deathspell Omega’s Paracletus.
The black metal influences in the compositions are quickly apparent. Opener “Cosmic Mausoleum” begins with a slight modification of the “Black Sabbath” riff, moves into an eerie clean section, before attacking with blackened death metal aggression. The Deathspell Omega influence is also evident musically, both in the ghostly clean buildup and the dissonant flourishes over the blastbeats. Later on, Execration employ some almost Nifelheim-esque thrashing and black metal harmonies that wouldn’t be out of place on an Arkhon Infaustus record. As you can imagine, the song is pretty long to fit all this in – almost seven and a half minutes – but the diversity keeps it interesting throughout.
The variety of influences and lengthy songs continue for the remainder of the album. Alongside the aforementioned bands, a little Watain, modern Mayhem (see especially “Tribulation Shackles”), and even hints of occult rock creep in, while the more death metal-sounding parts are now much more Tribulation than Immolation. While variety is certainly a Good Thing, more often than not the songs on Morbid Dimensions feel like loosely related collections of riffs rather than cohesive wholes. At over an hour long with all nine tracks lasting well over five minutes, a good deal of trimming and re-arrangement would have done much to diminish this impression.
I’m not convinced that the production is quite right for the record, either. The less aggressive, lighter sound fits the dissonant black metal sections perfectly, but leaves the thrashier parts sounding toothless. Perhaps this is because I enjoyed the old-school grit of the previous album so much, but I frequently feel myself yearning for more dirt and punch. I understand that the band is aiming for a different aesthetic here, but don’t quite pull it off. The low dynamic range doesn’t help either, sucking some of the character from the less distorted guitar tone.
This is an interesting experiment from Execration, and they deserve some props for their willingness to move in new directions at the risk of alienating some fans. Morbid Dimensions is an ambitious record with much to recommend it, but they would do well to tighten things up next time if they continue down this path. In the meantime, I’ll keep listening to Odes of the Occult, and I recommend you do, too. It’s cracking.