It’s easy to wonder if death metal is currently in the midst of an existential crisis. In one sense, it perpetually is; its obsession with mortality is such that everyone from Martin Heidegger to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine would tell the genre to chill out a bit. On the other hand, the acts that find themselves popular with critics wear a different sort of existential crisis on their sleeves, one of existential malaise. As one should always be wary of virtually everything that critics (along with intellectuals and “experts”) tell them, everyone ought to be extremely cautious about the “future” of death metal and the current state of the classic sound. Norway’s Execration is one of the bands in the thick of this existential crisis, and their third record Return to the Void is more interesting in this sense than in a musical one.

Death metal’s existential malaise is analogous to a seemingly dry well: instead of digging deeper, more water is imported and dumped into the well from elsewhere because some think it’s run permanently dry. The excitement of novelty and the rush of unfamiliarity are used to counteract the apparently stagnant state of the genre, but there’s something missing. To my ears, it sounds more like a dilution of quality than an infusion of one, taking the focus away from an emphasis on tradition and mastery and placing it on taking influence from everything but the kitchen sink. Execration import black metal in the form of a more restrained Taake and black-thrash from a less fiery Aura Noir, stake some of their death metal trappings on the stylings of mid-period Opeth, take influence from the occult-rock stylings of Tribulation, play a dissonant brand of black metal akin to Thornesbreed, and also find it worthwhile to take from contemporaries like Necrovation and Horrendous as well.

Being the scattershot shepherd’s pie it is, Return to the Void has even more influences and aping than those named above. While this may appeal to those who think that excessive variety is a Really Good Thing, the record lacks one consistently good song due to this. “Eternal Recurrence” starts off on a convincing melody that sounds like NWoBHM as done by Carcass, and it had me chomping at the bit to hear more. This idea is abandoned for some second-rate Aura Noir stuff that lasts for the majority of the song, coupled with a remarkably tame take on Swe-death with a bunch of crust influence. It’s all over the place, and once the Noregs Vaapen plagiarism of “Hammers of Vulcan” started I had to double-check that it wasn’t the same extended song that goes essentially nowhere.

The most damning thing about Execration is their lack of identity. In true postmodern fashion, their only visible identity is not having one; they’re dabbling addicts, a true jack of all trades in band form. Instead of focusing their energies on being something like Taake mixed with a particular strand of death metal (which would be an interesting project), they sample from everywhere and implement it all without any expertise. Fall Out Boy’s American Beauty/American Psycho is an example of this dabbling done right, taking decades of popular culture and molding it into a modern clinic in writing massive pop-rock anthems. Execration is the opposite end of the spectrum, coming across like an excitable drunk at the bar starting all kinds of conversations about all things with all people, but finishing none of them and never really moving beyond surface level small talk. There’s nothing memorable here, and the sound of all of Return to the Void’s influences is that of mere facsimiles virtually all the time.

The production makes the malaise and confusion here all the more palpable. Execration removes the swampy, bass-heavy sound from old-school death metal, the razor-sharp guitars from black metal, and the subtleties of the prog influences of the overrated occult-rock scene and makes something akin to musical Melba toast. The bass sounds big at first, but the distortion eventually reveals itself to be precisely what Opeth did on Heritage, which lacks the visceral impact of later Asphyx’s bass tone completely. Frustratingly, every member of Execration is a talented musician who turns in a technically proficient performance, but like Rembrandt doing paint-by-numbers their talent seems wasted here. While I normally prefer more direct and precise analyses of a record, I couldn’t remember much of anything long enough here to delve deeply into it, which speaks volumes more than any dive into particular riffs ever could.


Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 271 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: execration.no | facebook.com/execrationnorway
Releases Worldwide: July 14th, 2017

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  • Kill The King

    Ouch

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Excellent review, Diabolus. Pretty much agree on every point you’ve made especially the production which makes the whole record sound limp. Strange choice on their part.

    • Grimstrider

      I want to be kind and say that I think they wanted the listener to be able to hear every note and every beat – and I can! – but the end result is muted and, yes, limp.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        It’s a fine line. I also like being able to discern all the little details, but not at the total expense of intensity.

  • Akerblogger

    I still think I’ll check this out. Some of the styles here sound very appealing, but maybe it’s too much of a disparate mix. Very fair review, though.

    Your Fall Out Boy comment is very true as well. They’ve successful navigated away from the dying waters of emo-pop to the cooler territories of electro-anthems. They know what they’re doing and they do it well.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Coincidentally, the last review I read of Fall Out Boy compared them to Celtic Frost and Incantation. ;)

  • Drew Music

    That album art, though… Why do band things happen to nice album covers? This would have lulled me into hopes of a darker, grimier Mare Cognitum left to my own devices. As it is, my list of bands to check it is backed up beyond metaphoric justice, I may hold off on this one.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      At first sight I read “metaphoric justice” as “metalcoric justice”.

      • Drew Music

        There is no such thing anymore.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Was there ever?

          • Drew Music

            As I Lay Dying, Zao, Killswitch Engage and a (very) few select others have delivered it in the past, but the world has moved on. This is the era of black metal, and I’m still pretty ok with that.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Dead To Fall wasn’t bad.

          • Drew Music

            Oh fuck, you’re right, that’s how long it’s been since I’ve listened to metalcore apparently.

          • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

            There was – Rorschach’s Protestant.

    • Malhorne

      Yeah I though about Mare Cognitum too!

  • Kill The King

    Apothesary’s new album is a review I’d like to see on AMG.

  • Drew Music

    I would also like to cordially invite the good folks of Videezy, BuzzNews, and any other establishment currently utilizing this webspace for ad space to an all-you-can-eat cyanide pill buffet.

  • Wes Allen

    Great review, but I’m afraid it doesn’t compare to the mystery and intrigue of why Joanna Gaines says her goodbyes at 39. Freakin’ ads…

    • Reese Burns

      Or why Ellen Degeneress shocks the LGBT community by moving on! Click here to find out MORE!

  • Monsterth Goatom

    The site gets a 5/5 for no ads (probably jinxed it now).

    • GardensTale

      4 or 5 comments below, someone is fighting fungal toenails, so you probably did, yeah.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Hmm. Still don’t see anything, even after refresh.

        • You’re right, it seems we’ve survived the war against the ads! I no longer have to worry about saving money while sprucing up my home!

        • Drew Music

          The infection seems to have been quarantined to a small cluster of sponsored links at the bottom of the comments, bringing us right back to toe fungus.

    • Dr. Scorpion

      I’m outta the loop. What’s s this thing with ads going around?

  • Dániel Arató

    “…a song that goes essentially nowhere”

    I swear I read “existentially nowhere” at first.

    • Cherd

      Pretty sure A LOT of metal songs go existentially nowhere. Nihilism, and all that.

  • wayne the devil

    A voice of dissent-I liked it, but I liked all their albums so far. Not as good as the last (no Cosmic Mausoleum moment for example) but hey, who am I? After all, I am still in the middle of re-living my childhood with the latest M.O.D. album as a sound track so take this as you will….now, if you will excuse me I am going to resume throwing flaming bags of dog shit at the metal core kids….childhood lives on!!!

  • Malhorne

    The embedded track sounds soulless, like a mix of every ingredients in your kitchen on a sunday evening when you’re hungry and you don’t have anything worth a meal

    Spoiler: the result isn’t good

  • DrChocolate

    I don’t know anything about their back catalog and hadn’t heard anything by them before this album… but I kind of really like this record. Am I missing something?

    Also wasn’t expecting the Fall Out Boy call out, let alone the praise that accompanied it. I’ve always thought everything I’ve heard from them honks.

    • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

      Agreed on both counts. Fall Out Boy, seriously?

      • DrChocolate

        Ha. I have a lot of very non-metal music I love. However, Pete ‘Le Douche’ Wentz and The Emo-Trio have never moved the needle for me.

        Still find it fascinating though that FOBs drummer was a founding member of Racetraitor.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Diabolus, I loved your analogy about the seemingly dry well.

  • Baltech

    Yeah, no, I have to side with the few dissents here. I actually find that I enjoy the album and its sound, especially the drums. I not great but allright. Gotta check out what else they did.

  • voidozity

    I find the album been pushed beyond some of you and of your comfort zone. Otherwise it’s one of the best things I heard this year so far.

  • jersey devil

    I have to totally disagree with this review. If the embedded track is any signal, this album is awesome. The review correctly perceives the unusual mix of influences this band employs. But mixing too many good influences is a bad thing, diluting your identity? No way. Jut the opposite, Execration push the boundaries of death metal and in so doing create their own signature. This 1.5 score and the thinking behind it do not match what I hear. Hails to Execration.
    PS–ain’t just me; elsewhere in metal world this record’s called a “death metal masterpiece”.

  • Here’s Johnny

    this needs another review, what i have heard sounds pretty pretty good. 1.5/5, seriously?!