You’re here for a reason. You’re on a quest. A quest for music to bang your fukkin head to. Sometimes you find the music, sometimes the music finds you. There, buried in a particularly large online order a couple years ago, was a free copy of Excuse‘s 2016 EP Goddess Injustice. I slid the vinyl from its sleeve and a spectral form descended from the heavens. “YOU!” It boomed. “Me?” I said. “YOU. You are the chosen one. Drop the needle. Turn up the stereo. And BANG. YOUR. FUKKIN. HEAD.”
And I obeyed. Oh, did I obey. This Finnish quintet hadn’t created a good EP, they’d created 18 minutes of pure musical bliss. This was thrash metal that rampaged through one outstanding riff after another, thrash metal that sounded like no one else in particular, thrash metal that was at once fierce, melodic, epic, riffy, raw, and contained so many crunchy “fukk yeah!” riffs that my neck is still sore two years later. But can such bliss be maintained? Can Excuse continue such ferocity with their Prophets from the Occultic Cosmos debut?
Not quite, but that doesn’t mean this album is a total loss. Stylistically Prophets remains pretty similar to Injustice. The songwriting is relatively straightforward, with headstrong and belligerent verses giving rise to distinct choruses before ascending into lengthy bridges where the band summon forth all manner of swirling melodies and extended solos. As before drawing comparisons is tough, though the band’s sense of grandeur and hint of speed metal make me imagine Razor mixed with Kreator‘s melodic sensibilities. When the band get wild and adventurous during the bridges, as on opener “Black Crystal Visions” and penultimate track “Sworn to the Crimson Oath,” I’m even reminded of the playful intricacy of Vektor, though Excuse aren’t quite as technical or progressive.
In fact, the most notable attempt to be “progressive” doesn’t quite stick the landing. Ten minute closer “Watchtower of the Trans-Dimension” has some immense riffs, a well-placed interlude, and a logical flow, but it also feels a bit bloated and sags under its own weight. Likewise, while the remaining five tracks are all solid songs and it’s easy to tell them apart, they’re all very similar in terms of structure and riffing. Sure, “Goddess Injustice”1 is a bit more explosive, “Blade of Antichrist” is a bit more urgent, and the title track is a bit slower, but overall variety isn’t the album’s strong suit.
Yet by far the biggest flaw is the production. Simply put, Prophets sounds wonky. In general, the album seems to be going for a raw thrash metal sound, though there are some odd hangups that prevent it from succeeding. The guitars feel a bit hollow but generally sound fine, though for some reason they sometimes come through slightly louder in one side than the other. The drums sound slightly buried with the exception of the snare, which sounds like someone whacking a particularly brittle piece of plastic as hard as they can. The vocalist’s stained holler sounds at once up front and distant and doesn’t quite work. In general, the levels just seem a little off. Some tracks even have a bit of what sounds like surface noise from a vinyl record at the end, as if the recording was ripped from a vinyl copy. It’s an odd touch in a production job full of quirks, and overall while the production doesn’t totally ruin the album, a better one would have improved things significantly.
It’s a shame, because Excuse possess a lot of passion, energy, and musical ability. These guys sound like they’re having a blast and despite how similar their riffs can feel, they never cease to bristle with enthusiasm. Buried within Prophets to the Occultic Cosmos is a Very Good thrash album and with a few tweaks it could easily have been a Great one. Sadly, the production just hampers my enjoyment too much for me to give this a positive endorsement. I’m not about to give up on thrash and go listen to Nightwish or anything, but those looking for a strong modern thrash album best continue their quest. Or just rock out to Goddess Injustice till your ears fall off.