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Excruciation : [c]rust

Excruciation connect with their Metal roots, and hell, yes, it's as brilliant as you'd expect from a veteran band.

I had expections for this: my first thought was simply, great, a new Excruciation album! I like the veteran Swiss band a lot, both for their grounded attitude (as discussed in this interview) and for what they achieved musically on either side of their lengthy '90s-and-beyond hiatus. Their initial sorties - of mainly demos - developed from brash, youthfully energetic Thrash/Punk/Death into early Death/Doom pioneering. When they reformed, almost coincidentally, in the mid-2000s, it was with a more purist old-school Doom sound that still incorporated Death influences: recognisable, bold, and resolutely treading their own path. The last two album releases, '[t]horns' and '[g]host' (2009 and 2014 respectively), worked to that template, refining it still further.

So, what of this year's neatly skull-packaged offering, '[c]rust', just released by WormHoleDeath Records? Well, if you're familiar with works from 2007's 'Angels To Some...' onwards, you'll have some idea of what to expect. There's no hugely radical reinvention going on here, just the steadily-changing sound of a band who have worked out exactly what they like, and set out to get the best out of it - this time, with a little less Death and a little more Doom. And if you're not familiar - well, okay, I guess a reasonable contemporary Doom comparison would be Aeon Aphelion, but personally I'm starting to think of Excruciation these days more in terms of embodying classic, almost undiluted, essential '70s Heavy Metal' qualities.

It's perhaps because there's very little gimmickry involved in what they do here: polished and modern production qualities aside, the five-piece, twin-guitar-and-vocal-led lineup simply amp up the volume and crank out the punchiest, nastiest, heaviest Metal vibe they can coax out of their instruments, just the way classic bands like Judas Priest and Scorpions - and later NWOBHM outfits such as Blitzkrieg and Wolf - did. Excruciation keep the pace at the mid-slow and deliberate end of that spectrum, mostly, and stay on the dark side as far as lyrics go - hence the Doom label - still, that's the kind of 'back to the roots' place which listening to this takes me. The moments of sharper pace, some of the brutal-edged timbres, and the more vehement of the vocals show '80s-'90s extreme Death/Thrash influences, but otherwise it's not really tied to any particular period; simultaneously occupying nostalgically familiar territory, yet presenting an instantly-recognisable individual stance. But that's great bands for you: they don't necessarily have to do vastly different things from scores of others; they just need to do it better.

So, you have the percussion 'engine room' of DD Lowinger's bass and Andy Renggli's drums laying down some pretty thunderously muscular battery, Hannes Reitze and Marcel Bosshart shifting the guitar attack between crunching riffs and old-school lead breaks, and over it all presides the trademark throaty, growling bellow of frontman Eugenio Meccariello - fair to say, not the most technical of vocalists, but possessed of exactly the sort of unique and powerful charisma needed to carry off this sort of style. Vocals, this time around, avoid most of the theatrical variation used on prior albums, and mainly work around the strongest semi-clean tones in his armoury. That, coupled with a much beefier and all-round heavier production, accounts for much of the sonic evolution on this album.

The rest is in the way '[c]rust' largely sticks to a tried-and-true juggernaut approach: steamrollerin' ahead with riff-driven determination, pausing only to offer some variation by way of a more 'power-ballad' feel to tracks 'Olympus Mons' or 'Glorious Times', and a thrashy, punky Killing Joke-ish trip into 'Borderline'. Given the still sombre, often Biblical (or, at least, religiously-implicated) lyrical imagery - you might have to suspect there's some homonymic in-joke humour in the way the album title can be (mis)pronounced 'Christ': it would fit appositely with the way the sonic mix combines threatening darkness with energetic enthusiasm. The results are fairly brief, absolutely to the point, and packed with sterling hell yeah, rock'n'roll moments (if that riff-and-roar combination at the start of 'Lutheran Psalms' doesn't get your neck twitching and your hands reaching for an air guitar, give it up. You're clearly already dead), making it an album that demands little and gives much. Of criticism: well, that would really depend on how much innovation versus execution matters to you - the compositions themselves fairly comfortably reprise structures and elements any serious student of Metal will most likely have heard before; it's the slick perfection with which they're delivered which really shines out.

Bottom line - experience counts, and this is the mature and consistent sound of a very experienced band working to all of their respective strengths. Don't mistake polish and maturity for any sort of soullessness, though: there's still plenty of angry vigour and emotion driving this stylish offering. Call me weird if you like, but somehow the overwhelming picture that listening to '[c]rust' puts in my head is of a 40-odd-year-anniversary Peaceville Doom reimagining of 'Lovedrive', and how brilliant an idea is that? So, there you go: I'm happy to say that my expectations have been more than met - a new Excruciation album, and that is, indeed, great!

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Judas' Kiss
2. Disgrace
3. Olympus Mons
4. Lutheran Psalms
5. The Scent Of The Dead
6. Borderline
7. Days Of Chaos
8. Glorious Times

Duration : Approx. 38 minutes

Visit the Excruciation bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-03-13 by Mike Liassides
Rotten Copper
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