A Cold Death: Find Your Very Own Norwegian Death Metal Band!
Which band will you take home today?
So you’re in the market for some death metal? All shredded out on that compressed modern sound? OSDM not exciting you like it used to? Tired of having some overzealous tech-kid try and use your ears as an artificial insemination receptacle? Well, Norway has the solution to your problem! Simply by answering a few multiple choice questions, we’ll be able to sort you out with a band to satisfy your needs.
Now the bands I’ve got in store for you to take home today aren’t all brand new. Two of them first surfaced around 2005-2007, but I’m going to focus on each of their latest albums (their third full-length release in both cases). I know that a couple of you have heard of these bands before, but for some reason they’ve received very little to no coverage on the bowl as yet. Seeing as though two of the three are also wrapping things up in the studio, it’s a top time for you to get on board with some of the most intriguing sounding death metal getting around these days. Now without further ado, let’s get the questions out of the way so you can get headbanging!
Question 1 – Vocals?
Death metal vocalists these days tend to fall into one of several categories. You’ve got the monotone roarers, the incomprehensibly brutal gutterals, the primitive grunters, a whole host of interchangeable growlers, and a wide-range of those who possess some kind of odd gimmick that often straddles the line between incredibly unique and incredibly annoying. Well, I’m happy to inform you that all three of your potential bands today have vocals in the vein of genre pioneers Martin van Drunen and Chris Reifert, and while they all mix it up with some interesting twists, the main differentiating feature of their style is essentially how mental they sound. Which degree of mania would you like your vocalist to exhibit:
a) Moderate derangement
b) Aggressive psychosis
c) Chronic hysteria
Question 2 – RIFFS!
As you all know, vocals don’t mean shit without killer riffs. When I hear a band for the first time, my mind immediately begins to assess the power of the almighty riff; I can’t help it, and I know I’m not the only one. Riffs tend to be one of, if not, THE defining element of a band’s sound. Therefore, this next question is pretty damn crucial. Do you prefer it when riffs have:
a) Some otherworldly flair
b) Some early-Slayer speed
c) Some early-Autopsy filth
Question 3 – Solos?
Like the sauce on a pizza, the icing on the cake, the nipple on the boob, the solo can make or break a song. Even the mere presence/absence of a lead can catapult your track into the stratosphere above the competition, or conversely, a bad solo can lead to an unshakably humiliating ignominy. The contrast can be stark. My preferred style of solos…
a) Adopt a haunting and spectral tone with hypnotic undercurrents
b) Blaze the fretboard with reckless abandon, inspiring impromptu air-shredding
c) Occur infrequently, if at all. Solos aren’t a prerequisite for me to enjoy a song
Question 4 – Influence
While all 3 of today’s bands are unmistakably death metal centric, featuring a relatively similar sound when compared to the rest of the sepulchral international cohort, they each diverge down a slightly different path. Now, I know it’s hard to fathom, but sometimes some of us listen to other genres of metal. When I’m not in the mood for death metal, I prefer to listen to:
a) Black metal, avant-garde stuff, proggy psych
b) Thrash, things on fire, the oncoming apocalypse
c) Sludge, doom, the voices in my head
From those 4 questions, which of the options (a, b, or c) did you select twice? If it was (a) drop down to Execration, for (b) head down to Obliteration, and for (c) scroll down to Reptilian.
Excellent choice! Click play on the bandcamp embed above to begin today’s execration. Immediately, you’ll be greeted with the second track (“Ritual Hypnosis”) from their latest album, the incredible Morbid Dimensions. However, I strongly advise skipping back one click to the album’s first song “Cosmic Mauseoleum”; the ringing of its simple tritone-infused doom harkening back to the very origins of metal itself, through emulating genre progenitors Black Sabbath‘s eponymous introduction to the world, albeit with a modern danger-laced edge. In an extremely clever use of dynamics, this portending doom eventually cedes to a quizzical springy-reverb entwined clean passage, instead of the barrage of filth you’d usually expect after such an introduction to a death metal album. And contrary to what you’d expect, this apparent diversion actually builds the tension. However, the primordial soup can only coalesce for so long before life forms. Around 3:15 in to Morbid Dimensions, Execration skip all the mundane rudiments of your typical basal evolutionary life-forms and explode all over the landscape, running rampant as they spew riffs in all directions, oxidising anything sight and filling the air with unique organic compounds.
In 2014, this 4-piece hailing from Oslo presented the best metal album of that year. Don’t believe me? Well, as much I despise the word “best” being used to describe art, their album Morbid Dimensions actually was the best Norwegian metal album of 2014. The album won what is essentially Norway’s equivalent of a Grammy, the prestigious Spellemannprisen award. I mean sure, the awards might not have the world-renown level of integrity the Grammys have acquired through years of awarding universally acclaimed metal acts such as Korn, Tenacious D, Slipknot, or Jethro Tull, but still, winning the award must be important to someone, right?
Throughout the album, Execration show exactly how death metal should be performed; with a forward-thinking approach to song-writing. The band deftly manage to incorporate progression both within tracks and across the entire album, without the results feeling choppy or unresolved. The haunting guitar tones really appeal to me, especially the quasi-surf sounding leads, which remind me of those from a couple of the weirder black metal bands we covered last year on the site such as Gloam and Predatory Light. On an album brimming with riffs, the fifth track “Tribulation Shackles” stands out from its surroundings quite starkly. The majority of the song is essentially comprised of a single mind-altering riff; and it’s enthralling. The slowly strummed notes that bend and harmonise as they waver in and out of pitch feel like the onset of an overly strong dose of hallucinogens creeping over the mind, infusing cerebral confusion and altering the passing of time itself. The temporal shift plays out over the scale of the album too, as Morbid Dimensions clocks in at over an hour. The lengthy nature of the album would be problematic if the music contained within wasn’t so damn engrossing.
Oh, you want more now too? Well, you can go back and check out their previous album Ode Of The Occult, which might not have a Spellemannprisen award to its name, but is still a damn fine album regardless. Or you can do what I’m doing right now, which involves feverishly rolling around in a pile of print-outs of their recent studio announcements on their facebook page.
Congratulations on your selection, you’ve chosen to be obliterated! If you click play on the embed above, you’ll be greeted by the second track (“Goat Skull Crown”) from the band’s third album Black Death Horizon (2013). If you tend to be impatient this is probably one of the better tracks to be introduced to the band through. However, if you want the full album experience, I suggest skipping back a track to the album’s proper intro; an evil doom-laden 3 minutes that includes warbling vibrato, twisted harmonies, and a sound that I can only assume is the anvil of hell being struck. The passage culminating with a sinister lurching lead lick just before all hell breaks loose around 3:20. If this isn’t enough for you to have already raised your horns, do not fret, the four demons from Kolbotn (Darkthrone capital) have much more in store for you over the next half-an-hour, assailing you with death metal as ruthless as it is invigorating.
Proceeding in a similar fashion to the opening track, the third (and my personal favourite) song “Transient Passage” exhibits the young quartet’s aptitude for constructing their songs in such a way that the tension gradually builds until at a moment’s notice, a cataclysm of frenzied riffing erupts and sweeps away everything in proximity. This potent energy the band instill into every single moment of their music is exactly how they manage to write songs that regularly clock in at over 6 minutes without any hint of stagnation. The malevolent mind-bending harmony that opens track 4 “Ascendance (Sol Invictus)” echoes the classic twin-guitar intro of Slayer‘s “Mandatory Suicide”, and is not the only time during the album that Obliteration show some overt worship of the legendary thrash band’s timeless style. Vocalist Sindre Solem’s maniacal screams and the trade-off solos that seamlessly combine chromatic tricks, harmonic minor shred, and bar dives, all scream of Slayer influence. Obliteration bow at the pre-1990 altar, long before the dilapidation had set in, when a genuine feeling of menace abounded. When mixed with the heft of OSDM and the rawness of early blackened thrash, the combination makes for a veritable riff-machine, churning out a succession of neck-snappers that will leave you writhing on the floor in the best possible way.
If, like me, you’re completely hooked on this sound, I have good news for you! Obliteration have recently been in the studio and could be releasing their fourth album in late 2016 or (but more likely) early 2017. In the meantime, you can check out their highly rated previous album Nekropsalms, which offers a similar sound to Black Death Horizon but with a slightly more straight-forward early 90’s death metal approach. The band also have members in thrash outfit Nekromantheon and recently formed old-school speed metal band Black Viper. Go buy their shit and break your damn neck.
While we’re here, I should mention that all three of these bands here today have an interesting take on a similar sound, so if you’re into exploring a slightly more progressive and psychedelic take of this style, check out Execration above. Maybe you want to head into slightly more brutal territory, if so, drop down to Reptilian. They replace some of the thrash of Obliteration with copious servings of death and doom. Get amongst it!
You’ve selected option C. Firstly though, is it time to take your meds? You should do that now. All good? Ok, now you can go ahead and click play on Reptilian’s 2016 debut album Perennial Void Traverse. From the very first moments of album opener “Swamp”, the haze of death engulfs the listener. For nearly the first two and a half minutes Reptilian cast a dense veil of murk, dimming the light with a sulphurous cloud. The acrid air stinging the eyes and auguring hostility. As the deranged tapped lead draws you under its hypnotic trance, you’re left vulnerable. This is when the predator strikes. Ensnared in its muddy lair, you’re but a helpless cadaver…it is then the riffage begins! Untamed and intensely hostile, trapped in its rapidly bubbling blackened tar, any composure you had left is immediately abandoned into the pit, its void filled with erratic urgency. This frenzied instrumentation is only matched by Cato’s maniacal vocals, whose various screams, yells and howls exhibit a dementia most primal. Throughout the album, his presence is profound. Every sound is drastic and fierce, possessing an innate immediacy. The volatile nature of the music could only be reciprocated by a performance this capricious and imbued with vitality.
“Cede To Celestial Providence” (Track 3) oozes with a doom-drenched sweat, the perspiration unable to evaporate and cool the beast amidst the humid atmosphere. For the air is thick, saturated with the fumes of decay it hugs the surface of the bog like a heavy blanket. The squelch of each step stirring up the horrid stench of anaerobic digestion from beneath the mire. During the chuggy, palm-muted tension the bass assumes the role of the beast’s heavy breathing, angrily panting after yet another adrenaline expending jaunt through the morass draws to an end. The fourth track “Phantasm” is appropriately horrific, wielding an array of make-shift weapon-like riffs, forged through necessity, comprised of rapid chord shifts and furious saw-like single-string attacks that will tear you apart. In the serenity only achieved post-kill, the song strikes up a demented melody during its latter stages. This calm is short-lived, as the tranquillity eventually cedes into an eerie feedback-driven chill. Again the follicles stiffen atop rough skin, as rough and undulated as the mood-swings of its possessor. The final track, “Transmigration” is a cyclical uprising of evil, its repeating patterns echoing the sentiment of its topic. The culmination has an almost ritualistic quality, a ceremonious end that portends to a future rife with pernicious intent. The demon will rise again. The album demands a replay.
Similar to both Execration and Obliteration, Reptilian manage to create long tracks (mostly between 7 and 9 minutes), that sprawl out of control, like a wild beast free from its cage. Whereas many of their contemporaries come across as methodical in attack, Reptilian show no such composure, and that makes for a more exciting listen. They possess an unhinged quality that is sorely lacking in similar OSDM-worship bands. This visceral nature does not come at the cost of dynamics; the four-piece craft their songs in such a way that contrast surfaces naturally throughout. As does the mania. If your responses got you here, you’re probably a maniac too; you deserve this. Don’t believe a word I’ve said? Fair enough. Want a second opinion? Well, here you go.
So which band did you arrive at? Maybe one of the others turned out to be more your style? We here at Toilet ov Hell Industries value your feedback, and we totally read all of your complaints in our spare time instead of enjoying our lives. So make sure you write in explicit detail the degree of umbrage you experienced today.