Review Summary: Excoriate is a band that does no harm to the traditional style of old school death metal. It turns out to be a surprisingly good, if unoriginal, listen.
It's no mystery to the indoctrinated that old school death thrash has seen a huge resurgence in popularity as of late, paralleling our culture's fixation on all things retro. While some bemoan the lack of artistic growth and originality, others are more than content, believing that most new metal doesn't have the same lustre as that of the past. Germany's Excoriate is one of the many bands riding the old school wave, taking cues from the likes of early Sepultura
, and Sarcófago
, when conjuring up thick riffs and gruff vocals. New bands like this have an advantage over the bands that they emulate – the genre they play has become solidified, with a tried-and-true formula that bands playing over 20 years ago did not have the luxury of having. It's what gives the likes of Municipal Waste
and Death Breath
the ability to make recordings that are of superior quality to those that were first created by D.R.I.
. However, what they lose in doing so is that sense of urgency and danger that comes with trailblazing new pathways in music. Although often times more enjoyable, new old school metal is always less impressive and less visceral. If one can get past the formulaic nature of such music one will take great joy in listening to a band like Excoriate.
On Pestilent Winds...
was originally recorded in 2006 and was not released until 2009, which is exceptionally unusual considering the band broke up almost immediately after the recording. Regardless, the album has not suffered, if only because their flavour of metal is not of the "trendy" kind. The first track of On Pestilent Winds...
is naught but an intro, similar to the ones heard on nearly every metal album released since the popularisation of the genre. The faint bells, wind, and esoteric growling conjures up a soundscape one might expect to find in the ancient ruins of a Lovecraft novel, which sets the tone for the ruff thrash metal onslaught to come. Like the many metal intros that came before it on literally thousands of records, one cannot help but feel that it is completely and utterly needless. Nevertheless, following the intro comes "On Pestilent Winds", which features a mid paced riff that slowly leads the listener into a full speed attack, of which scarcely lets up for the entire duration of the album.
Although the music of Excoriate is best characterised as death/thrash, the sparse production of the guitars, complemented by the stripped down riffage, bears a strong resemblance to the music one might find on an early Aura Noir
release. This comes as no surprise, however, because black thrash has much in common with death thrash – the major difference being aesthetic in nature. Though one may think that a thin production would drag a record down, on a release that reeks of old death, the production does the album great justice. Sebastian Engelhardt does an admirable job behind his drum throne, evoking memories of death metal old, before blast beats were littered around everywhere like Tim Hortons' coffee cups. Vocalist Stefan Eberlein pays homage to early death metal legends Possessed
with his old school delivery, drenched in reverb. Initially one may have difficulty enjoying On Pestilent Winds...
because of the vocals, but once one becomes accustomed to them, one finds that they fit the musical beautifully. Eberlein's vocals turn out to be one of the major highlights of the album.
Despite the record's mere 34 minute length, it turns out to be one of the best old school death metal records released this year. When comparing this record to the early albums of the South American Sepultura
, one is reminded that the albums we venerate are not as good as we remember. Their poor production and sloppy playing stand in stark contrast to the works of recent death/thrash groups like Excoriate, which if anything, represent a polishing up of the older groups aforementioned. It's unfortunate that the band will no longer be able to release albums in the future, but again, there wasn't much else they could do with the music they played. Nonetheless, this is a must-buy for any self-proclaimed fan of the old style of death metal.