Execution Ground



by noinoeso USER (11 Reviews)
January 29th, 2018 | 10 replies

Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

Review Summary: With Execution Ground, Painkiller creates an engulfing cloud of darkness rich with texture and filled with impressive instrumentation.

One of my favorite qualities that any form of media can possess is a believable and enthralling atmosphere. I must admit that nowadays, my attention span is becoming ridiculously small thanks to the wonders of technology and social media. Engrossing experiences that allow me to break free from this irritating tendency and forget about reality for a moment are ones that I admire and appreciate to no end. When I stumbled into Execution Ground, I was greeted by a hostile, vast and scary realm of dissonance and darkness that engulfed me instantly and did nothing but mesmerize me.

It is evident that all the musicians involved in Painkiller are masters of their craft, creating a mammoth sized world with just a handful of instruments. Bassist Bill Laswell creates sounds that ooze through this shapeless mixture and sometimes provides a catchy groove that glues everything together. Drummer Mick Harris provides a pulsating energy that gives the album a coherent direction and keeps the music going forward despite its free-form nature. He is also responsible for unleashing hell in the most chaotic sections, harkening back to his roots in grindcore band Napalm Death.

But the one undoubtedly commanding this maelstrom is saxophonist John Zorn. Well known as an innovative creator in the world of avant-garde music, Zorn takes the sounds of his instrument to its limits in Execution Ground. During the most chaotic passages, the saxophone takes a life of its own, screeching and twisting as a worm-like beast that flies around in erratic directions. On more forgiving sections, its sound is warm and more familiar, though still emanating a sense of anxiety and disquiet.

Perhaps one of the biggest qualities of this project is that despite its nebulous style, it manages to create a meaningful progression with its seemingly disjointed pieces. Parish of Tama (Ossuary Dub) starts with a hellish barrage of squealing instrumentation which unrelentingly strikes and gives no room for breathing. Suddenly, the piece stops and plunges into a surreal dream that grounds the listener in the dark universe where the whole album takes place. Pashupatinath uses the same elements but changes the order of execution to great effect, commencing with an entrancing jazz section that gradually deforms into a crazed and cacophonous climax.

Also worthy of mention is the second disc, labeled as ambient. In the two pieces that span almost 40 minutes, the main instruments hide, with less frequent appearances and much more distant and foggy manifestations. Taking the protagonism are a wide variety of samples of male chants, screams, flies, drops of water, creaking wood and ethereal synths. The journey through this soundscape is like a traversal of river Styx in the underworld, where all sorts of sounds echo in the twisted cavernous formations and the wretched souls call for attention beneath the waters.

Execution Ground is an absorbing exploration of darkness that begs to be examined obsessively. Its layered sound is intricate, filled to the brim with unnerving details that are part of a gargantuan whole. Despite being a hopeless addict to meaningless distractions, I infallibly get pulled to Painkiller´s vision of angst and contemplation, which clutches me and commands all of my attention. Few experiences compare to listening to this project with headphones in a pitch black room by oneself and getting lost in its foggy ambiance.

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user ratings (70)

Comments:Add a Comment 
January 30th 2018


Glad this album got a review. Amazing stuff.

February 27th 2018



May 10th 2018


echo what zig said, pos

May 27th 2018


Album Rating: 3.5


Digging: Rx Nephew - Slitherman Activated

November 2nd 2018


what even is this band woah

Digging: Janitor Joe - Big Metal Birds

Demon of the Fall
January 6th 2019


Album Rating: 2.5

Is this more ‘post-metally’ than the previous album? Weird question, I know. I just found these guys on a list of post-metal albums & the one I’m jamming is the most vaguely/tenuously post-metal thing I can imagine, like if you try really hard you can see it, but it’s like 5%, maybe.

Digging: Monstrosity - Millenium

March 21st 2021


Album Rating: 5.0

Really underappreciated. Probably the best "soundscape" album there is.

Demon of the Fall
March 21st 2021


Album Rating: 2.5

Good bump, will give it a proper listen this week. I dig Buried Secrets.

Edit: ugh, wish there was more sax and less ambient droning.

March 27th 2021


Album Rating: 5.0

Fair enough, I figure you'd like Naked City a lot then. That's Zorn's more hardcore project.

March 27th 2021


wish the painkiller and naked city discog boxsets were still in print dammit. almost got a copy of the naked city one off the tzadik site but they emailed me the morning after saying they ran out

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