Monday, October 24, 2011

Excommunicated - Skeleton Key

Excommunicated
Skeleton Key
Underworld Records

After fifteen years in existence, and four full-length releases to their name, Baton Rouge (Louisiana, U.S.) based black/death metal outfit Catholicon decided to call it a day in 2009. Rather than simply fade into obscurity, vocalist Chad Kelly quickly put together a new line-up together, and with ex-Despondency guitarist/bassist Jonathan Joubert and ex-Suture guitarist/bassist Jason McIntyre, Excommunicated came into existence in 2010 (Kelly also foundered Underworld Records).
Twelve months after first coming together, Excommunicated, along with the help of session drummer David Kinkade (Borknagar), finally wrapped up their recording sessions, and have duly released their debut full-length effort ‘Skeleton Key’.
Not unlike Kelly’s work with Catholicon, Excommunicated is a conceptual project, with the lyrical content of ‘Skeleton Key’ based on the corruption and dark history of the Catholic Church in medieval times. Musically, the band doesn’t stray too far from where Catholicon left off either. But while Catholicon and Excommunicated are firmly rooted in the black/death metal genre, it’s clear that Kelly has definitely pushed his latest musical endeavour to incorporate a greater measure of diversity from song to song than anything he’s presented within his former group.
Excommunicated begin the album in a rather subtle manner, with the two minute instrumental piece ‘The Abandonment Of Hope’ featuring some great melodic lead work over a gentle backdrop. While the track itself is impressive, it does fade out a little too quick, which does take away from the impact it really should have had.
Next up is ‘The Incorruptibles’, which is more along the lines of what you would expect from the group. Bordering on black metal in the riff department, Kelly’s dual vocal approach (Guttural growls and high end rasping shrieks) adds a distinct death metal influence to the song, while Kinkade’s relentless and varied drumming work throughout adds a bit of a grindcore feel in places. Overall, ‘The Incorruptibles’ is definitely one of the album’s true highlights, and definitely one of the more eclectic offerings from the band.
‘Cry To Heaven’ is another strange hybrid track that’s clearly influenced in part by a strong folk metal vibe in its construction, but given a twist with Kelly’s vocals that gives the song a melodic death metal vibe within the choruses (Bringing to mind Amon Amarth), while tracks such as ‘Minutes Of The Corpse Trials’, ‘When Death Claims Its Most Righteous Dead’ and the technically executed ‘The Vatican Orgies’ are straight out blasts of sheer death metal brutality.
On the guest appearance side of things, ex-Wolfen Society/Nocturnus/Acheron guitarist Vincent Crowley adds a special vocal performance on the slower and menacing ‘The Birth Of Tragedy’, while King Diamond guitarist Andy LaRocque adds a distinctive guitar solo to the otherwise sinister and thrash like ‘Keys To The Kingdom Of God’.
Finishing up the album is ‘The Sum Of All Life’s Pain’, which like ‘The Abandonment Of Hope’ is a haunting and darker doom-like atmospheric piece, and one that sums the album up on a high note.
While the album does have some serious flaws (The fade out on some of the songs does seem a little hasty, and the song writing on the more straight forward death metal numbers seems a little unremarkable), ‘Skeleton Key’ is a solid and diverse sounding debut effort from Excommunicated, and the kind of album that will appeal to those who don’t mind their black/death metal a little more on the unconventional side of things.

For more information on Excommunicated, check out - http://www.myspace.com/excommunication

© Justin Donnelly