In my humble opinion Execration are one of the best extreme metal bands out there at the moment. Firmly placing themselves on my radar with their third album Morbid Dimensions, the band have recently resurfaced on Metal Blade with their latest offering Return to the Void, and I have to say it’s been more than worth the wait.
If you haven’t heard Execration yet, then now’s the chance to check them out. You can stream their shockingly good new album below, while reading what their very personable and eloquent guitarist and vocalist Chris Johansen has to say.
Introduce us to Execration
Execration is a metal band from Oslo, Norway. We’re typically labelled a death metal band, but our music is more than “just” death metal – there’s a death metal base, and then there are strong influences from black metal, thrash, and prog. We’ve been a band for 13 years, 11 of which with the current lineup. We’ve become somewhat known for our style of songwriting, which mixes the aforementioned genres, and includes more-than-average shifts in tempo and mood. Our focus in songwriting is on groove, feeling, and atmosphere over technical playing and sheer wall of brutality.
What are your influences?
Inspiration is a personal thing, I can hardly speak on behalf of everyone in the band on this, so this is my (Chris, guitar player and vocalist) personal take on it. Music with a strong sense of atmosphere and mood inspires me a lot. If it’s gloomy and dark, then even better. Interesting harmonics, even more so. Bands as diverse as Voivod, Virus, Deathspell Omega, or even Portishead fit this bill for me. At other times, I can find inspiration in the sheer energy of bands such as His Hero is Gone or Converge. Lately I’ve been massively into more classic seventies prog, with e.g. Rush, Camel, and early Genesis on heavy rotation. I think that has started to affect my contributions to the band, but I suspect prog influences will be more prominent on future material.
Apart from music, I draw a lot of inspiration from books and film. I would say that film is the one medium that most often inspires me so directly that I immediately have to pick up a guitar to work on some idea. Film often manages to conjure an atmosphere or mood that I then want to capture in our music. Things like David Lynch, classic horror movies and good science fiction often gets at me this way, and quite a few riffs on the new album were created while watching movies.
Over time our musical influences has changed quite a bit. Early on we were much more focused on a strict death metal diet, while in later years, we’ve become more open to heavy metal and thrash influences, and have generally become less fixated on genres. Autopsy and Suffocation were huge inspirations early on, but you’d be hard pressed to find much of the New York death metal in our music today, while Autopsy still flows in our veins to some extent.
Name five things you’ve listened to recently that you’d recommend
Genesis – Foxtrot
I’ve had a serious kick on this album for some time now. There is so much interesting instrumentation on this album that I can play it over and over and never tire of it. I also totally dig Peter Gabriel’s vocals. Obviously not very extreme music, and not very metal either, but it’s interesting and rewarding music.
Genesis – Nursery Cryme
The album released prior to the above one, this one is a little more diverse and less coherent. Harold the Barrel and Seven Stones are good examples of the extremes, but I dig ’em both all the same. Return of the Giant Hogweeds is my favourite track off this one.
Mastodon – Emperor of Sand
I’m a huge fan of parts of Mastodon’s discography – especially the early stuff, and Crack the Skye. Emperor of Sand was a positive surprise for me as it’s the first album since Crack the Skye that really resonated with me. It’s got tons of cool riffs, and I think the clean vocals are really working well now. Roots Remain has got some of the coolest metal crooning vocals I’ve ever heard.
Converge – Jane Live
Converge playing their seminal album Jane Doe live at the Roadburn Festival. I’ve been a fan of Converge since their early records, but Jane Doe is the album that moved them from “band I like” to “band I fucking love”, and this live recording – made sixteen years later, shows a band that is completely on top of their business. As brutal and intense as ever. The playing is always on the mark. Ben Koller is one of those drummers I could watch YouTube videos of all night, and Kurt Ballou’s guitar playing is jaw droppingly awesome.
Disasterpiece – It Follows (Movie Soundtrack)
I’ve come to enjoy movie soundtracks more and more recently, and the It Follows soundtrack is one of the better I’ve come across in a while. It’s really creepy and maintains a fantastic mood all the way through.
Tell us about Return to the Void
Return to the Void is our fourth album. It’s our second album using standard E-tuning, which I guess is somewhat uncommon for death metal bands. In many ways it’s our first album that doesn’t mark a drastic change in style from it’s predecessor, while still offering something of its own. After two double LP 60 minute albums, we decided to make a more direct, compact and to-the-point one. We also opened up for more varied inspirations, and were less afraid to try anything that came to mind, which resulted in an album that is probably our most diverse to date.
The album is a good mix between death, black, and thrash metal, with some prog sprinkled in for good measure. I think it makes us a band that is somewhat hard to categorise, as we no longer fit well into any of the classic sub-genres.
What are some of the lyrical themes on the album about?
Lyrically, the album is massively inspired by science fiction, and that presents something of a red line through all the songs. There are different angles to it though – from the opening track that was inspired by a dream, through “Hammers of Vulcan”, which really is more of a comment on how society is putting scientific progress to use in morally dubious ways, to the title track that goes all out and describes someone journeying through time. There is no specific message to be found, the album is more about conveying a story, and if you feel like you’ve been on a journey through outer space after listening to the album, then we’ve accomplished our goals.
What’s the process you use for writing songs?
In short: make riffs at home, make songs in the rehearsal space. Apart from two tracks on our debut EP, no Execration song is the work of any single individual. Typically we’ll meet up for rehearsals, and everyone (including Cato, our drummer, who used to be a guitar player) will bring some riffs. We’ll jam them out, trying to place the drums and the bass, as well as finding the right way to combine riffs.
Sometimes jamming will result in new riffs on the spot, and sometimes we’ll have used all available riffs, and need to come up with some with a specific feeling/groove on the spot. We then keep working together until things fall into place and we all agree that what we have feels like a song. We typically have opinions about what parts are vocal parts and instrumental parts, but in reality vocals are added much later. For the past three albums vocal arrangements where mostly written as part of vocal recording in the studio.
What’s your favourite song on the album and why?
I’m probably not speaking on behalf of the band here, but I would say “Unicursal Horrorscope” (along with its intro, “Blood Moon Eclipse”). It has the type of elements I enjoy the most – non-standard harmonics, a spacey clean-part, and dissonant black metal-like fast parts. I personally think the track flows really well, and there is a huge payoff in the final couple of minutes, where the intensity keeps rising. The synth that appears near the end of the track was a last minute studio addition, but it really lifts the song.
Now that the album is complete, how do you feel about it?
I’m quite happy about it. It really feels like we succeeded in what we were trying to do: it follows up the vibe of Morbid Dimensions to some degree, but it still as a will of its own, and listening to the two albums are distinct experiences. I think we succeeded in hitting the shorter playing time without loosing too much of what sets our songwriting apart from many other bands. We included more clean guitars than we’ve done before, which we’ve been wanting to do for some time. In all, I think we crossed quite a few boxes with this one.
If you had to do it over again, would you change anything?
Probably. But here’s the kicker – if I did, and you asked me this question again, I would likely still find something to fix. Process-wise there were a few things we could’ve done which would’ve seen an earlier release date, and we’ve learned from this. Artistically I wouldn’t change too much. All the artistic visions that didn’t make it onto this one will fuel us going into our next release. The moment we feel everything is right and there is nothing more to improve is going to be the moment we’re done.
What lessons have you learned from Return to the Void that you will take forward for your next recording?
There is one thing we learned during the Morbid Dimensions sessions that we still haven’t acted on – and that is to make the vocals a more active part of writing. As I mentioned, we write instrumentally, and add vocals very late. This felt like a short-coming during the Morbid sessions, as sometimes parts would be too long or too short to properly support the overlaid vocals.
We vowed to do demos while writing “Return” to avoid this problem, but only did one song this way. Having said that, we seem to be able to write songs that vocalise well anyhow, but I think this is something that could improve our songwriting further, and we’ll try for it again the next time.
Another thing is to work closer with the person mixing the album during recording. We did the recording mostly on our own this time, but the process would’ve been easier if the person mixing the album was involved earlier on.
You’ve touched on this already, but how do you feel Return to the Void compares to Morbid Dimensions?
Return to the Void is a more direct and intense album than Morbid Dimensions. There is more breathing room and doom on Morbid Dimensions, whereas Return to the Void has zero wasted seconds, and incorporates some heavy and black metal influences that were not present on the previous album. The two albums have radically different sounds – Morbid Dimensions is dry and stripped down while Return to the Void is bigger and bolder. with fatter guitars and punchier drums. Both serve their purpose well, but they’re definitely different.
Where do you think Execration fits in with the global metal scene in 2017?
We used to be one of the upcoming bands from Norway, but after the past few years’ achievements I guess we’re coming to be one the established acts. This is confirmed when reading reviews of our releases – people know of us from before, and approach our releases with expectations and preconceptions. So, maybe we’re an established act that is hard to firmly place in a sub-genre – something that frustrate some and delights others.
What’s it like working with Metal Blade?
So far it’s been great. We were completely left to our own devices while writing and recording the album, just like before. So anyone accusing us of changing our sound after signing with a bigger label, I have to disappoint you – it’s all us. After we turned in the master, it’s been a joy to watch the machine working. There’s been tons of promo, and we’ve received much wider press than ever before. We’re also reaching new audiences all the time, and I expect this effect to compound for some time still.
What’s the typical Execration live show like?
Straight on brutality. We’ve never been heavily into theatrics and such, we’re four guys on a stage delivering the music we’ve worked so hard on. We take live shows extremely seriously and tend to rehearse a lot, so we’re always well prepared, and we’re known for our tight deliverance and ability to bring our songs to life.
Do you have any upcoming shows you want to talk about?
Last year we were scheduled for the Old Grave festival in Romania. Unfortunately, due to a medical condition, we were forced to cancel our first ever show. This year, we’re making good and playing the show at the festival, so this is something I look particularly forward to. Aside from that we will be playing Oslo, Bergen and Karmøy in Norway in September, and are currently working to add more cities to that list.
What will Execration be up to for the rest of the year?
Gigs, gigs, gigs. We will be playing festivals and other gigs to support the album. At the same time, my mind has ever so slowly started churning on what the next album will bring. So far all of our albums have been three years apart, but I have hopes that we’ll be able to present a new one in 2019, and if we can manage to complete a new song before the end of the year, in between gigs, then I’ll consider 2019 a likely possibility.
Any final words?
Thanks so much for the interest! Look out for Execration shows near you, and make sure to tell your local festival booker to keep an eye out for us.