Thought provoking albums are always intriguing especially when they incite ideas and feelings indirectly as is the case with the new album from Louisiana death metalers Excommunicated. Their latest release Skeleton Key is a ‘concept’ work on the medieval Catholic Church, a dark treatise touching the evils of corruption, abuse, and intimidating dark shadows from the time, as it plays though it also inspires unsettling thoughts and comparisons about the modern day church and religion in general, bringing doubts and questions in the mind of the now it shows the admirable and impressive songwriting skills of Excommunicated.
Skeleton Key not only throws striking and powerful lyrics at the ear but also some of the best crushing soul scarring death metal heard lately though to narrow the description of the band’s sound is wrong, the songs within the album come flavoured with varied influences to take it apart from the expected genre sound. There is intelligent use of power and melodic sounds all delivered with equal intensity and thoughtful placing, neither the aggressive or more progressive mellower sounds detracting or distracting from the other.
As mentioned Skeleton Key is a concept work which actually had its origins before the formation of Excommunicated in 2010. The lyrical concept for the album had been outlined earlier by vocalist Chad Kelly for his previous band Catholicon but not realised because of their demise in 2009. Kelly joined with guitarists Jason McIntyre, a founding member of Suture, and Jonathan Joubert one of the founders of Despondency to create Excommunicated, their varied styles and influences bringing a distinct diversity to the sound and creative process that is clear on the album and suits the lyrical content perfectly.
Skeleton Key begins with the instrumental ‘The Abandonment of Hope’ a stunning flow of harmonies tinged with an edge but giving no clue to the assault to lay waste in the next track ‘The Incorruptibles’. Grumbling attitude powered drums and incisive cutting guitars frame a strong varied vocal surge from Kelly in what is the most straight death metal delivered track on the album, direct with darkened riffs it is a strong start.
McIntyre and Joubert split the music writing duties equally on the album each bringing their own distinct and unique flavouring. As the album progresses it is very clear which of the fine guitarists wrote the music for each song and though the difference is marked the band blend the different styled attacks and constructed songs perfectly into the album with flawless ease making Skeleton Key an extremely pleasing and fresh release. The McIntyre created songs such as ‘Minutes of the Corpse Trials’ and ‘When Death Claims Its Most Righteous Dead’ intrude directly with an intensity that breaks down the way ahead for Kelly’s vocals and lyrics to invade the ear whereas Joubert written songs such as ‘Cry to Heaven ‘ and ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ take a more engaging approach. His music is as powerful and forceful but comes with caressing exploring guitars that seduce the ear rather than simply forcing entry as with McIntyre tracks. The combination is impressive and very satisfying and Skeleton Key a full and varied release.
Skeleton Key released via Underworld Records also features the special appearances of David Kinkade (Borknagar,Malevolent Creation, Arsis) who gives an excellent drum attack unleashing vibrant rhythms on the whole album, Vincent Crowley (Acheron, Wolfen Society) who added vocals to ‘The Birth of Tragedy’, and Andy LaRocque (King Diamond, X-World 5).
Skeleton Key is a definite investigation for all liking intrusive intense metal spiced with creative melodies and sounds. Excommunicated are certainly one of the most creative and intriguing bands and deserves more than a moment of your time.