Simultaneously a tsunami of organic hostility and premeditated intimately defined brutality, Stay of Execution from Norwegian metallers Hellish Outcast is quite simply one of the finds of the year. Not that the Bergen quartet are real newcomers, the band has been tearing up the local underground scene since 2001 and making a potent announcement of intent with debut album Your God Will Bleed two years ago. Their new album though is a whole new murder-pit of creative antagonism and majesty from the band, a rhythmically crippling and sonically ravishing destruction and seduction of the senses. Described as thrash/death metal, their sound is so much more than that limiting tag, the album inescapable evidence of a vicious and scintillating tapestry of varied flavours and styles picked apart and used as weaponry in one of the year’s major triumphs.
Formed by guitarist Martin Legreid, bassist Mads Mowinckel (Breed), and drummer Mads Lilletvedt (Solstorm, ex-Byfrost), Hellish Outcast as mentioned was swiftly an attention grabbing and growing force in the Norwegian underground scene. 2006 saw the release of the demo Release You from Their Soil, and two years later came the unleashing of the Raping – Killing – Murder EP which drew keen and favourable attention on a wider scale. The addition of vocalist Thebon (ex-Keep Of Kalessin) in 2010 helped trigger a new twist and attitude in their already visceral sound, a spark ensuring Your God Will Bleed was well-received by a more potent spotlight . Stay of Execution takes it all to another level though, the expanse and maturity in sound and songwriting as marked as the greater insatiable brutality accompanying it. It is an album which tears senses and psyche asunder whilst serenading them with addiction binding grooves and melodic toxicity. Stay of Execution is exhilarating, rigorously compelling, and a release impossible to get your fill of.
It is fair to say that as soon as an avalanche of riffs and rhythms cascades down on the senses through opener Partition of Lust, the album takes a tight hold of ears and attention. It is an instinctively anthemic lure, the creative artillery of beats from Lilletvedt rigorously enticing bait within which riffs cast their own raw tempting. It is an onslaught which never waivers in its demands and punishing intensity, only increasing its savagery as the malevolent vocal squalls of Thebon explode in the maelstrom of spite. Though there is a repetitive core to the track, it just as grippingly unleashes strong variation in voice and grooving to provide the most hostile and irrepressibly addictive start to the release.
Things only accelerate in persuasion and ingenuity as the following punkish brawl of I Can No Longer See the Sun erupts. The song’s subsequent barbarous body is swiftly drawing on groove and nu-metal tendencies as it dips into the death bred corners of muscular animosity. It is a bewitching pillaging of the emotions, at times crooning with melodic and harmonious beauty and in other moments stripping the senses bare with vicious and merciless invention. Its deceptive and thrilling mastery is soon emulated by the lethal breath and inhospitable landscape of Heresiarch, the track a stalking predator but again unafraid to sooth the wounds it’s rhythmic and sonic claws dig with a weave of warm melodies and spellbinding clean vocals. The song is ravenous in its fierce imagination and seductive through the grizzled radiance similarly expelled.
The corrosive rancor of the thrash fuelled Hunter Supreme comes next, its title perfect naming of the exhaustive sound within the predacious enmity masquerading as a song, before a new pinnacle is forged with Gods of Fear. This track is as primal as it is innovative, the opening crawl of riffs and bass intimidation bestial at best and tar thick malevolence at its deepest. It is soon engulfed in another thrash driven tirade of death and groove metal blood lust yet manages to hold a rein on its venom to more taunt the imagination and emotions. Scorched with a blistering solo, the track is a monstrous rancor and virulently infectious.
Leave offers its own outstanding violation next, its entrance a mellower coaxing than anything provided before on the album but also as portentous and menacing as those same companions. With a slow groan of a delivery from Thebon exposing the song’s narrative as at times vocal harmonies magnetically colour the background, there is a Faith No More essence to the brooding incitement, a similarly distinct inventiveness as the track seduces with clean vocals and grizzled snarls musically and lyrically. It is a transfixing treat setting up the listener for the impossibly contagious presence of Machines. With a robust swing to its stride and sonic tenacity to its enthralling enterprise, the track is loaded with a creative rabidity which is pure fascination. A round that is a ferocity which is honed into something controlled but forcibly hungry. The mid-point slip into a stark and dystopian like metallic soundscape does not quite work with personal tastes, mainly for the length it consumes before allowing the severity of the blistering storm to return, but it cannot derail another track from impressively igniting body and passions.
The album’s irresistible title track makes for a distinct and intriguing antagonist next, its winding grooves like sonic ivy entwining the imagination and lingering in grip, before both Morbid Attraction and Torment unveil their destructive and thrilling characters. The first is a nostrils flaring, fist pounding hellacious assault; riffs and rhythms scything and swiping respectively upon the senses with barbaric and deliciously infectious urgency whilst its successor almost glares at the listener with its initial imposing stance before casting a canvas which is as predatory in tone and effect as it is sizzling in unpredictability and melodic imagination. Both tracks, as the whole album throughout, share searing and unique displays of sonic invention from the guitars aligned to exciting vocal variation and an enslaving rhythmic animus. It is a starling blend, which in whatever individual form the combination comes, never loses the band’s almost inimitable touch.
The album comes to an end through the instrumental beauty of The Wait, an acoustic led piece of music which is expressive in melodies and spellbinding in elegance. It finally gives time for breath to be taken within Stay of Execution, though in some ways the senses feel it might have been more useful earlier. The track makes a provocative close to a devastating and mercilessly thrilling release whilst at the same time revealing yet more of the qualities and thoughtful adventure within the band.
Whether Stay of Execution is forging new scenery for extreme metal is a debate which can be argued either side way. It does provide without any doubt though one of the most exciting and refreshing releases this year, pushing Hellish Outcast to the frontline of brutal pleasure.
Stay of Execution is available via Listenable Records @ http://www.shop.listenable.net/en/81_hellish-outcast
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