It’s been an embarrassment of riches when it comes to death metal so far in 2017, and with Thronosis, Excommunion makes it even more embarrassing. This Colorado-based duo, featuring bassist/vocalist Christbutcher, also of Cryptborn and guitarist/vocalist, Kyle Spanswick (A.K.A Naas Alcameth) of Nightbringer, actually released its debut, Superion, 15 years ago, but a split EP in 2006 is the sum of the band’s output in the intervening years, making Thronosis Excommunion’s second album. I haven’t heard the debut, and although Thronosis is a scant 29 minutes long, I expect you will not be disappointed if you’ve been pining for more material from this band .
You can’t please all the people all the time, but Excommunion gives it a shot on Thronosis. A varied approach across the board from style to tempo is one of the keys to this album’s success. This approach is evident right out of the gate with “Twilight of Eschaton.” The track is all bludgeoning chaos from the start, with jarring, careening riffs similar to Immolation, but with a more straight-forward, blasting rhythmic approach. About a minute and a half in, the smoke clears and a simple, chugging riff emerges, which builds to a climax of dead silence. The riff is then reintroduced with a more laid-back groove and a vaguely dissonant haze of harmonic layering. From there, an abrasive tremolo riff begins a stilted call and response with some chunky thuds from the rhythm section. Just as this stilted dance smooths out into something resembling a melodic flow, the songs shifts to a marching, chug-and-squeal motif, which gradually dissolves into some brooding tremolo-picked melody, then it’s back to a another pounding riff, which itself mutates a few more time in the final few seconds of the song.
That cataloging of riffs might have been tedious to read, but the song’s chameleon-like shifting of musical patterns is exhilarating to hear. The album’s three remaining tracks, each similarly lengthy, are a bit more deliberate in overall pacing, with “Nemesis” in particular taking on an Incantation-like doom/death vibe. Each makes good use of dynamics, often following slower passages with climactic bursts of speed. Tension and release is an age-old musical formula, but many modern death metal bands seem to forget the release part in an attempt to plumb ever-greater depths of darkness. Excommunion, for all its long-windedness, never neglects the payoff.
Strictly speaking, Thronosis doesn’t really offer you anything you haven’t heard before. There are plenty of bands that imitate Immolation, Incantation, and Suffocation. But Excommunion’s way of combining these influences and a little black metal to boot, and crafting expansive, inventively arranged tunes full of quality, memorable riffs is something that raises the group head and shoulders above the average death metal band. If you’re a fan of quality death metal, Thronosis’s 29 minutes will undoubtedly leave you wanting more. Let us hope it won’t take another 15 years to get it.