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Escarnium: Excruciating Existence

Now as a card carrying member of the prog family and someone with a penchant for extreme metal, I should by rights love an extreme metal concept album - right? Well, truth be told, even though I like a cool, convincing growler such as Victor Elian of Brazilian black/death metal band Escarnium, I just don't see the point of recording a concept album where I need to carry the booklet about like a hymn recital to understand a word of it. But that is far from the main issue here.

Having already released a debut EP, Rex Verminorum, of which three songs are reproduced here, Escarnium set about working on their first full length offering, Excruciating Existence, where the songs are all linked by death, existence, war, religion, chaos, sanity and insanity. Which, while in truth the usual fare for extreme metal is quite a claim for a young band from Brazil. Impressively they pull it off, with the lyrics working well and powerful vocals being a strong point on an album that suggests Escarnium could prove to be well worth watching - even if this release doesn't quite hit the mark.

Now when I say it doesn't hit the mark, that's a bit unfair, because if you are looking for straight laced, no frills, no surprises, staying firmly within the box labelled black metal release, then Excruciating Existence strikes the bulls-eye as precisely in the middle as it is possible to do. Think Gorefest, or Bolt Thrower and you won't be far away and in truth the level of enthusiasm takes what in reality could be tired old ideas and breathes an interesting and almost exciting new life into them. I say almost because if there is one thing that holds this album back, it is an uninspired production job that completely blunts the forceful attack this outfit conjures up. The drums clickety-clackety in the background, but then that is where the guitars, vocals and bass are too, leaving an album that should be invading your personal space to kick its heels shyly in the shadows. It is a real shame, because otherwise this debut offering may just blow your eardrums to smithereens - but we'll never know.

Too many issues remain to proclaim Excruciating Existence to be a potential classic, but there are so many flashes of brutal potential desperately trying to fight their way out of this album, that writing Escarnium off would be a fatal error. Let's give them another shot before deciding either way.

Track Listing
1. 731
2. Salvation Through Zyklon-B
3. Excruciating Existence
4. Self Proclaimed Messiah
5. Nuclear Burial
6. Death Metal Terror
7. Dark Clouds Above Hell's Fire
8. Slaves of an Ending Fate
9. Covered In Decadence

Added: November 30th 2012
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Escarnium on facebook
Hits: 2134
Language: english

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