With so many bands clinging to the batch appeal of a certain death metal substrata, it's refreshing to have one come along that picks and chooses between them. Norway's Execration does not fit so snugly into the categories of 90s atmospheric death, melodic death, Swedish admiration or modern, technical death, but instead mixes and matches them into something moderately distinct. A decidedly old school streak does run through Odes of the Occult, conjuring nods to Asphyx, Bolt Thrower, (early) Pestilence and Atrocity, but there is also a yearning for progression threaded through a number of the tracks here which journeys well past the constraints of the mere nostalgia so many bands in this sphere employ.
I admit that I have only a vague recollection of the band's 2008 full-length debut, Syndicate of Lethargy, but their 2007 EP Language of the Dead was superb, and this sophomore follows up with a lot of similar characteristics: a thick and punishing guitar tone, a balance of deep guttural and more emotionally charged, gritty vocals, and dynamic drumming well suited to the variation within the songwriting. Punchers like "Entheogen" and "High Priest" are packed with tight and leaden grooves, between which streams of oblique melodies are strung as the band ranges from faster to slower tempos. Then there are the more ambitious pieces, like the 10 and a half minute epic "A Crutch for Consolation" which devolves into sparser, atmospheric doom/death segments, or the pair of "Intermezzo" instrumentals which provide some of the most immersive, moody moments on the entire album. If you're just looking to be run over, of course, Execration can do that too through the flighty belligerence of "Obsession", but don't expect a straight run: even this song engages a more expansive range of dynamics.
Almost all of the Norse death metal acts have seemed like outsiders, never quite fitting into the secure categories that the wealth of the genre adheres to. At best, you had a case like Molested; at worst, possibly Disgusting, but they always had some unique trait which stood apart from their Swedish neighbors. Execration joins these ranks, offering a less swampy and bizarre alternative to their great peers Obliteration, while nearly as fascinating. Odes of the Occult is not necessarily a classic in the making, because its broad swaths of variation unfortunately do not always manifest through the most memorable riffing, but their approach is appreciable, and if they can eventually pen the tunes to fully flesh out their vision, they could become one of the more potent death metal enterprises to emerge thus far in the 21st century.
Verdict: Win [7.25/10]