EXCOMMUNICATED, Skeleton Key (2011, UW)

The skull:
The ol’ skull and crossbones motif gets a fresh coat of paint with a couple of keys and a priest’s fascia (that’s the sashy thing taking the usual place of a rolled parchment or whatever.) It’s obviously not a design of stunning originality, but its nevertheless a fresh take on a stale concept, and the components of the illustration are nice looking, to boot. It would be nice if someone ever took the time to make the copied and pasted elements look like two different things, but maybe I’m asking too much. And lastly, I question the wisdom of putting two keys on an album called Skeleton Key, singular, but I guess I’ve just got a hard-on for concordance in design.

The music:
Excommunicated play a slightly melodicized, slightly blackened take on Morbid Angel style death metal minus the Azagthothian weirdness but with the addition of a healthy dose of doom death. They’re moderately ambitious without being particularly complicated, and their music is certainly moody and well-fitted to the overarching theme, which concerns the crimes and excesses of the medieval Catholic Church. Lots of bands sing about the Inquisition with an anti-Christian slant, but Excommunicated really go whole hog with the concept, weaving in snippets of sacred music, spoken-word passages of historical texts, and other bits of liturgical color. While I’m never bowled over, exactly, by the music, I really appreciate Excommunicated’s commitment to the bit, which never descends to parodic blasphemy. There’s enough variety, too, to keep the album from ever getting boring. It’s an impressive debut that might be a little too classy for the meat and potatoes death metal crowd, but if it does find purchase in that scene the band should do well.
— Friar Johnsen