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Excommunicated - "Skeleton Key" (CD)

Excommunicated - "Skeleton Key" CD cover image

"Skeleton Key" track listing:

1. The Abandonment of Hope
2. The Incorruptibles
3. Cry to Heaven
4. Minutes of the Corpse Trials
5. The Vatican Orgies
6. Christ's Sword
7. When Death Claims it's Most Righteous Dead
8. The Birth of Tragedy
9. Keys to the Kingdom of God
10. The Sum of All Life's Pain

Reviewed by on September 5, 2011

"Excommunicated work the concept of the Vatican with this album, but it's not without its flaws."

Members of Despondency and Suture have joined forces with Chad Kelly of the disbanded Catholicon in Excommunicated, an interesting collaboration to come out of Louisiana. Combining thrash and a raw version of extreme metal, they have also enlisted good guest contributions from Borknagar's David Kinkade, Acheron's Vincent Crowley and King Diamond's Andy LaRocque.

"Skeleton Key" is the concept album that Kelly wanted to deliver with his previous band, but instead tackled here. It's a weaving of tales about the papacy, Catholicism and other Vatican subject matter. There are things about the songs that work and others that are in a quest to find direction. "When Death Claims it's Most Righteous Dead" shares a trend with many of the other tracks in that it commences with a brief intro - this one reciting a confessional. These small intro segments are done a lot by metal bands, most notably by Mortician, but become tacked-on afterthoughts when done too much. That being said, the song proves to be a decent guilty pleasure guitar thrasher that whips out leads and then reins them back.

The record also has some very good moments like "The Vatican Orgies," an astounding track that builds upon a church bell tolling and takes you through time changes by the truck-load. The shouted lyrics resemble Carnivore's "Angry Neurotic Catholics" slightly, and the killer skank beat does a nice interplay with the leads. "Christ's Sword" takes a low-tuned guitar and builds slowly, layering the leads a few notes up over the rhythm. It is also interesting how they can do an interchange of two vocals in "The Incorruptibles" and how the drumming changes direction on a dime.

The thing is, for every decent stomper like "Cry to Heaven," there is another track that languishes. There are subdued numbers like "The Birth of Tragedy," which is basically a few minutes of strumming on the guitar and chanting in a rant sort of way. "The Keys to the Kingdom of God" goes from cathartic hardcore thrash into an abrupt, dreamy instrumental. It can be jarring at times. I do like the concept of "Skeleton Key," but there has to be a better way to tie it all together and make it sound more cohesive. The slower tunes could be more interesting and sound like they belong, not just banal clips that seem nonsensically placed.

Excommunicated work the concept of the Vatican with this album, but it's not without its flaws. When the members of this band have a good idea, they run with it and build some very good tracks. However, for every decent track, another one gets lost in the shuffle of directionless.

Highs: Decent, raw thrashing with good guest appearances

Lows: Conceptual album that needs direction and better songwriting

Bottom line: There are many good songs on "Skeleton Key," but other tracks miss the mark.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)