Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Expulsion biography plus reviews

And yet another legendary band from Sweden! Stockholm's EXPULSION surely belongs to the most important bands of the early death metal movement in this country, but mostly due to the demos tapes EXPULSION recorded (as their two full lengths weren’t that influential anymore) and the fact that band members have also been involved in two cult acts TREBLINKA and TIAMAT. But the history begins with different group… In 1988 band called RIVER’S EDGE has been formed in Stockholm on the ashes of MANITOU (from VENOM song) and TRAITOR. This thrash metal band consisted of Calle Fransson and Stefan Lagergren (from MANITOU) and Anders Holmberg and Magnus Krants (from TRAITOR). When the original two bands split up these guys met together to form something else and so RIVER’S EDGE began. They putted an advertisement in heavy rock record store in Stockholm that a band is looking for a vocalist, and so Johan Edlund answered. Even though they didn’t think his raspy vocals were proper for Bay Area influenced band they hired him and recorded a debut demo called “Mind the Edge” in June 1988. Soon after the recording of it Johan left and gave birth to TREBLINKA. Also Magnus Krants decided to leave as he was interested in carrying on with thrash metal style, while the other band members were more and more into death metal’s brutal sound (and cited bands like SADUS, XECUTIONER (OBITUARY), PARADISE LOST and ATHEIST as the main influence then). Both Anders and Stefan decided to carry on with the band, but changed the name for EXPULSION. Interestingly EXPULSION members were also playing session in TREBLINKA, but under nicknames: Stefan "Emetic" and Andreas “Najse Auschwitzer”, while Johan had a name "Lucifer Hellslaughter". Anyway EXPULSION has started originally as a three piece: Stefan Lagergren (guitar), Anders Holmberg (vocals / bass) and Calle Fransson (drums). The band exploded with two demos soon after. First, in early 1989, a masterpiece titled “Cerebral Cessation” has been spawned. The demo has six tracks and crushes with furious death / thrash metal, very alike to TREBLINKA / early TIAMAT actually; but it is not be as such a surprise as Stefan was a main songwriter in EXPULSION and he also wrote some songs for TREBLINKA demo tapes. Then EXPULSION entered Studio Ljudbygget in November 1989 to record their second demo, “Veiled in the Mists of Mystery”. Same year EXPULSION also contributed an exclusive track called “Certain Corpses Never Decay” (it was the very first song the band has written and was recorded at the same time when “Cerebral…” demo) to the compilation cassette “Hymns of the Dead Volume Two”. All these recordings – two demos and a compilation song – led to a contract with PUTREFACTION Records (same French label, which released AUTHORIZE debut CD). The agreement was to do two tracks for a 7”EP. EXPULSION recorded songs titled “Lain Hidden” and “Soul Upheaval” in SUNLIGHT Studio in 1990, but the EP was unfortunately never released. Since then everything has started to get worse and worse in EXPULSION camp. Some band members (Calle and Stefan) found themselves with impending terms of compulsory national military service. Holmberg thus decided to put the band on ice and joined TRANQUILLITY (which was Magnus Krants new band). Next year, 1991, Calle and Stefan were able to reform EXPULSION and so they did with vocalist Fredrik Thornqvist (who earlier released that compilation tape with EXPULSION song on it and who did the front covers for RIVER’S EDGE and TREBLINKA firs demo tapes!) and female bassist Chelsea Krook. Soon they enhanced their sound with adding a second guitarist Chris Vowden, an erstwhile member of ABSURD and member of black metal combo GEBURIUM. The band's first gig, supporting GRAVE, soon followed. Funny thing, but when Andreas found out that EXPULSION has reformed he wanted to come back to the line up, so the band quickly decided to get rid off Chelsea and so Andreas joined them again. But honestly, it wasn’t the same EXPULSION, as the band lost something in their sound; their style became more melodic and polished and lost the malignancy and aggressiveness of the early recordings. The second incarnation of EXPULSION recorded several recordings, starting with self financed CD single titled “A Bitter Twist of Fate”. They released it under the label called DÖDSMETALLFIRMA and the CD featured three songs, among them a re-recorded “Lain Hidden” from the unreleased EP from 1990. Another recording was finished in October 1993, when at local CITY Studio in Stockholm band did three tracks for a split CD called “Vociferous & Machiavellian Hate” – released by EVIL OMEN in 1994 – and which EXPULSION shared with Finnish MYTHOS, Dutch UNEXPECTED and Spanish MYSTHICAL. It was quite specific release and between each song the label putted an intro. Another track, “Let The Raven's Fly”, ended up on DEAF Records’ compilation titled “History Of Things To Come”. Finally in 1994 EXPULSION were able to put out a debut full length, which was titled “Overflow”. It was released by an unknown GODHEAD Records and featured guest appearance from TIAMAT vocalist Johan Edlund on the track “At the Madness End”. After some gigs with the likes of AT THE GATES and TIAMAT, the same label has also released the second album called “Man Against” in 1996. But both CDs went through rather unnoticed (especially the second album didn’t have much to offer in the time of death metal’s fall) as the label didn’t bother to promote it much and so all that led EXPULSION to split up in 1998. Another was the fact that all band members started to become more and more unhappy with Thörnqvist’s vocals and his attitude, as well as lack of any progress from his side. They did try to play with Andreas Jansson as vocalist under the name JUDGE AND JURY, but finally split up in 1999. Both Chris Vowden and Calle Fransson teamed up once more as part of thrash metal band STRESSFEST. A decade later, in 2007, Stefan Lagergren has found his love for death metal once more and formed band called MR.DEATH, which released a debut full length titled “Detached From Life” in 2009 for AGONIA Records. Meanwhile VIC Records has announced a release in 2010 of CD titled “Certain Corpses Never Decay”, which was about contain both early EXPULSION demos, as well as the original compilation track from 1989 and the unreleased PUTRFACTION Records EP, to which the band still owned a master copy. But I have no idea whether this CD has ever came out or not, I’ve never seen a copy, so who knows what happened?

EXPULSION - Cerebral Cessation (demo 1989)
Recorded: unknown
Recording line up: Stefan Lagergren (gtr), Anders Holmberg (voc/bass), Calle Fransson (drums)
Yet another Stockholm based band and another jewel of that scene. EXPULSION seems to be hardly remembered nowadays, but surely it doesn’t mean they music isn’t worth of your interest. The history of EXPULSION and the music this band created – in the first period of their existence especially – are highly interesting! And this debut demo, “Cerebral Cessation” is especially killer material. But every time I listen to it I have just one band in my mind – TREBLINKA / TIAMAT. Yeah, I don’t know if it’s just me, but some of the riffs, ideas, particular fragments from “Cerebral Cessation” really remind me what Johan Edlund was doing at the same time in his band. Of course it isn’t a secret that both bands shared some members and Stefan Lagergren written some songs for TREBLINKA and he was also the main song writer in EXPULSION, but really you may easily get confused while listening to both bands. Just listen to “Old Time Entombed” and think about the similarity of this track – or its opening part at least – to “Sign of the Pentagram”! Or “Whispers In the Abyss” to “Cadaverous Odour”! Damn it, I wonder if it’s just a coincidence or really both bands inspired each other so much? While listening to “Cerebral Cessation” I also have to underline other similarities to TREBLINKA / TIAMAT. The vocals are very alike to Johan’s ghoulish shrieks and the sound also is similar… even though as far as I remember both bands recorded their materials in different studios. Anyway, all that doesn’t disturb me enjoying “Cerebral Cessation” a lot. It is stunning material. The opening track “Extreme Hypothermia” shreds with some death / thrashing riffage, played in quite fast tempo and really this is one damn memorable song. I just love the ghastly vocals Anders Holmberg did in it; they’re fantastic. “Whispers in the Abyss” is again fast, probably even faster than the previous track. It’s also damn long, as it goes up to six minutes of unmerciful skin bashing and its riffs are really razor sharp (mind that at the end you will also get a nice acoustic fragment!). “Old Time Entombed” is what I already written… It opens with an acoustic, but then the riffing is very much like the one from “Sign of the Pentagram”. Then “The Prophecy of Doom” is much slower, more epic and almost melodic. To be honest this song would easily fit to TIAMAT’s “Astral Sleep” LP, as it has similar atmosphere. But I really like that one and to me it’s one of the best fragments of the EXPULSION debut demo. The title song is totally thrash metal influenced and finally the closing track, “Innominandum (Part II)” is a nice instrumental. All together “Cerebral Cessation” is damn enjoyable demo material, one which is a must to listen to if you want to know all the most precious old Swedish demos.
Best song: “Extreme Hypothermia”, “The Prophecy of Doom”
Final rate: 85/100

Veiled In the Mists of Mystery (demo 1989)
Recorded: Recorded at Studio Ljudbygget in November 1989. Engineered by Oskar. Mixed by Oskar & EXPULSION. Produced by EXPULSION.
Recording line up: Stefan Lagergren (gtr), Anders Holmberg (voc/bass), Calle Fransson (drums)
Few months have passed since the EXPULSION’s  debut “Cerebral Cessation” demo, but don’t be surprised when you listen to “Veiled in the Mists of Mystery”, because to my point of view both demos are different from each other! It looks like the band has worked quite hard during that short period of time and managed to progress musically and technically. First of all, the production these Swedes achieved in LJUDBYGGET Studio is more brutal, heavier and “meaty”. Music wise it’s still quite close to TREBLINKA / TIAMAT, but at the same time it looks like EXPULSION also tried to come up with slightly more individual style this time. But still there are many similarities between both bands. If you listen to “Darkside” it may remind you “Sign of the Pentagram” demo for instance (only the production is better, close to “Sumerian Cry”). This song has some very typical (for TIAMAT) slowing downs and melodies, which were an important element of TIAMAT / TREBLINKA demo period and “Sumerian Cry” LP. The same may be said about “Bastard Son of God”, a track, which could fit to “Sumerian Cry” very easily. Both bands play riffs, which have similar atmosphere and tempos, even structures are quite alike. Luckily the vocals have changed and so Anders’ voice isn’t performed in this demonic, ghoulish whisper in Johan Edlund’s style anymore. But with all that, I’m glad that EXPULSION was also able to compose such cool and slightly different stylistically songs. The best one I think is the title track. “Veiled in the Mists of Mystery” starts with really great melody, which reminds me (surprisingly) a theme from one of HAZAEL’s songs from “Thor” album (of course these Poles have recorded their cult CD few years after EXPULSION did that demo...). This title song has many great parts and is perfectly composed, played in rather mid paced tempos, but is speeding up occasionally. But the melody – which doesn’t appear often in EXPULSION music – is the biggest advantage of this song. There are even some acoustics in it, so this really is a classic Swedish death metal composition. “Undersea (Part II)” is also great as its slow riffage crawls heavily like a rhino and when is accompanied here and there by acoustic guitar it creates great, doomy atmosphere. So I can say that the second part of “Veiled in the Mists of Mystery” is my favourite fragment of the whole recording. But let’s be clear – the whole material is excellent, whether you’re into TIAMAT or other bands, get this, as it’s amazing classic Swedish death metal effort.
Best song: “Veiled in the Mists of Mystery”, “Undersea (Part II)”
Final rate: 70/100

A Bitter Twist of Fate (EP 1993 - DODSMETALLFIRMA)
Recorded: Unknown
Recording line up: Calle Fransson – Drums, Anders Holmberg – Bass, Chris Vowden – Guitar, Stefan Lagergren – Guitar, Fredrik Thornquist – Vocals
It did pass some time since EXPULSION did their two demo tapes. Right after releasing the second demo the band split up due to military service of its two members, but as soon as they completed it they re-formed the band with some new musicians. This new line up was a five piece, with new vocalist and second guitarist and they entered the studio in 1993 and self released this CD single under the label DODSMETALLAFIRMA. For my point of view the band “lost” something during the three years which separate this EP and previous recordings and I can tell it doesn’t sound like EXPULSION anymore. “A Bitter Twist of Fate” surely presents completely different style. They left that raw and aggressive death metal of the demos behind; the ghoulish, demonic atmosphere and obscure feeling are all gone. Instead you can find well advanced technically, melodic death metal band. The production of the EP is absolutely perfect, very clear and professional, well fitting to band’s present style. Musically it is still deeply rooted in the Swedish scene as the new, improved style may remind you bands like bands like late ABHOTH, even UTUMNO. Mid paced mostly, quite melodic, but not too complex riffing and song structures bring decent and easily listenable death metal songs. The word “easily” fits this EP quite well, as it isn’t brutal and complex, so it is rather catchy, memorable and it doesn’t demand such focusing on the music. But to me these songs just don’t work as they should. Yeah, they’re fine and solid, but comparing them to the recordings of other great Swedish bands they’re not even half as effective and killer. To put it simply – they’re just damn average. I feel like they lack some rotten energy, some great aggressive parts… Song like “With Aged Hands” (Uhh, I do not like this title at all!) are almost boring with that slow, repetitive main riff and rather unimpressive ideas in it. But the thing I’m most disappointed most about “A Bitter Twist of Fate” are the vocals of Fredrik Thornquist – they’re far from great demonic voice of Anders Holmberg and even far from the average death metal growling. This guy simply was not able to deliver great and deep guttural death metal vocals and instead sounds more like a choking dog. I really couldn’t understand why EXPULSION has decided to hire this guy as their new vocalist. The song “Lain Hidden” is the best / or worse / example of his untalented growling.
Best song: “In Whirling Dust”
Final rate: 65/100

Recorded: Recorded at City, Stockholm, Sweden on October of 1993. Engineered by Martin Schmalensee
Recording line up: Calle Fransson – Drums, Anders Holmberg – Bass, Chris Vowden – Guitar, Stefan Lagergren – Guitar, Frederic Thornquist – Vocals
This split CD belongs to those albums, whose availability nowadays is basically minimal. EVIL OMEN Records unleashed it in 1994 and I guess all the copies are sold out, which is a shame, as the material includes four different, but interesting bands: MYTHOS (Finland), EXPULSION (Sweden), UNEXPECTED (Holland) and MYSTHICAL (Spain). To be honest with you, I only knew EXPULSION and MYTHOS about before hearing this split; the two remaining bands are totally anonymous to me. I also don’t know if the bands delivered songs recorded specifically for this split CD or used some of their old materials – it may be both as I know that MYTHOS used songs from their debut demo and as far as I remember none of the EXPULSION songs were on their other releases. The demonic Chris Moyen cover artwork – despite its awful colouring – and Ludo’s (EVIL OMEN owner) intros between each song give the album a special, dark, almost satanic feeling, which is weird, as something like that doesn’t fit in my opinion to EXPULSION’s style (I don’t even know if the bands had any influence on these intros). It would rather fit to more blackened bands, like MYTHOS actually, but what the hell, whatever’s been done it’s the past now and besides, it kind of gives the album a special atmosphere. Finnish legends MYTHOS open the “Vociferian and Machiavellian Hate”, introducing five tracks (all from the legendary “Moulded In Clay” demo from 1992); anthems of blackened death metal in the style, which wonderfully combines the punkish, chaotic IMPALED NAZARENE sadogoat metal and the classic Finnish death metal like ADRAMELECH. The result is great. The tempo on every song is mostly fast, the band delivers razor sharp riffs like they were about to cut the desecrated figure of Christ, it’s all very relentless and damn aggressive and filled up with the dark, hellish intros (some of them use the “Dracula” soundtrack by Wojciech Killar). The music of MYTHOS is pretty simple, in fast parts the band seems to use similar type of drumming and riffing all the time, but luckily Finns avoid monotony by adding some crushing slow parts. I know the band is little known and very underestimated, but I have a feeling that this demo from 1992 is a must for every IMPALED NAZARENE fan (although the future recordings like “Dark Material” (EP 1997) ain’t that good in my opinion). EXPULSION used to be a great band. Their two early demo tapes were fantastic pieces of dark death metal, but since 1992 the band just changed their style completely and honestly the two albums those Swedes did are dull. The tracks from “Vociferian and Machiavellian Hate” are probably the last good thing they’ve ever done. These songs basically combine the past death metal style of EXPULSION, but also introduce to the fans band’s new, more melodic and mid paced music. Luckily the production is pretty raw and aggressive, so comparing these songs to the EP for instance the result is bit better and more satisfying to my taste. Especially the first track, “Soul Upheaval”, sounds great, starting with faster part and then moving into more mid paced playing. That song sounds totally old school, but no wonder, it was already written in 1990 and its first version was recorded in that same year for an unreleased EP. The second song, “As the Last One”, isn’t that good; it’s much more melodic and slower, showing the more gothic influence, known from the future EXPULSION albums I’m afraid (and similar to CEMETARY). Boring! The third track is called “The Other Side” and is known from “Overflow” album. I don’t like it, just like don’t like this album; it’s too soft and slow, but I can stand it as the EXPULSION part of the split is only 15 minutes long. But I wish they had more aggressive and fast parts in their music. Now it’s time for UNEXPECTED. The band’s from Holland and usually I find the death metal bands from this country as great. They had killer scene in the early 90’s and I don’t mean just the well known acts, but also those you may be less familiar with like DISSECT, BURIAL, DELIRIUM, PYATHROSIS, DESULTORY, OBTRUNCATION, AWAKENING. And surely UNEXPECTED doesn’t disappoint neither. They even play something I would actually expect from a Dutch band – technical, brutal death metal which combines the styles of PESTILENCE and bands like DEATH and ATHEIST. UNEXPECTED has some cool ideas for the vocals, as they use quite varied range of screams and growling (some really remind me the Patrick Mamelli’s shrieks). The band uses a lot of rhythmical variations, breaks the riffs, puts a lot of effort into every instrument – so you’ll hear very active bass or complex arrangements of the drums. I have to say that I really liked their part of the split. Even though I may not be the biggest fan of technical playing, I always loved PESTILENCE – since I was 11 and I listened to “Testimony of the Ancients” in 1991 I just considered them to be my heroes. Now, 20 years later I still love their early albums. UNEXPECTED has the same vibe and aggression as PESTILENCE, although they also try to put something individual, so this band turned out to be a great surprise to me. Lovely stuff! And finally the Spanish MYSTHICAL... This band performs more atmospheric kind of death metal. They try to create an epic mood here and there, even get an instrumental help from acoustic guitars and keyboards occasionally, in order to increase the dark mood of their music. But these fragments with keyboards sound really archaic and outdated, especially such song as “Goat Consecration”, which is totally boring and annoying (it's very doomy, much slower from the rest and its ending part gives me diarrhoea every time I listen to it). But there are also songs I really like - the first one, "Burn the Remains of Christianity", which sounds quite Swedish, musically (and these vocals!!!) remind me about the early HYPOCRISY and that's great. This track is really aggressive and fast, has a lot of classic death metal riffs, so I can only regret that MYSTHICAL doesn't follow this path on the three remaining songs. "The Whisper of Winter" is also fine, but this track like any other shows how weak is the drums sound here. The second part of this song has those acoustic guitars and I can say it sounds very much like black metal band. So, yeah, MYSTHICAL is also not so bad, it differs from the other bands from “Vociferian and Machiavellian Hate” and that's good.
Best song: “Verses In the Fire”, “Soul Upheaval”, “Prospect to Recognition”, "Burn the Remains of Christianity"
Final rate: 70/100

Overflow (GODHEAD Records – CD 1994)
Recorded: Recorded and mixed in May – July 1994 at the CITY Recording, Stockholm, Sweden. Engineered by Martin Schmalensee. Produced by EXPULSION and Martin Schmalensee.
Recording line up: Calle Fransson – Drums, Anders Holmberg – Bass, Chris Vowden – Guitar, Stefan Lagergren – Guitar, Fredrik Thornquist – Vocals
If we'll look at the whole career of Swedish EXPULSION I have to say that they were really weird band. The early demo recordings caught my attention totally and were fantastic in their raw, darkened death metal style and if anyone loves TREBLINKA / early TIAMAT (I DO!!!), he'll also love these two primitive slices of darkened death metal. These two demos were enought for me to remember the bandname and add it to the list of the immortal, cult Scandinavian death metal acts. But since 1992 EXPULSION started to change musically. With new a line up they softened a lot, "A Bitter Twist of Fate" EP was its first sign and first small dissapointment. After reuniting in 1991 (EXPULSION split up first in 1990 due to military service of its members) these guys just lost the feeling and decided to put their music in different direction. Their death metal became dull and uninspiring... In 1994 time came for the first album. Also this recording doesn't satisfy my taste. As much as I want, I just can’t find on this record anything I would get excited about and despite being professionally recorded and well performed, it doesn’t convince me at all. Musically it’s still more or less death metal oriented, but damn me, can death metal be any more boring that the one from “Overflow”? The ways the music on this CD is played is just emotionless, seems like these guys didn’t have any energy to perform such kind of darkened, aggressive music at all. And they completely forgot about any important aspects this music should be bringing. They skipped the genre’s aggression, feeling or power; anything I would expect and enjoy from Swedish death metal band… What’s more, they don’t even seem to have any good ideas or passion for that music. Let's listen to such tracks as “Let the Ravens Fly” or “The Other Side”. Got them? Tell me now if you agree with me or not, but they just suck. Absolutely nothing in these tracks can impress me. Even one of the more interesting songs, “Don’t Leave Me to Bleed” makes me asking “can they play it but more lifely, so that I won’t fall asleep in a minute??”. EXPULSION based almost entire material on monotonous mid paced or slow riffing, which one could place somewhere between doom and death, but with some additional thrash or even heavy metal traces, although without having really any vitality. Some of the riffs ain’t that bad, few of them have nice melodies and even some hooks, but all that disappear in the sea of boredom that overflows the “Overflow” (ha, ha). “The Anatomical Range” is probably one of the more interesting tracks on the album; its whole atmosphere resembles the good old TIAMAT and is based on doomy slow, but melodic riffing. “At The Madness End”, which includes guest vocals from TIAMAT’s Johan Edlund, brings the calm acoustics with some “not-so-heavy” riffing, which sounds pretty dark and reminds me both TIAMAT and CEMETARY – it’s probably the best song on the album actually. Some of my favourite riffs and parts appear also in “Fallen”. Yeah, these tracks are not so bad and maybe if it was an three song EP, I would listen to it more often. But the problem is that it’s a 50 minutes long full length and even the best songs from it are worthless if I compare them to some of the tunes of other Swedish bands. Any band I can think of - CRYPT OF KERBEROS, WOMBBATH or AFFLICTED, not to mention the best groups - beats EXPULSION easily. Just like on the previous CD single “A Bitter Twist of Fate”, here again I’m totally disappointed with Fredrik Thornquist’s vocals. That guy just cannot growl, his voice only puts more boredom into the EXPULSION music, he almost sounds like someone, who did these vocals because someone forced him to do so, without putting his heart into that. He hasn’t got the balls to do some proper vocals! It’s even more disappointing if I listen to the early demos, where the vocals were one of the best aspects of EXPULSION music (they were performed by the current bassist only, Anders Holmberg - hey mate, you should be growling on this CD)! Uff, putting this all together, here is really tough album… To survive these 50 minutes of monotonous playing is very difficult, so I cannot even recommend it to anyone, except maybe total selfmutilating maniacs. There are just many other albums from that period you should check out and enjoy, EXPULSION’s music is rather for those, who really like the mid period TIAMAT and CEMETARY. Those, into classic, aggressive death metal can easily skip it and instead put their hands on the EXPULSION’s great demo tapes.
Best song: “Fallen”, “The Anatomical Range”, “At The Madness End”
Final rate: 45/100

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