It’s not a secret that Swedish death metal is my favourite thing. And Excruciate belongs to my favourite bands from there, yes! I had their “Passage of Life” tape (released on Loud Out Records) for many years in the 90’s, but I truly was happy, when I discovered that a vinyl is released by a new label. It was in 2009, this LP was very limited (200 black and 100 red copies), so I grabbed a copy quickly. It actually was the first release of The Crypt, now so well known and respected for their killer releases, but in my opinion already the CRYPT 01 release looked and sounded damn awesome. I got everything I wanted with it, but obviously the music was what brought the biggest joy, since it’s such a damn awesome death metal.
Sweden has been lucky to have so many amazing bands (in the past but also in the present). But when listing the best bands, people usually mention only bands, which have been signed by major labels or have been around for more than just few years of early 90’s. I can understand it, but to be honest most of the Swedish bands that I personally like the most are those, who could be called “smaller and lesser known”. And Excruciate is among them. I love this band a lot, their music meant a lot to me back in the old days and “Passage of Life” still gives me goose skin. Of course they started with two great demos “Mutilation of the Past” and “Hymns of Mortality” (which also appeared on the split LP with Epitaph). But it’s “Passage of Life”, which shows Excruciate at their best. What I enjoy the most about this album is that on one hand it is pretty typical and classic Swedish death metal thing; with that trademark Sunlight Studio sound that you cannot mistake with anything else, more so the band had obviously used a lot of the typical Swedish melodic riffs and leads, the vocals and atmosphere of the music are also very Swedish like. But when compared to some other bands, Excruciate on “Passage of Life” seems to be faster, more aggressive and vicious. And this is why I like it so much. Let’s pass on the production value, which maybe could have been better (I like it anyways, haha!), but as a whole this is a complete, near perfect Swedish death metal album in my opinion.
The songwriting is just fantastic. There’s no song, which I would not like or which would seem to be a filler. Each track brings just extremely great riffs and harmonies, some awesome ideas and arrangements that also distinguish them from many other acts. And Lars Levin’s vocals also sound so harsh and nasty... But first and foremost, “Passage of Life” is powerful and energetic album. Play it loud and you’ll feel its fierce power. Of course it’s not as brutal and extreme as the US or some European death metal bands, but it’s even better when the atmosphere and aggression have been mixed in such an interesting and enjoyable way. And Excruciate sounds awesome when they play slow and when they fast. It’s almost difficult to pick up favourite songs, when the whole album is so even from start to finish. But surely the opening track “Confused Mind” is the one that stands out, for its great dose of more harmonic themes, but also some more brutal and blasting parts. “Inhumation Postnatal” is very alike, as again you’ll hear many fantastic melodies there, almost epic bits, but also ravaging death metal. All in all, they both are great, very diverse, heavy songs. I can also mention “Anatomical Self-Fertilization”, which is mainly fast as hell, but somewhere in the middle it allowed a slow, quite mournful sounding piece to enter. There are sons like “Suffocate”, which are a bit more twisted, with many tempo changes, great, varied guitar work, what almost reminds me such Utumno or Afflicted (but less weird that the latter haha!). But these are just examples, as every song is filled with great riffs, ideas, fantastic arrangements, so we can speak of each track in details. Great, great Swedish death metal, this is what you get with this album!
It’s really shame that “Passage of Life” is the only Excruciate full length and that the band split up so soon (well, just like many other killer acts like Utumno, God Macabre, Epitaph, Goddefied, Gorement, etc). I understand that the death metal popularity at that time went down a lot and black metal started to be number one thing, but who cares about that? A lot of other bands survived and kept on releasing killer stuff. Of course I don’t think that smaller death metal attention was the reason for splitting up of the band, but damn it, I wish so much that “Passage of Life” was continued. Sadly, it wasn’t. Anyway, this is in my opinion a great band, killer album, so if you’re into the Swedish death metal do yourself a favour and spend some good money on it!
Standout tracks: “Confused Mind”, “Suffocate”, “Inhumation Postnatal”