Excuse – Prophets From The Occultic Cosmos (Shadow Kingdom)

The speed metal hordes may be massing again in North America, but it’s the ever-fertile nation of Finland that has produced one of 2019’s stand-out debuts. Prophets From The Occultic Cosmos is a surging, twisting, torrent of an album, where Razor meets maximum velocity Maiden in a race to the edge of the world. And as the name suggests, it dwells on the dark side: this isn’t a whiskey and amphetamine fuelled biker’s ride out, more a blood-drenched black mass (albeit one conducted at a frantic pace).

Part of Excuse’s appeal is their tendency to hurtle headlong into wild, Murray/Smith style riff-downs: as Sworn To The Crimson Oath reveals itself, you’re half expecting a ‘scream for me Helsinki’ from singer/guitarist Oskar Lindström… and you wouldn’t be surprised if bassist Atte Aoltenen recorded the track wearing West Ham sweatbands either.

The other (major) plus is the sense that the quartet are simply enjoying making this glorious, thrashy racket. Sure, Excuse are not as polished as some of their contemporaries, but there’s a raw power to songs like Blade Of The Antichrist and Black Crystal Visions that makes them all the more alluring, and an aggressive attitude which helps them hit harder.

Closing the album with the meandering, ten-minute plus Watchtower Of The Trans-Dimension is a confusing move from the band, when two or three more speed metal ragers like Blade… may have been a wiser choice. Nevertheless, it’s an ambitious effort – and this mini-epic allows Lindström and fellow six-stringer Anselmi Ahopalo to stretch their creative muscles even further.

Indeed, the Finns have poured a frothing blend of ideas and influences into Prophets From the Occultic Cosmos, and the result is a formidable first album – and a record full of surprises.