Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram (2018) REVIEW

When extending fandom of an ever-changing band across several decades it is absolutely healthy to analyze and rethink that fandom. In the case of Necrophobic each album leading up to ‘Bloodhymns’ was fleetingly interesting and every album beyond it has intensified my interest in the next. One of my first loves within old school death metal is ‘The Nocturnal Silence’ an album that I’ve committed to memory and worshiped for over twenty years. It is one of the best death metal records ever recorded due to it’s propulsive Slayer influenced diatonics and intensely brutal-yet-thoughtful death metal guitar work. I have equal love for the band’s second album ‘Darkside’ an album I credit with introducing me to melodic black metal a la Dissection. I wasn’t actually compelled to purchase any Necrophobic material beyond the first two (and compilations) until ‘Hrimthursum’ in 2006, an album that re-captured all of the things I had loved about the band. Three albums later it seems Necrophobic have capitalized on what’d been missing since 2006: Excess.

Absolutely nothing succeeds like excess in terms of extreme metal and while Necrophobic are tightly primped and carefully manicured compared to the grind and tech-death world around them, it’d been over a decade since the band really ‘went for it’ in terms of sheer speed and complex melodic black/death metal riffing. With a new vocalist, and a returning guitarist/bassist pair, the album operates at full melodic black/death speed for most of it’s spin. Almost too relentlessly so. Tobias Sidegård, who performed vocals/bass on every Necrophobic release, as well as rhythm guitars on ‘Womb of Lilitu’, is nowhere to be found on ‘Mark of the Necrogram’. Casual fans might not notice but the new vocalist Ander Strokirk is far more -expressive- and sometimes way cheesy; interestingly enough he actually performed on the first Necrophobic album and is best known as frontman for death ‘n rollers Blackshine. His vocals make small work of cheesing up the energy of ‘Mark of the Necrogram’ but don’t ultimately hurt it.

Though the album resembles ‘Hrimthursum’ in many ways it generally leans towards melodic black metal riffing that prances between ‘Darkside’ and ‘Bloodhymns’ with nods to Dissection and Old Man’s Child with some more obvious melodic inspiration. “Crown of Horns” even makes slight nods towards At The Gates and that earlier era towards the end, though most of the songs are pulling inspiration from the more recent Necrophobic releases for style. I have to say much of ‘Mark of the Necrogram’ is only up there with the best material from Necrophobic because it manages to be energetic and memorable for longer than most of their discography beyond the 90’s. The title track and “Tsar Bomba” are practically radio singles compared to most of Necrophobic’s dark, black metal inspired melodic death metal compositions and it brings an early expectation of memorability to the album that doesn’t full hold up til the end.

I’d initially been ecstatic about the return of overt melody and the very 90’s bombast of Swedish extreme metal being so alive in a Necrophobic album, but I feel the thrill of the melodic guitar work has worn off without enough of the album capitalizing on it. It is ultimately a very good Necrophobic album and yet, just another Necrophobic album. Songs like “Lamashtu” and “Requiem for a Dying Sun” dissolve the album’s massive momentum too easily.

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Artist Necrophobic
Type Album
Released February 23, 2018
Listen on Spotify! Follow Necrophobic on Facebook
Genres

Grinning serpents. 3.25/5.0

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