Having drummed up some considerable mention for their classic science fiction themed melodic death metal Frankenstein’s monster across two formative full-lengths Denver, Colorado quartet Necropanther smartly avoid the self-conscious ‘bubble’ of the modern artist, taking stock not only in their own development but also remaining conscious of how their intended sound translates to the listener. The design document is easily written by ear for most extreme metal bands with consideration for their core influences, be it an approximation of legacy acts or osmotic transfer of their peers and networking circles; This is typically enough to grab any certain number of listeners but — This third album from the band, ‘The Doomed City’, begins to reveal a hunt for sonic satiety (their intended ‘sweet spot’ in terms of sound design) driven by a very specific vision which now includes deeper-detailed works by way of an all-hands collaboration between the musicians involved. In context of their body of work thus far ‘The Doomed City’ is a screaming leap over a great chasm with the shockwave of a well-timed explosion boosting Necropanther just beyond the steep chance of rolling backwards into redundancy. In the plainest terms, it is their finest work to date.
The beauty of science fiction does not solely rest in future-casting design elements or the creative examinations of the will of humanity under dire circumstance. No, what translates best within commercial applications of futuristic worlds is consistently the same point made a thousand times over, that the will of the individual can change in a lifetime but the nature of the restless, self-examining species itself shines through any and all societal reconstruction; There is no escaping it. The blur of the obsessive sci-fi fan’s mind holds countless dystopic worlds as scenic dressing for their need to explore beyond “the known”, commonly held belief, and perhaps most applicable to every generation: The rare but passionate need to break away from the captivity of ingrained and forced societal constructs. There is no doubt that science fiction’s scope and greater collective message warped into poetic but decidedly less ‘deep’ successive generations after its greatest influencers discovered LSD in the 60’s and 70’s, while many consider pre-Star Wars works ‘of a certain epoch’ of creative depth that’d lose sight of philosophical resonance for the sake of easily translatable, vapid and unfeeling pandering in the 80’s. Logan’s Run, a 1976 film I’d first seen in edited-for-TV form on a lazy Sunday around 1996, is undoubtedly ‘dumbed down’ from its source material without entirely avoiding the major premise that inspired the novel: An ageist society will eat itself. In combining witness of the ‘age of Aquarius’ and the horrors suggested by eugenics, William F. Nolan & George Clayton Johnson spun this world into a brilliant but ‘genre entry’ trilogy that filmmakers took some intuitive and timely license with in creation of the Logan’s Run film. Thankfully Necropanther don’t literally source the film’s admonishment of the 1960’s and instead liberally pull from imagery, action, and thematic language of the film to present their own message of steadfast personal ethics despite the dark twists the majority rule might take in one’s lifetime.
Hey, anyhow, you’re more likely here for the riffs, blasts and rasps. No doubt ‘The Doomed City’ conquers their own refined coaxial union of the turn-on-a-dime black/thrash abruptness of Absu and the Maiden-isms of pre-‘Reroute to Remain’ In Flames and this remains the best (but wholly too generalized) description of Necropanther‘s bigger picture. With most of these songs sticking with sub-four minute length and whirling a mix of black/thrash with the glossy dramatic rub of classic Scandinavian melodic death metal it’ll be very easy to recommend ‘The Doomed City’ to fans of (earlier) Skeletonwitch, Battlecross, and Dismemberment. There are some great points of differentiation that lead me to prefer Necropanther to most modern groups I’d compare them with and the first is the vocal performances, which stand out immediately between guttural-but-discernible growls layered a hair beneath Proscriptor-esque black metal rasps. Yes, it is over the top but appropriately so for the intricate storm of melodious black/death/thrash attack that Necropanther lead the first half of the album with. The duel vocal approach generally avoids stepping on toes or roaring too loudly over the main event, the guitar performances, but thankfully these short songs are given some reasonable room to breathe if only by the sheer momentum of the full listen.
Deep in to the tracklist there are a few songs that feel underdeveloped, “Paid in Flesh” and “Parricide-Genocide” specifically, and the placement softens the strong and catchy movement of the full listen up to that point. I’d often find myself either circling back to the start of the album or skipping ahead to the strong duo of “Tiger” and “Sanctuary” where some of polished later Dissection-esque regalia breaks through. This second half of the album doesn’t match the energy of the first and this is most likely by design but I’d felt like the pacing stuttered considerably during deeper listening sessions. What kept me engaged? Well, we can circle back to my first comment where I’d felt Necropanther are conscious of matching their intended sound with the perception of the listener and a bright, clear and powerful modern production sound through the shared efforts of Flatline Audio and Green Door Recordings unquestionable outclasses not only past efforts from the band but many of their nearby peers. The bold-but-dynamic balance of the mix allows Necropanther‘s forceful blackened melodic death metal sound to land within the realm of modernity and the various grove-ridden sections (“Hell”, “Paid in Flesh”) would sound ‘-core’ and kinda The Black Dahlia Murder-esque if not for the well-rounded sound design’s tonal allowances.
‘The Doomed City’ is yet clearly referential, intentional or not, of the core suggested influences I’d delineated prior. Lead patterns dip toes within feet of In Flames‘ ‘Colony’ (“Death at Hand”, “Arcade”) and some vocal/guitar patternation is nigh dead-on for climactic pieces within Absu‘s ‘Abzu’ (“Cathedral”). Nothing too insidiously similar but familiar enough that I’d found myself thinking of other bands rather than staying in the moment with Necropanther. None of this should be damning or confounding for fans of this uniquely achieved take on blackened melodic death/thrash and there is no skin lost jumping into such an energetically introduced experience, the creative showcase and ‘sold’ moment on my end being the title track. If you’re a curious ‘old school’ fan of melodeath I’m not sure all of these elements will be stringent enough for your taste but the energy of the album should win most folks over if you at least own a copy of ‘Clayman’. I’d liked ‘Eyes of Blue Light‘ (2018) a fair amount and missed some of the more straight-and-narrow thrash riffs that kicked it off; That said, I will reiterate that ‘The Doomed City’ is the finest leap forward from Necropanther to date and can give moderately high recommendation of it.
Moderately high recommendation. 3.75/5.0
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