NECROT – Mortal (2020)REVIEW

Mauvaise foi — In so many ways human beings insist they are born with a forced hand between denied intellectual freedoms and representation via considerable ignorance, yet both are status readily adopted in ‘bad faith’ (existentially speaking) as conscious adaptation for the sake of bodily freedom. In musing one’s own morbidity and eventual death the Platonic body, “that which individualizes the soul”, is more than material manifestation of self-control but an entity that allows several driver’s seats for the ‘self’, a woven vessel. The unthinking spiritual majority on Earth believe death is the only passage that’d allow freedom of the bond between body and soul, so many consider the ‘soul’ a thing to be separated from the body yet we spend our lives aiming to surpass the limitations of the body itself. Where does the logic lie in being born without choice yet accepting you’ll be split in half upon death? Existence is in bad faith, a feigned ignorance which becomes very real over time, for hordes of caustic and irrational human beings who serve masters that’ll allow no sure freedom in life. The second full-length album from Oakland, California death metal trio Necrot, ‘Mortal‘, is not simply a mirror set upon the irrational and ignorant monstrosity of modern man but a middle finger flung upon daily existence amongst thoughtless and intensifying inhumanity.

Though they describe themselves as death metal/punk the prevalent 90’s death metal influences are perhaps the least conditionally applied aspect of Necrot‘s sound which cannot easily be aligned with any one scene, style, or filed under ‘worship’ of any particular well known bands. The earliest releases from the band were, as far as I’d gathered at the time, a response to the disbanding (or extended hiatus) of Acephalix circa 2011 as bassist/vocalist Luca Indrio‘s (Vastum) formed his own project with drummer Chad Gailey (Mortuous, Carbonized Records) that focused on classicist death metal that was yet stylistically different from Vastum. For my own taste the band’s second demo tape as a duo (‘Into the Labyrinth‘, 2013) was not only a strong showing but a key moment for the project where they’d gotten enough feedback to figure out the best path forward. From that point on their emphasis of the punkish aspects of ‘Leprosy’, ‘Mental Funeral’, ‘Realm of Chaos’ and the Slayerized venomous spikes of ‘The Nocturnal Silence’ would characterize their popular debut (‘Blood Offerings‘, 2017) unto good form. It was a murky, groove-ridden, and very ’89 feeling death metal record that warranted the slow-growing but high praise and station Necrot achieved. But hey, we all know the danger of a band getting it right the first time, eh? They could over think it, try to do too much, bend to the will of feedback, or become something else entirely. So how fares ‘Mortal’ as a sophomore record three years later?

Riffs, lots of riffs — Yeah, if you’re looking for ‘Blood Offerings 2.0’ I don’t know if you’re going to see much more than a ghostly outline of that album here in terms of fidelity, arrangement, pacing and depth of theme (human trauma, existential dread, greed etc.) and I don’t mean that it doesn’t sound like Necrot but rather implying that this is nothing short of a big step up. In the plainest of terms consider the leap from ‘Human’ beyond ‘Spiritual Healing’ via coherence, performance and render but without their style of death metal becoming more progressive or technical. The trio meet the expectation of a ‘bigger’ album but perhaps deliver a record that is just as much of a grower as the first was, retaining the DNA of the artist’s hand but improving every aspect until only new skin is left. These are all practical advances made by a band inspired by the grand expansion of their world(s) after touring in more places, seeing a higher standard met by the biggest death metal bands, and in better view of more global realities they’ve been exposed to. Yes, as I’d implied there are tighter-wound and even more thrilling strings of riff empowering the full listen here and that’ll be enough to sell the record to most death metal fans.

“Your Hell” kicks off the album with a pace-setting burst of guitar work worthy of prime Mercyless (or, Pestilence) where movements are no longer punkish stirs a la Bastard Grave but now reaching that higher circa ’93 echelon of death metal rhythm written for two guitars. The song itself comes in thrilling waves, as active as pure death metal can be without being considered ‘technical’ yet arranged in a very easily approached fashion. This was the greater strength and lasting impact of ‘Blood Offerings’ so, it shouldn’t take more than the opener to ease the mind anxious of Necrot transforming into anything but a better version of themselves. The song itself gets right into the thick of things lyrically speaking with a meditation upon the perpetual nature of traumatic violence, preparing a vignette of victim and aggressor as eventual mirror images out of time. The thought is poetic in a basal sense but should largely speak to the greater social commentary Necrot have long infused into their lyrics, surely a hint of Death (and Immolation for that matter) in their spiritus but never simply parlaying politico. Here’s the thing, this album fucking storms through its ideas like a beast so I might’ve had a deep thought to myself in private as I read the lyrics to track one but they’re already shredding out a Death-influenced solo in the middle of track three (“Stench of Decay”). I can be as poignant as I’d like but there is no deny this is a blazing-ass riff record that keeps its pace fast and on fire throughout.

The greater philosophy of the band comes into view a bit more the second time around as I consider the lyrics “Stench Of Decay” in particular fumes with disgust for the opportunism of mankind, wherein the psychic and physical greed of civilization is illustrated as an unthinkable stench that will someday thankfully pass. ‘Mortal’ itself becomes an enhanced echo chamber for this idea of celebrating death not so much from a nihilistic point of view but as a point of much needed change. Living with acceptance of death as a natural and inevitable occurrence doesn’t guarantee that you will exist in service to future generations, or even potentially do better by fellow human beings, but it should make for a less stressful and reactive lifespan. My own take on the greater theme, anyhow. The duo of “Asleep Forever” and “Sinister Will” echo these observations with the former stating quite clearly the sentiment that you’ll leave not a goddamn thing behind when you’re dead. The arrangement of this song is probably my favorite of the bunch as much of “Asleep Forever” feels like a bit of ‘Human’ and ‘Dawn of Possession’ at once but through a different set of eyes; The ‘chorus’ riff’s refrain has this grinding, percussive quality that would pull at my ear even when observing ‘Mortal’ as background listening. At that point we’re digging into the meat of the album with ‘Sinister Will’ a more brooding pieces that’d honestly felt like Necrot was out of ideas within the core sustained pace of the album until its thrashing refrain and Schuldiner-esque soloing from guitarist Sonny Reinhardt (Saviours, Watch Them Die) brings something entirely different to the whip of the album.

“Mortal” is the longest song Necrot have put together by at least a couple of minutes (at ~8.5 minutes) and that bit of extra breathing room reveals this monster factory of intense mid-paced groove and ‘The Ultimate Incantation’-esque riffing to start. A deeper commanding register from Indrio sets the piece on fire, to the point that I’d start to disassociate in the midst of the song feeling like I was having an LSD flashback to an old ’94 Midwest death metal demo tape. The effect is incredible as the song fully pulls into its groove nearing the three minute mark, feeling like a true ‘South of Heaven’ moment on an album that is a total blitzkrieg attack otherwise. It does feel like a bit of their gig as rhythm section in Vastum informs this song but either way, to great effect as it ends the album on this incredibly dramatic note. This was an important song for really connecting with Necrot again on the first several spins of ‘Mortal’. I have to admit I wasn’t sure if they had really lived up to the previous album to start, everything was so present and cleanly expressed that the album had kind of fallen into my mind too easily.

Perhaps because I’d been listening to ‘Abject Offerings’ quite a bit lately for a nearby review, I’d initially taken for granted the attack and intricacy that ‘Mortal’ brings at such a high level. The fact that I’d naturally seen this album’s sound on the same level as a circa ’92 Colin Richardson-produced death metal record should speak to its quality and I’d expect nothing less from the Earhammer Studios (Greg Wilkinson) + West West Side (Alan Douches) treatment. Cover art from Marald Van Haasteren is a bit miraculous here too, not only because of how eye-catching it is but because he’d managed it after nearly losing an eye. The music, the packaging, the artistic & lyrical divination, and the core style of Necrot‘s second album all amount to something very much worthy of peak ‘old school’ death metal in its heyday and perhaps even more seriously and considered than many of the greats back in the day. Sitting with this record for several weeks has taken me back to that place where death metal has always been its most redeeming, pondering life itself in open dialogue with death and mortality via murderous riffs and mind-rending lyrics — This is the mark of a record threatening to be exemplar and timeless within a very crowded existence and I am thrilled to have absorbed it. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation.

Rating: 9 out of 10.
RELEASE DATE:August 28th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Death Metal

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