Thursday, March 27, 2008

Necrophobic - The Nocturnal Silence (1993)

The Nocturnal Silence is the first full-length L.P. from Sweden's Necrophobic. The album was recorded in Sunlight Studio in Stockholm, in March 1993 and it was produced by Necrophobic and Tomas Skogsberg. Despite being recorded in this well-known studio, the album definitely has its own atmosphere and is not typical of most Swedish Death Metal. It sounds as if the band consciously avoided going for the typical buzzsaw guitar tone made popular by bands such as Entombed and Dismember. The more raw feeling really suits the overall atmosphere, as this music is much darker than anything being done by their peers.

Necrophobic formed in 1989, and had gained much attention through the release of two demos, Slow Asphyxiation and Unholy Prophecies. Far from being stagnant or sounding just like everyone else, it was clear that this band was on a different path right from the start. They stood out from the mass of bands in Stockholm by possessing a bit more technical skill, Satanic themes and a vocalist with more of a raw and hateful voice. Anders Stokirk utilizes an approach similar to Masse Broberg of Hypocrisy, but not as deep. In general, everything about The Nocturnal Silence possesses more of a blackened sound and really embodies the more evil feeling that was given off by some of the earlier Death Metal bands, such as Morbid Angel.

The album begins with a short keyboard intro, that could easily fit in a horror movie. The slow, creepy riff that follows really sets the mood for the album. Then, in typical Slayer fashion, Hell is unleashed. "Awakening..." is a pretty fast-paced opening track. The musicianship is high quality and David Parland's guitar work is excellent. His is an easily identifiable sound, no matter what band he plays in. The first song already displays a decent variety of speeds. The production is very good, being clear enough to hear everything well but also raw enough to convey the right feeling. The vocals and riffs combine, perfectly, to create a rather hateful and abrasive feeling.

The albums continues on with blasphemy and an ever-darkening atmosphere. "Before the Dawn", especially the slower riffs with the brief spoken passage, was very successful in creating an evil feeling. The solo really does well to add a sense of gloom to everything. This album really seems positioned in between Black and Death Metal, as it doesn't entirely belong to one or the other. As the album progresses, "Unholy Prophecies" features more of the same hellish aura that has been produced thus far. However, at certain points, one would expect things to really speed up but it never quite gets fast enough. This is only a minor complaint.

One of the real gems of this album is the title track, "The Nocturnal Silence." The acoustic intro and the brilliant solo that starts the song really imbue the listener with visions of the full moon in the blackened night sky. Then, the Satanic ritual begins as the song takes off. The vocalist sounds as if his throat has been shredded by broken glass and the result is very good. The song has a certain doomy quality, until things speed up. Here, the fast tremolo riffs dominate. The intensity builds as the song progresses, with a very morbid section coming late in the track. Parland's "nocturnal" solo near the end is perfect as well. The solos really help to set Necrophobic apart from the other bands in the Stockholm scene, and add a lot of depth to the music. There really is little or nothing to complain about when it comes to this album. This song is definitely one of the highlights.

"A freezing silence descends in the night
Cold winds whisper damnation
Deathlike shadows rising on the ground
The call from the lords of creation"

This is followed by the brilliant instrumental, "Shadows of the Moon", which really continues the feeling that was created by the slower parts of the title track and serving as the perfect bridge between the first and second half of the album, doing a fantastic job in leading into "The Ancients Gate". Though fairly brief, it is as memorable as anything else on this album. Unfortunately, this track is not present on most versions of The Nocturnal Silence, due to some miscommunications with the label. "Inborn Evil" was supposed to be left off, as the band didn't think that it possessed the right feeling, but the instrumental was dropped instead. Only the American pressing, by Cargo Records, includes the proper track listing as the band wanted.  

From the demonic voices in the beginning to the brilliant solo that follows, "The Ancients Gate" proves to be a real classic. This track is very dynamic and feels somewhat epic, at times. For a song to stand out on an album filled with such greatness truly means something. It begins with a rather subdued pace, featuring an almost hypnotic lead solo, before bursting forth with demonic fury. The slower section, featuring the acoustic bit, adds a sense of gloom to the atmosphere, before returning to an absolutely hellish and evil sound.

"Sacrificial Rites" is another uncompromising track, dropping the mid-paced part from the demo version and just exploding out of the darkness and going right for your throat. The riffs are intense and powerful, with Stokirk's frenzied vocal delivery really lending a sense of urgency to the song. Despite being released in 1993, this is another song that shows that the band's creative forces were really rooted in the '80s. Once again, another masterful solo appears near the end.

"Father of Creation" includes a lot of slower (by comparison) riffs and allows the listener a little bit of a break, though the diabolical hatred is no less than on the previous songs. The real highlight of this track, for me, is the old school drum break in the middle, sounding much like something from ten years earlier. Parland's solos not only demonstrate his skills, but really add a total nocturnal feeling to this song and most of the others, conjuring up images of dark forests illuminated by moonlight and blood rituals being performed by torchlight in old and forgotten cemeteries.

Somehow, though the entire album is bursting at the seams with memorable riffs, "Where Sinners Burn" manages to open with yet another one, coupled with a haunting lead solo. Like much of the album, it possesses many speeds and it is dripping with evil. This song really does well to close out the album, as there is just some sense of finality put forth by nearly every riff and vocal line. The song ends with a particularly gloomy riff that just fades into the nothingness.

The Nocturnal Silence is an incredibly strong debut album. The fact that this band did not gain as much of a following as many of their inferior contemporaries (in Sweden and elsewhere) is an absolute crime. This puts most every other Death Metal release from this time to utter shame, even including the much-hailed Covenant, released by Morbid Angel just a couple months earlier. This shows the value on toiling in the underground, playing shows and recording demos before putting together an album. Not only is the musicianship excellent, the songwriting was well thought-out and Necrophobic easily achieved what they set out to do. This is a classic piece of Satanic Death Metal history and one of the best albums to ever be recorded at Sunlight Studio. If you have not heard this, you've been missing out.