Friday, January 16, 2009

Necrophobic - Bloodhymns (2002)

Bloodhymns is the fourth full-length album from Sweden's Necrophobic. The band began, on The Nocturnal Silence, with a Satanic Death Metal style, displaying Black Metal influences. These influences later dominated the follow-up album, Darkside. With The Third Antichrist, the band continued on this path but the sound was a bit melodic (and less raw). Three years would pass before they released another album.

In early 2002, Bloodhymns was unleashed upon the unsuspecting world. This album continued the evolution of Necrophobic while also regressing. The opening riff of "Taste of Black" sounds like something that could have been recorded by Dismember, in years past. The Sunlight Studio sound is ever-present as the guitars have a little extra edge to them, going back to the rawness of Darkside, more or less. The lyrics are dark and Satanic, as has been customary from this band, and the sound is in line with what one would expect. At only about three and a half minutes long, the opener wastes no time in going straight for the jugular. Tobias Sidegård's vocals have continued to grow more sinister with each passing year.

"Dreams Shall Flesh" begins with a melody that seems to crawl into your flesh and twist its way around your spine. This song is much like the previous one, being very fast-paced and straightforward, featuring blackened thrash riffs. Yet this is but the beginning of a very dark theme that moves through this album. It is something that rumbles beneath the surface, not being obvious as one focuses on riffs or lyrics. There are certain brief melodies that embody the essence of pure darkness; of eternal night. You are slowly prepared for what is to come, as the album progresses.

Next is "Act of Rebellion", which continues with the trademark Necrophobic sound as established over the course of the past decade. This begins as another fast-paced song, with brief nocturnal melodies weaving in and out. Things slow down as a haunting lead melody is introduced and this drags you closer to the gates of utter horror. You begin to realize just how alone you really are. You hope for salvation, but it becomes clear that this is not to be.

The true darkness of this unholy creation is finally unleashed on the next song, "Shadowseeds". While your flesh freezes, your blood begins to boil and your veins erupt. Consumed by both fire and ice, your body fails you. The pace has now slowed down as your soul is cast through the gates and you soon learn that what you had considered to be darkness was like a blinding light compared to the utterly black emptiness that engulfs you. The song speeds up as you are hurled through the chaos of the great abyss, reaching for anything to stop your descent... yet there is nothing.

"Mourningsoul" is the pinnacle of darkness for this black masterpiece. Beginning with a somber acoustic intro, hell is unleashed without warning as you face spiritual death. The pace is faster than the previous song, yet the mournful, nocturnal melodies pervade all. In the chaos and confusion created by this, you almost think that it could all be a dream. Maybe it's not real. Maybe there is hope for escape. But the nightmare is now only just unfolding. This is your existence, a nightmare come to life. The song slows down and the melodies become too much to take. This is the first stage of spiritual death. You are surrounded by grim spectres, waiting to drain your very essence.

"...I seek redemption, not for my soul
My salvation is not like yours to behold
The darkest sky bears scars of light
And even death is much too bright

Without a heart one cannot bleed
What is already dead can never leave
The utter cold is what I choose
With a frozen soul and my eyes closed..."

"Helfire" is next, and it continues the raging fury and fast tremolo riffs of earlier songs, while maintaining the haunting effect of the last two. Just when you feel that you can take no more and that you must be at the end of your feeble existence, you are lead through raging black flames, toward an uncertain fate.

Next is "Cult of Blood". This features nightmarish vocals, as heard while submerged in a river of blood. Fast-paced, for the most part, things do slow down as a chilling melody takes center stage. This lead possesses the cold, hopeless, nocturnal quality that is always present on a Necrophobic album. The pace of the song slows down as you descend deeper into the abyss.

"Roots of Heldrasill" is simply dripping with hopelessness. Abandoned, your spirit is shredded and bleeding. Sinister ghouls of this nightmare void attack you from all sides, drawn by the scent of black blood. This is one of the slower songs on the album, though there are faster-paced sections. The vocals sound possessed with evil conviction. As you think the assault might let up, or that you have reached the bottom, you soon begin to descend, yet again, embraced by the freezing depths.

A hauntingly sinister acoustic guitar, very reminiscent of something from Darkside, begins "Blood Anthem". This is an ode to the true darkness of eternal night; the nocturnal abyss of the nameless void. While it begins with a slower pace, the song does speed up and features a lot of thrashy riffs; however, it slows down and the morbid melodies and desperate vocals serve to cast you deeper and deeper into the swirling blackness. You see visions of other beings, and you begin to think that you will at least have the company of other kindred spirits as you float in a living nightmare of nothingness and despair.

The relief of such thoughts is ephemeral, as you soon wake up to see that it was only a dream within a nightmare. The instrumental, "Among the Storms", is filled with mournful and hellish sounds. You question whether or not such hope ever existed, or if it was simply some false product of your imagination, as your mind is twisted by a dark fate. Falling deeper into the abyss, you arrive into your body. This is your true body. Your life was but a dream. The descent that you experienced, the traumatic nightmares, the pain and betrayal... none of it was real. You are in Hell, engaged in an endless struggle; one which cannot be won. You were always in this place. Such is the darkness conveyed by Bloodhymns...