Monday, November 2, 2009

Necrophobic - Death To All (2009)

Three years after their epic opus, Hrimthursum, Sweden's Necrophobic returned with their sixth full-length, Death To All. It was released on Regain Records, in late May 2009. After such a long wait, I found myself very eager for this release; probably anticipating it more than any of their other albums. This increased as, days before I departed for Berlin, I conducted an interview with Tobias Sidegård. What I found, upon its release, was exactly what I'd hoped for. This album isn't as overtly majestic as the previous outing, yet it retains some of the same feeling. Actually, one can find elements of all the previous albums, here, as this serves as an excellent representation of the band.

What can be heard here is the kind of melodic Black/Death Metal that the band has become known for. On this release, it would seem that the sound and spirit lean more toward Black Metal, as the atmosphere is quite dark. The production sounds quite similar to the previous album, with everything being rather clear but not over-produced in any way. Each frozen note is easy to hear and everything is mixed together quite well. The prime components are the guitars. Johan and Sebastian execute each riff with great precision. Despite the long absence of founding member David Parland, the band tries its best to maintain the dark and nocturnal atmosphere that has become its trademark. Tobbe's lethal vocals have a morbid and depraved aura about them, on this record. As for Joakim's drumming, it is typical of what you would expect of him. The drums are at just the right level, enough to be heard and to keep time, but not so much that they distract from what's important; the guitars.

The songwriting consists of a lot of fast-paced, straight-forward riffs. This album is overflowing with cold and dark tremolo riffs. The hauntingly nocturnal melodies are ever-present, from the very first moments of "Celebration of the Goat". As soon as this begins, there is no mistaking who this is. Naturally, there are a lot of twists and turns, taking you on a dark journey. These compositions are not minimalist in any way. Though the dominant theme is speed, there are slower sections that work to build the epic feeling. In particular, the latter half of "Revelation 666" takes the word 'epic' to a new extreme. The haunting solo that begins a little past the midway point is majestic in all its nocturnal glory. This is one of the highlights of the album, as you are sort of swept away to some dark realm of shadows, far beyond the light. The melody is introspective and almost mournful in tone. "La Satanisma Muerte", abruptly, pulls you from this deep chasm, as the journey must continue. Despite being the shortest song on the album, it is very well constructed and features a slower section with some backing choir to create a hellish and epic feeling.

"For Those Who Stayed Satanic" was the first song made public, as they posted the live video of this long before the album was recorded. Honestly, I didn't think too much of the title, and the performance didn't sound terribly exciting. Thankfully, the album version is much more impressive and makes more of an impact since each riff is clearly heard. Even still, I wouldn't say it's the strongest song on the album. The following track, "Temple of Damnation", completely slays it, especially the haunting middle section that reminds of something from Bloodhymns. As this progresses, Joakim throws in some nice old school drumming to accompany the lead solo. By this point, it seems that there was a lot of thought put into the placement of the songs, as they flow together masterfully. "The Tower" is filled with riffs and solos that would have made Slayer proud, 25 years ago. Though, like the rest of the songs, it's quite dynamic.

As the album nears its conclusion, we come to another one of the true highlights of this record, "Wings of Death". Beginning with a very dark clean guitar, it slowly builds as melancholic tremolo melody is joined by somber thrash riffs. This one isn't as fast as the rest, thought it may be a stretch to really label it as 'mid-paced'. In any event, everything comes together to create something dark and epic; the kind of song that haunts your mind. Tobias sounds particularly possessed on this one, being consumed with utter madness. This all leads into the title track, which kind of picks up from where the previous song leaves off. It would seem like any other song on the record, yet as it proceeds it continues to build. There are several riffs that you might not expect, bringing in a definite old school feeling. After about six minutes, everything comes to a stop, leaving only the cold winds and an acoustic guitar. Slowly, something sounding like a war march fades in, and then slowly fades back into the acoustic piece.

There isn't too much to say about this one. It is very enjoyable from beginning to end and is exactly what you would expect a new Necrophobic album to sound like. There are no surprises here, which may please some fans that had difficulty getting into the previous record. In the end, Death To All is another strong album from one of Sweden's finest. Buy with confidence.