It’s not common nor easy that an album of extreme metal reaches the prestigious club of the Best New Music, but in the case of Mark of the Necrogram, which is the new album released by Swedish metal band Necrophobic, this result was the minimum that I could do to reward the quality of this record. I must admit, however, that I have always felt a special bond with those groups that are able to insert melodic elements within extreme metal and this feature is exactly one of the keys to the success of this record.
Necrophobic are absolutely not a group of young metalheads. These Swedish musicians are about to reach the 30-year milestone of an intense career in which, between highs and lows and also the inevitable changes in the line-up, they have however achieved a prominent figure in the international death metal scene.
One of the peculiarities of the new album is also the return – after over twenty years of absence – of the band’s first singer, Anders Strokirk, who participated to the recording of the the legendary debut album The Nocturnal Silence and then left the band. It was the year 1993, rock radios were rotating the songs of Metallica’s Black Album and at that time there weren’t so many bands playing the kind of music that these guys developed for their debut. Twenty five years later, blackened death metal is a style that is quite inflated and it’s not easy to emerge from the crowd. What is then the secret that allowed this group to push themselves on top of the list after so many years of activity and quite a good number of excellent releases? Listening to the disc we need only a few minutes to understand which is one of the main elements for the success of the band: the unique ability to bring out incredible and engaging riffs and melodic sequences. The naturalness with which sublime black metal riffs follow each other is almost embarrassing as it is fluid and spontaneous. And as a matter of fact the entire album is packed with some of the best guitar works we had the chance to listen so far in 2018.
From a musical point of view, the album manages to maintain itself in that delicate balance between the roughness and darkness of black metal and the greater complexity and articulation of death metal. The rhythms are wild and fierce on all the songs, and the final effect is that of a train launched in the darkness without any brakes. There are no moments of stilness or pauses to catch your breath, but it’s all like a dive into the void, a blind flight that you would never want to end for the emotions that you feel on your skin. The rhythms are sustained and the drums (which have here a fantastic sound) occasionally also show rhythms and grooves that go beyond the usual flat four quarter. A particular note of merit, finally, goes to the general production of the record, which has succeeded in enhancing all the different components of the songs.
I am aware that albums like Mark of the Necrogram can result absolutely controversial for those purists of extreme metal who shy away from the introduction of so many melodic elements into the songs, but when the quality of the riffs is so high we can only enjoy this music and appreciate the terrific balance that was reached between obscurity of the sound and accessibility of the songs.
And leaving aside all the discussions that you can read in these days on the forums about the fact that Necrophobic produced their best records in the early years of their career (this tends to be true for everybody), there are no doubts that the new and latest entry in their discography is definitely a fantastic LP and also one of the best metal albums we heard so far in 2018. This is a “must have” for metal lovers.
Mark of the Necrogram was released on February 23, 2018.