I’ve never hidden my general dislike of black metal. Granted, when I typically think of black metal I think of it in more of the traditional sense with the shrieking vocals, trash can drums, and overall terrible sound quality. I know, I know, I’m completely stereotyping the genre, especially as it has evolved so much since the 80’s/90’s flavor I’m describing. I mean, my first taste of black metal that I really got into was Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia from the great Dimmu Borgir. Of course, its differences from the traditional sound is what drew me in. Apparently, if I had dug a little deeper in 1993, I may have found something else I like a little sooner, Swedish death metal legends Necrophobic. Their powerful debut The Nocturnal Silence probably would have caught my ear, with Anders Strokirk’s great vocals and it’s particularly above average sound quality at the time for the genre. Now, after a twenty year absence, Strokirk is back with Necrophobic to unleash hell yet again on their latest album, Mark Of The Necrogram, released February 23, 2018 via Century Media Records.
Mind you, Necrophobic hasn’t exactly been lying dormant since ’93, as they have eight other releases to their credit since their debut. However, the constant turnover of members may have hindered Necrophobic from perpetuating that spark that made The Nocturnal Silence so special. Lone original member, drummer Joakim Sterner, has pushed the band on since then, and is now rewarded with its strongest lineup to date. He and Strokirk are joined by returning guitarists Sebastian Ramstedt and Johan Bergebäck, and bassist Alex Friberg.
The reason Mark Of The Necrogram sounds so good to me is that it hits on many of my favorite points when it comes to music like this in general. One, not every song is played at light speed. Necrophobic changes tempo in all the right places, letting some songs breathe, and others plow you over, sometimes both in the same song. For instance, the opening/title track may come flying out of the speakers at you, but songs like ‘Requiem for a Dying Sun’ and ‘From The Great Above To The Great Below’ settle into a stomping groove. Then songs like ‘Tsar Bomba’ and ‘Pesta’ take you to sweet, headbanging glory. Two, Strokirk’s vocals are still perfect. His mix of gruff and growl are far more pleasurable to me than any shrill shriek. Finally, three, the production quality is top notch. Necrophobic recorded the Mark of the Necrogram at Chrome Studios with co-producer and another former guitarist, Fredrik Folkare. The result is an album that the band says “hums the music of conquest and stomps the hooves of famine.” I have to agree!
If you couldn’t already tell by my blabbering on above, Mark Of The Necrogram is Necrophobic’s best album since The Nocturnal Silence, if not their best ever. Its combination of everything that made The Nocturnal Silence a great album, plus twenty years of experience, and few advances in technology, make it the perfect blend of old and new. So, even if you are slightly prejudice against black metal like I am, take a chance on Necrophobic and Mark Of The Necrogram, I don’t think you’ll regret it.