Album Title: Mark of the Necrogram
Label: Century Media Records
Date Of Release: 23 February 2018
Not only am I late to this review, but I am late to Necrophobic overall too. I finally arrive at this review of ‘Mark of the Necrogram’ a week or so after its release but I arrive at the gates of Necrophobic for the first time, an embarrassing 25 years after the release of their debut ‘The Nocturnal Silence’ way back in 1993. I have no idea why, because, as I’ve discovered, this impressive Swedish band produces the kind of extreme metal racket for which I have a genuine soft spot. We’re talking blackened death with a hint of thrash and a surprisingly liberal sprinkling of melody.
In 2013, Necrophobic went through the proverbial wringer. Dismissing their long-time frontman following his conviction for domestic abuse offences, they turned to an old colleague, Anders Strokirk, to re-take the microphone position he originally vacated after the release of ‘The Nocturnal Silence’ a quarter of a century ago.
However, Strokirk is not the only member of the newly-compiled Necrophobic line-up to return to the fold after an absence. Guitarists Sebastian Ramstedt and Johan Bergebäck have also resumed their positions after a five-year hiatus. Together, these three join founding member Joakim Sterner (drums) and bassist Alex Friberg to bring us the eighth full-length release, ‘Mark of the Necrogram’.
I haven’t the faintest idea how this album fits within the Necrophobic back catalogue. Is it a return to the early days, is it more of the same compared with recent releases, or is it something completely out of leftfield? No idea. Well, that’s not strictly true, because I have a little homework ahead of composing this review and it seems to these novice ears that ‘Mark of the Necrogram’ isn’t that far removed from what went most closely before it, namely ‘Womb of Lilithu (2013) and ‘Death To All’ (2009).
That said, even to this fresh, untrained newcomer, there is one important different with this record: it sounds so much more energised and vibrant. The latter might seem to be a bit of a daft description in light of the style of music that Necrophobic play. However, I feel it is apt, because it skips along at a great pace, full of energy and hunger, eager to tear strips off anyone who might wish to listen.
It made me smile to learn that the name Necrophobic was taken from a Slayer song, because Slayer was one of the names that sprung to mind within a minute or two of hearing the opening title track to this album. The riffs scream early Slayer, but there’s also more than a hint of Dissection within the frostier and icier riffs that usher this track into existence. The title track is hugely infectious too, creating a wonderful balance between malevolence and melody as it bulldozes everything in its no-nonsense, full-on blackened death/thrash-tinged onslaught. And that lead guitar solo is superb, the icing on the cake.
Suffice to say that if the opener sounds good to you, you’re going to really like this record in its entirety.
‘Odium Caecum’ offers an eerie and ominous intro before exploding into a full-on gallop with an increase in lead guitar solos, whilst ‘Tsar Bomba’ rips out of the speakers from the outset, before settling into one hell of a groovy and infectious affair with a chorus that brings, unbidden, a wry smile to my face whilst I headbang furiously. Another favourite, probably my overall favourite, has to be ‘Pesta’ thanks to its glorious melodic intent that makes it an evil-sounding anthem. I also enjoy the variety within the track, thanks to a more pronounced use of tempo as well as light and shade.
Whilst Necrophobic generally revel in rampant, furious blasts of speed as with ‘Crown of Horns’, the Swedes also succeed when they seek to slow things down a little as expertly demonstrated by the mid-tempo stomp of the brooding ‘Requiem For A Dying Sun’, which then toys with some really cool effects to make the song just that little more twisted and depraved.
As I listen to ‘Mark of the Necrogram’, I simply cannot fathom why I never ‘discovered’ this band sooner. Mind you, the phrase ‘better late than never’ was made for a situation like this. Necrophobic tick all the boxes as far as I am concerned and have delivered a superb album of blackened death metal that comes with a huge recommendation from me.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse