Album Title: Necrohedron
Label: MDD Records
Date of Release: 22 April 2022
You may not have heard of the band at the heart of this review, but if you are familiar with the names Suidakra or Graveworm, then you may wish to stick with me for a while. And that’s because Dragonbreed are an amalgam of the two entities, created to offer a platform for music written during the most recent Suidakra writing sessions that didn’t fit that album, ‘Wolfbite’. Vocalist/guitarist Arkadius ‘Akki’ Antonik pulled together his Suidakra bandmates Sebastian Jensen and Ken Jentzen, former bassist Christoph ‘Zachi’ Zacharowski, and Graveworm vocalist Stefano Fiori to create Dragonbreed, almost certainly named after a Suidakra song from their 2000 release, ‘Arcanum’.
‘Necrohedron’, with its arresting cover artwork, is the result of their endeavours. It’s just shy of 38 minutes long and consists of eight individual tracks that harken back to the heyday of melodic death metal. And when I say that, I’m of course referring to the mid-late 90s when the scene was awash with superb bands creating even better music. That said, Dragonbreed don’t just spend their time worshiping at the altar of the Gothenburg greats; there is a lot of that style to be heard naturally, but there is enough variety spread across the album to ensure that the music remains relevant and interesting in the modern day. I was impressed from the first listen, but my enjoyment has increased further, the more I listen to it.
If I can get the negatives out of the way first, before extolling its virtues, I find that ‘Necrohedron’ runs out of steam a little towards the end. Or, to put it another way, the best material is very much front-loaded. The album packs a massive punch early on but struggles a little to maintain the high standards for the entire record. I also think that Dragonbreed do need to settle on an identity that is more their own; it remains to be seen whether this venture will be a one-off, but if they are to return, then they need to bring with them something a little more unique to help them stand out from the pack within what is, a very competitive scene.
Enough of the negatives though, because I want to explore all that is good about Dragonbreed and ‘Necrohedron’. And this is relatively easy because you could pick any one of the opening five or so tracks and be hit with something that’s worthy of the entrance fee.
Predictably, I’m going to start with the opening composition, ‘The Undying’ because, for my money, it’s quite possibly the best of the bunch, beginning the record with a real bang and a statement of genuine intent. There’s barely any kind of intro to speak of before we’re pinned to the wall by a ferocious blast of heaviness, complete with deep growls, frenetic drums, and sharp riffs. The melody comes in after a while, but it doesn’t dilute the brutality or the intensity of the track, it enhances it. Early In Flames and Dark Tranquillity are immediate reference points, made all the more prominent by a lovely acoustic guitar interlude. This was a staple of a lot of early 90s melodic death metal, and I’m a real sucker for it if I’m honest. I love the way that the heaviness gradually increases around it, I also quite like the spoken-word element too.
With my interest fully captured, ‘Summoning The Arcane’ goes all-out to keep it. It’s a muscular, no-nonsense affair, with chunky riffs, meaty rhythms, and melodies that are catchy, but not overly saccharine either. In seeking to remain relevant in the modern world, there’s a very slight nod to the ‘core’ lovers out there thanks to a beefy closing riff, but it’s done tastefully and with style.
I love the dark, dramatic opening to ‘The World Beyond’, which gives way to a pleasing mid-tempo stomp, but delivered with understated flair. It’s a song that gets the neck muscles moving, and again, there are some nice melodies to be heard, giving it an immediacy. What I wasn’t expecting was the part that’s just bass accompanied by a slightly cleaner, snarled vocal. The bass is dirty and has a thrash edge to it which is cool, and it demonstrates a willingness to explore different ideas, something that’s perhaps easier for a new band than an established act with a clear modus operandi.
The final couple of minutes of ‘Sinister Omen’ are marvellous too. The main body of the song is very solid, but the melody is suddenly increased in the latter stages, only to be replaced by another gorgeous acoustic section with more spoken-word embellishment that ends up seeing the song to its conclusion. Those of us of a certain vintage have got to like the very subtle hint to At The Gates with the feedback/amp sounds that usher in ‘Offerings From Yonder’. Whether or not this was intentional, it’s a nice touch for sure.
Aside from the fact that the final couple of tracks don’t quite hit the mark with me as strongly as the earlier material, there’s really not very much that I can find fault with here. Dragonbreed is a band that, on the strength of ‘Necrohedron’, I fervently hope is not neglected in the years to come. Naturally the protagonists’ ‘main’ bands of Suidakra and Graveworm will come first, but it would be a crying shame if we never get to hear some new old-school melodic death metal done the Dragonbreed way, especially if it builds upon these solid foundations, of which I’m sure they are entirely capable.
The Score of Much Metal: 88%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
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