Thursday 4 April 2024

Necrophobic - In the Twilight Grey (2024)

Country: Sweden
Style: Black/Death Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 15 Mar 2024
Sites: Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives | Official Website | Twitter | Wikipedia | YouTube

Necrophobic have been around for a long time, having formed as far back as 1989, and this is their tenth album. They're widely regarded as having a discography unusually consistent in quality and this isn't a huge distance in style from their debut, The Nocturnal Silence, that's now thirty years old. They're usually categorised as black/death metal and both those elements remain in obvious quantity from the outset, but I've always heard good old fashioned heavy metal in their sound as well and that may be a little more obvious here than last time I heard them, whenever that was. I don't recall.

Mostly, I see that in how clean everything feels and how that affects slower sections. For instance, the openers, Grace of the Past and Clavis Inferni, are generally fast songs. Anders Strokirk sings in a harsh voice, one that takes from both the black metal shriek and the death metal growl, to end up somewhere in between the two. Joakim Sterner plays the drums at black metal speed and the guitars of Sebastian Ramstedt and Johan Bergebäck mostly match it with the black metal wall of sound approach. However, there are points where both drop into a slower section and suddenly it all feels like heavy metal rather than anything extreme.

As Stars Collide is a great example of a song that never really speeds up, so remains slower than the two openers throughout. There's also a nice churn to it, so there's an obvious opportunity to manifest the death metal aspects of the band, but they don't really seize it. It's there to a point, but Tobias Cristiansson's bass never deepens it far enough for the death to really take hold, slick production keeps it very clean and so it feels like an up tempo Iron Maiden section, merely with a harsh vocal over the top. When Strokirk steps back for an instrumental section, it's easy to forget we're listening to an extreme metal band.

At the other end of the album, Maiden return on the title track, because the melodies as it wraps up feel reminiscent of synth era Maiden, merely with faster drums and that harsh voice. The song after it, the bonus track on some editions, is a cover of W.A.S.P.'s The Torture Never Stops, and it's completely at home with the original material before it. In fact, while it's heavied up through the harsh vocals, it's also deepened but slightly softened by added keyboard textures. It's actually an excellent cover but it helps to underline the roots of the album in eighties heavy metal. Tellingly, Stormcrow isn't much different, even if it's more frenetic. Even the chorus sounds familiar.

Perhaps the most death metal song here is Shadows of the Brightest Night, but it still feels more black than death and adds some progressive metal in there too to make the result rather perky. It's an impressive song and it continues to be for seven and a half minutes, the longest song here outside the eight minute title track. I'd call both of them highlights, suggesting that Necrophobic are at their best when they let their songs breathe. Both of these find wonderful grooves and are able to milk them so that the longer running times don't seem longer at all.

As I wrap up this review, I keep wondering if readers will interpret what I've said as suggesting an overt softening of the Necrophobic sound and I want to underline that that's not what I'm saying. This is heavy, often extreme stuff and the band haven't remotely forgotten their origins. It's just that, if we let it flow over us, we can leave with the impression that it isn't as extreme as it really is. Compare this to Belphegor, Vulcano or Behemoth and it's not going to seem quite as vicious or quite as as raw. It's going to feel slick and even commercial. However, it's just as frenetic and just as powerful. And it's going to feel more accomplished, because the slickness is in the songwriting too. The more I listen to this, the more extreme I really it is and the more I like it.

No comments:

Post a Comment