October 6, 2020 Necrophobic – Dawn of the Damned (Album Review)
Continuing their return to form, Necrophobic are set to release Dawn of the Damned, their ninth full-length, on Friday, October 6th through Century Media Records.
For those interested, the lineup from 2018’s Mark of the Necrogram is intact. However, new Bassist Allan Lundholm joins founding, sole original member Joakim Sterner on drums, while the band is fronted by the recently returned Anders Strokirk on vocals, plus led musically by longtime members Sebastian Ramstedt and Johan Bergebäck on guitar. Also worth noting, Mark of the Necrogram saw Ramstedt and Bergebäck each return after long breaks, and also marked their first recording with Strokirk; who performed on the 1994 debut The Nocturnal Silence before taking leave for two decades.
Which leads us right into the new album which drips with Blackened Death Metal, mixed ever-so-slightly with twinges of Viking Metal, and even Doom Metal. Save for the ’80s guitar solos and ’90s instrumental gloom that fill album opener “Aphelion,” Dawn of the Damned is 44 minutes of pummeling Blackened Death Metal brutality. The linchpin of all this is Sterner, ready to switch between a blistering blast beat and melodic tempo as his contemporaries see fit. His work behind the guitar solos and breakdowns of tracks like “Dawn of the Damned” and “Darkness Be My Guide” helps put the guitar work at the forefront. This is whereas elsewhere on tracks like “The Infernal Depths of Eternity” he keeps the same harrowing tempo as the other members scramble to keep pace. In fact, the middle portion of that track serves as a bit of a touchstone for the album as a whole; the rhythm sections lay a sturdy platform for the two guitarists to close the track and trap any lingering doubt.
This is while the Viking Metal tides wash up on “Tartarian Winds,” but the melodic talents of the band eventually break through and consume the middle and end of the track. Ramstedt and Bergebäck are obviously old friends at this point, and their talented guitar interplay on songs such as “As the Fire Burns” shows the space and respect each gives the other; the former writes the majority of the material for Necrophobic, but the remaining members follow his vision with ruthless efficacy.
It should be stated that Strokirk was not exactly idle during his time away from Necrophobic. While projects such as Blackshine and Mykorrhiza had his full attention, his voice sounds as fresh as it does raspy. His enunciation and pacing are impressive within the confines of the genres the band puts forth. That stated, even his lyrical content manages to walk a line far away from the sometimes tedious, and often barren, work of his cohorts.
Then there is Lundholm, who honestly, is a bit buried in the mix. Unfortunate, his work is still noticeable in small doses, such as portions of “The Return of a Long Lost Soul,” a track long enough that everyone takes a turn in the spotlight. The style here again takes a swipe at Viking Metal, mixed with a bit of later, melodic Black Metal, without ever rooting itself in any one genre.
Rather than close the proceedings with another airy instrumental bookend, that could have been “The Return of a Long Lost Soul,” the band instead offers “Devil’s Spawn Attack,” a piece which offers some of the earlier, leaner sound they were first known for. Adding to it, Schmier, the main force behind German masters Destruction, adds guest vocals to the closer as only he can.
Overall, Dawn of the Damned is a strong release that adds valor and volume to the Necrophobic catalog. Without sticking to a set script, the band manages to connect their earliest material while still sounding germane to the current Heavy Metal scene. Haunting tracks like “Mirror Black” combine the vestiges of traditional Metal themes with the fresher sound of Blackened Death Metal. This is as “The Return of a Long Lost Soul” reaches back to the older melodies of epic Metal anthems of the past. The album will find a home in the cold, dark heart of any listener who stumbles across it. That is why Cryptic Rock give Dawn of the Damned 3.5 out of 5 stars.