NECROPHOBIC – Dawn Of The Damned

NECROPHOBIC – Dawn Of The Damned

Very few bands in the extreme metal world have careers that last 30 years, but Sweden’s Necrophobic have proved that quality music, hard work, and determination pay off. Their 1993 opus, "The Nocturnal Silence", is still hailed as one of the classic pillars of the blackened death metal fraternity, and they have managed to keep that bar pretty damn high ever since. With the return of original vocalist Anders Strokirk in 2014, and guitarists Sebastian Ramstedt and Johan Bergebäck back in the fold in 2016 after their time in Black Trip and VOJD (and what great music they made there, too!), they released "Mark Of The Necrogram" in 2018 to critical acclaim. It felt like the band was back in the groove (although they never really lost it) and the record was an absolute monster of melodic black/death metal that sat just right in the modern era.

So, here we are two years later, and the band have released "Dawn Of The Damned" in a year that has been tough for everyone, and the new music just makes 2020 feel that much easier to swallow. There are no crazy changes to the formula, no downscaling of extremity, and certainly no lessening of quality – this is Necrophobic as they have always been and most probably always will be, and that can’t be a bad thing.

If anything, the guitar leads and solos are more melodic and smooth (possibly the influence of the guitarists’ time in Black Trip), more of a throwback to 80’s metal histrionics with catchy lines and sweet fluidity that totally works when sewn into the fabric of the pounding extreme tapestry. Speaking of which, the death is deathly, the black is dark as pitch, and the overall sound is a clean barrage of tight riffage and furious skinwork, which should be of no surprise to long-time fans.

Album-opener, "Aphelion", sets the tone and ups the atmosphere, allowing "Darkness Be My Guide" additional impact when it spins in and totally destroys the room. This is classic Necrophobic in all areas and that chorus will stick in the head for days at a time, and Strokirk bellows and croons with the best of them. "Mirror Black" kicks off with a tasty Ozzy-style intro but then the blastbeats knock you straight off your feet and we’re straight back in the maelstrom (and feeling warm and cuddly in the fiery pits). "Tartarian Winds" is a demonic mash-up of Dissection and Immortal that utilises the mid-paced tempo to evoke an emotional and epic chorus – breath-taking aggression dressed in Game Of Thrones finery, it is a demonic feast of sound. And then the listener is sent straight to Hell with the melodic black metal epic "The Infernal Depths Of Eternity", seven and a half minutes of straight-up smoke and brimstone that houses some of the best lead guitars of the year.

My only quibble with the record is that the latter half doesn’t quite hold up to the strength of the former songs, and this might just have been a track-listing issue where all the bangers are right upfront leaving the rest of the album without any tangy glue. This is not to say that the rest of the tracks are bad in any way (the title track and album-closer "Devil’s Spawn Attack" featuring Schmier of Destruction fame are particularly fun in all kinds of ways), but they do tend to follow the same tempo and feel, ultimately giving off a bit of a samey vibe. This is a tiny quibble and probably only something that a nerdy nit-picker such as I would pick up, and the album flows like pure lava regardless.

When put up against its glorious predecessor, "Dawn Of The Damned" somehow surpasses everything that was good about that platter and adds in a few extra dashes of awesomeness. Hell, even the album artwork makes me salivate – winged goats, pentagrams, inverted crucifixes, hellish construction in the depths of Hades, and that always-magical logo that never fails, it’s as classic as a metal album cover could possibly be (and will look majestic on merchandise, I’m quite sure). If you’re looking for adrenaline-pumping black/death metal with oodles of classic guitarwork that rivals what Behemoth have accomplished over the past few years, then look no further – Necrophobic’s "Dawn of The Damned" is the album for you.