posted on 8/2006 By:
What’s On Tap: Competent, well-written, well-played Swedish blackened death metal from a band that’s been in the game for over fifteen years...
It may be shallow and further proof of my burgeoning assholishness, but I put a lot of stock into what a band chooses as its moniker. If they make what I believe is a poor choice (i.e., Dew Scented), or a choice seriously lacking in creativity (there are over 275 bands throughout the history of metal with names beginning with the word ‘necro’), I’m much more likely to pass them up in the metal bin during one of my searches for something new, exciting, and eye-catching. Such has been the case over the years with Sweden’s blandly named Necrophobic, and it wasn’t until I stumbled across a glowing review of the bands’ first record that I finally took note and decided to shelve my ass-y attitude should I come across one of their records in the future.
Last year I finally came across a copy of the band's first record, The Nocturnal Silence, and remembering that illumined review I read made me decide to finally give these blokes a fair shot, and while the record didn’t exactly blow me away with its innovativeness, it did kick my ass with some viciously brutal blackened Swedish death metal. It also left me with a solid hankerin’ to check out the band's remaining material, and ultimately lead to my signing up for their 5th studio release when it hit our ever-growing queue here at MetalReview.com.
Hrimthursum (loosely translated to ‘The Frost Giants’) sees the band dipping even further away from its original Swedish death metal sound, primarily because the production on the album cuts away quite a bit of the guitar heft spotlighted on the band's previous releases. The riffs on Hrimthursum are much thinner, and it’s this newly found beefless guitar tone, coupled with Joakim Sterner’s often manic drumming and Tobias Sidegard’s decidedly less-deathed styled vocals that give the whole of the album even more of a blackened feel this time around. This point alone may send old fans scurrying, but to be totally honest, I don’t think there’s a bad song on this fucker. Once again it certainly won’t win any awards for innovation, but each of the eleven tracks found on Hrimthursum hold something that make them truly memorable and quite enjoyable the more often you return. The lead guitar work (once again) is very enjoyable throughout, and we find even more use of added elements such as keyboard choral chants, bells and acoustical interludes to further add to song complexities and therefore the overall enjoyment of the record. Where Necrophobic’s back catalogue seemed to rely primarily on Swedish brutality to deliver the goods, Hrimthursum focuses more on weaving increasingly intricate and mature song structures, making this effort quite possibly their strongest work since their 1993 debut.
The record is not without its faults, however. There’s way too much emphasis on Tobias’ relatively dry vocals, which resulted in my knocking the musicianship down another half a point. If the band would allow another member to add the occasional layered deep bellow or shrieked rasp, it would have given the album much more of a dynamic feel. I also feel Hrimthursum is about a song or two too long, making it a bit too much to digest in one sitting, but perhaps that’s something that'll change over time as the songs become more familiar.
In the end, I think it’ll be quite interesting to see how the metal public reacts to the new sound of Necrophobic. I think it’s fairly likely a number of old time fans will be initially put off by the records’ thinner, less ‘Swedish’ sound, but I think if given a bit of time to fully digest, Hrimthursum may actually end up on a few peoples honorable mention lists at year-end. My recommendation is to not be a shallow prick like I was for so many years, and give this band the attention I believe they deserve. I would easily recommend Hrimthursum to fans of epic, blackened death metal.
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