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Slow Asphyxiation (1990)
 

Formed in 1989 by David Parland and Joakim Sterner, Necrophobic was born around the same time as better-known bands such as Entombed, Unleashed and Dismember. However, the similarities between these bands were not that great, with Necrophobic taking a darker approach from the very beginning, even before eventually straying into Black Metal territory. The band's second demo, Slow Asphyxiation, was released in early 1990 and shows a band that has already developed into a force to be reckoned with.

Musically, the three songs on this demo do well to represent a mixture of various '80s influences. At times, this is almost reminiscent of the first Merciless album, with a decent amount of thrash riffs mixed in with the more traditional Death Metal passages. All of the tracks start out a little slower than the end up, building in intensity as they go along. The old Slayer influence is clearly heard throughout this demo, with hints of Mercyful Fate as well. The songwriting is very strong, especially considering that the band was still fairly new. The transitions are very smooth and every flows well. The riffs are very intense yet never getting to the point of being sloppy or out of control. The drumming does well to try to keep up with the speed of the guitar riffs, never falling behind or losing focus. Parland's solo work is amazing, showing the cold and nocturnal style that he would continue to develop, leading to the band's first full-length. The intro to the title track is particularly impressive and does well to create a dark atmosphere. This aspect really sets Necrophobic apart from many of their peers, and one has to wonder why they were not given more attention at the time. The mixture of Death and Thrash is done very well, creating a nasty and dark feeling. The vocals work well, too, being a bit on the deep side but not so much that anything is really lost. Zander's voice suits the music, despite not being on the same level as Anders Stokirk.

The production is not bad at all, really. It has a somewhat rough sound, but is clear enough for everything to be heard. Considering that it is a Death Metal demo from 1990, the sound is actually good. It isn't too far behind some of the full albums that were being released around the time. What some may notice is that it lacks the typical buzzsaw guitar tone that was developing in Sweden at the time. Naturally, the musical similarities between Necrophobic and others in the scene were not numerous.

Slow Asphyxiation is a solid slab of old school Death Metal and a good example of how this style branched off from Thrash. Rather than getting mixed up in the retro craze that has been going on for the last few years, with so many new bands popping up and trying to play this style, listeners would be well advised to first seek out the original demos and albums that were spawned in the old days. It is too bad that Necrophobic didn't manage to record a full-length sooner than they did, as they might have achieved wider recognition, which they absolutely deserved. The tracks from this demo are available on the Satanic Blasphemies compilation, so if you don't already own this cassette don't bother paying a fortune for it.
 
(31 Dec. 2012)

 
 

Necrophobic's third demo, Unholy Prophecies, was recorded in Sunlight Studios and released in early 1991. As with the last tape, it includes three news songs, all of them later appearing on the band's first full-length. Though only one year had passed, there are several noticeable changes, this time around. There are new members and a somewhat different approach to the songwriting, making this a bit of an odd recording, so some extent.

Musically, the style seems to possess more similarities to the other bands in the Swedish Death Metal scene. There are less Thrash riffs, with more emphasis on the typical mid-paced riffs that were being used by a lot of bands around this time. "Sacrificial Rites" even begins with a slower section that really works against the rest of the song, thankfully left off when they recorded The Nocturnal Silence. The songs are definitely slower than on the previous demo, though not without some fast moments. David Parland's lead solos are still the highlight of the music, as the nocturnal vibe conveyed by these melodies really adds to the atmosphere and leaves you wanting more. The new vocalist is not so different from the previous one, so the same guttural style is employed here and is nothing particularly special. His voice suits the music, but a raspier approach would have accentuated the darker feeling a bit more. This was proven to be true by is replacement. Also, this appears to be the beginning of the band's use of Satanic and occult themes in the lyrics.

The production is very typical for Sunlight Studio, and this is really the only time that Necrophobic had this kind of guitar tone. In a sense, this works against the band, as it makes them sound like nearly every other band coming out of Sweden at the time. Everything is very thick and the sharp edge from Slow Asphyxiation is completely lost. Only occasionally do guitar melodies cut through this and rise above the fog, so to say. It's not entirely bad, but Necrophobic's style was different enough from many of their peers and this should have been capitalized on. Instead, this recording almost seems to try forcing them into the same mould as the rest.

Unholy Prophecies is a decent offering of old school Swedish Death Metal, and definitely fits in with a lot of the other releases that were coming out of there at the time. However, it fails to really showcase the full potential of Necrophobic as the songwriting and production do little to make the band stand out. In fact, it seems to be working toward the opposite effect. If you want to hear quality Death Metal and have an interest in the band's early period, this is definitely worth checking out. However, these songs are only a shadow compared to how they would sound on The Nocturnal Silence.
 
(31 Dec. 2012)

 
The Call (1993)
 

Necrophobic formed in 1989 and soon released a string of demos. In early 1992, they entered Studio Sunlight to record their debut E.P. titled The Call. Though it was completed by February, it was not released until January 1993. By that time, the band had already replaced their vocalist, Stefan Harrvik. I believe this is also the first recording to feature Tobias Sidegård, as well. The sound is a little lower in quality than what is found on the Unholy Prophecies demo, from the previous year, being kind of similar to the first Dissection E.P. The sound is less clear, though the musical approach is much the same.

Side A begins with an instrumental, "Shadows of the Moon". This piece does well to display the eerie, nocturnal feeling produced by David Parland's guitar riffs. It is only a brief intro, but it sets the tone for the songs to come, quite well. This was supposed to be featured on the full-length, but some mistake prevented this.

"The Ancients Gate" is quite similar to the version found on The Nocturnal Silence, even including the chorus of demons at the beginning. The primary difference, of course, is that this sounds more raw and a little less polished. This is probably due to the production. This sounds pretty rough, considering it was handled by Tomas Skosgberg, in Studio Sunlight. However, the same brilliant guitar riffs and solos are still here. As the song slows down, mid-way through, the guitar melody truly epitomizes the spirit of the night.

Side B consists of a song called "Father of Creation". It begins with a slow and ominous sound, being very much in-line with the version that would appear on the L.P. The vocals seem to be buried in the mix, a bit, but increasing the volume proves to be an easy solution for this. Near the middle, there is a nice old school section where the drum beat and guitar riff both sound reminiscent of early Morbid Angel or even Mercyful Fate. The lead solo is very well done, putting most other Death Metal lead guitarists to shame. Too often, around this time, they threw in meangingless solos, as if it was someobligatory thing that had to be done. Many of them subscribed to the awful Reign In Blood method of solos. To contrast this, David Parland puts a lot of effort and feeling into the solo work here, adding greatly to the atmosphere of the song.

The Call is a solid effort, despite the very rough sound. This would be improved upon, tenfold, on The Nocturnal Silence. As the songs are not very different from those version that made it to the full-length, this isn't an essential release. However, it is of interest for die-hard Necrophobic fans.
 
(19 Aug. 2009)

 
The Nocturnal Silence (1993)
 

The Nocturnal Silence is the first full-length L.P. from Sweden's Necrophobic. The album was recorded in Sunlight Studio in Stockholm, in March 1993 and it was produced by Necrophobic and Tomas Skogsberg. Despite being recorded in this well-known studio, the album definitely has its own atmosphere and is not typical of most Swedish Death Metal. It sounds as if the band consciously avoided going for the typical buzzsaw guitar tone made popular by bands such as Entombed and Dismember. The more raw feeling really suits the overall atmosphere, as this music is much darker than anything being done by their peers.

Necrophobic formed in 1989, and had gained much attention through the release of two demos, Slow Asphyxiation and Unholy Prophecies. Far from being stagnant or sounding just like everyone else, it was clear that this band was on a different path right from the start. They stood out from the mass of bands in Stockholm by possessing a bit more technical skill, Satanic themes and a vocalist with more of a raw and hateful voice. Anders Stokirk utilizes an approach similar to Masse Broberg of Hypocrisy, but not as deep. In general, everything about The Nocturnal Silence possesses more of a blackened sound and really embodies the more evil feeling that was given off by some of the earlier Death Metal bands, such as Morbid Angel.

The album begins with a short keyboard intro, that could easily fit in a horror movie. The slow, creepy riff that follows really sets the mood for the album. Then, in typical Slayer fashion, Hell is unleashed. "Awakening..." is a pretty fast-paced opening track. The musicianship is high quality and David Parland's guitar work is excellent. His is an easily identifiable sound, no matter what band he plays in. The first song already displays a decent variety of speeds. The production is very good, being clear enough to hear everything well but also raw enough to convey the right feeling. The vocals and riffs combine, perfectly, to create a rather hateful and abrasive feeling.

The albums continues on with blasphemy and an ever-darkening atmosphere. "Before the Dawn", especially the slower riffs with the brief spoken passage, was very successful in creating an evil feeling. The solo really does well to add a sense of gloom to everything. This album really seems positioned in between Black and Death Metal, as it doesn't entirely belong to one or the other. As the album progresses, "Unholy Prophecies" features more of the same hellish aura that has been produced thus far. However, at certain points, one would expect things to really speed up but it never quite gets fast enough. This is only a minor complaint.

One of the real gems of this album is the title track, "The Nocturnal Silence." The acoustic intro and the brilliant solo that starts the song really imbue the listener with visions of the full moon in the blackened night sky. Then, the Satanic ritual begins as the song takes off. The vocalist sounds as if his throat has been shredded by broken glass and the result is very good. The song has a certain doomy quality, until things speed up. Here, the fast tremolo riffs dominate. The intensity builds as the song progresses, with a very morbid section coming late in the track. Parland's "nocturnal" solo near the end is perfect as well. The solos really help to set Necrophobic apart from the other bands in the Stockholm scene, and add a lot of depth to the music. There really is little or nothing to complain about when it comes to this album. This song is definitely one of the highlights.

"A freezing silence descends in the night
Cold winds whisper damnation
Deathlike shadows rising on the ground
The call from the lords of creation"


This is followed by the brilliant instrumental, "Shadows of the Moon", which really continues the feeling that was created by the slower parts of the title track and serving as the perfect bridge between the first and second half of the album, doing a fantastic job in leading into "The Ancients Gate". Though fairly brief, it is as memorable as anything else on this album. Unfortunately, this track is not present on most versions of The Nocturnal Silence, due to some miscommunications with the label. "Inborn Evil" was supposed to be left off, as the band didn't think that it possessed the right feeling, but the instrumental was dropped instead. Only the American pressing, by Cargo Records, includes the proper track listing as the band wanted.

From the demonic voices in the beginning to the brilliant solo that follows, "The Ancients Gate" proves to be a real classic. This track is very dynamic and feels somewhat epic, at times. For a song to stand out on an album filled with such greatness truly means something. It begins with a rather subdued pace, featuring an almost hypnotic lead solo, before bursting forth with demonic fury. The slower section, featuring the acoustic bit, adds a sense of gloom to the atmosphere, before returning to an absolutely hellish and evil sound.

"Sacrificial Rites" is another uncompromising track, dropping the mid-paced part from the demo version and just exploding out of the darkness and going right for your throat. The riffs are intense and powerful, with Stokirk's frenzied vocal delivery really lending a sense of urgency to the song. Despite being released in 1993, this is another song that shows that the band's creative forces were really rooted in the '80s. Once again, another masterful solo appears near the end.

"Father of Creation" includes a lot of slower (by comparison) riffs and allows the listener a little bit of a break, though the diabolical hatred is no less than on the previous songs. The real highlight of this track, for me, is the old school drum break in the middle, sounding much like something from ten years earlier. Parland's solos not only demonstrate his skills, but really add a total nocturnal feeling to this song and most of the others, conjuring up images of dark forests illuminated by moonlight and blood rituals being performed by torchlight in old and forgotten cemeteries.

Somehow, though the entire album is bursting at the seams with memorable riffs, "Where Sinners Burn" manages to open with yet another one, coupled with a haunting lead solo. Like much of the album, it possesses many speeds and it is dripping with evil. This song really does well to close out the album, as there is just some sense of finality put forth by nearly every riff and vocal line. The song ends with a particularly gloomy riff that just fades into the nothingness.

The Nocturnal Silence is an incredibly strong debut album. The fact that this band did not gain as much of a following as many of their inferior contemporaries (in Sweden and elsewhere) is an absolute crime. This puts most every other Death Metal release from this time to utter shame, even including the much-hailed Covenant, released by Morbid Angel just a couple months earlier. This shows the value on toiling in the underground, playing shows and recording demos before putting together an album. Not only is the musicianship excellent, the songwriting was well thought-out and Necrophobic easily achieved what they set out to do. This is a classic piece of Satanic Death Metal history and one of the best albums to ever be recorded at Sunlight Studio. If you have not heard this, you've been missing out.
 
(27 Mar. 2008)

 
 

Necrophobic's Bloodfreezing demo was recorded in early 1994 yet only shared with people close with the band, not receiving an official release until much later. This was the first recording with Tobias Sidegård handling vocals duties, and also features new member Martin Halfdan, on guitar. This is an interesting piece of the band's history, as it shows them transitioning from the Satanic Death Metal of The Nocturnal Silence toward the colder Black Metal feeling that would dominate their second album, Darkside.

Musically, it is very clear that main songwriter David Parland was becoming a bit bored with the Death Metal scene and was delving deeper into Black Metal territory, also recording the first Dark Funeral E.P. around this time. Though Necrophobic's sound was already darker than that of the average Swedish Death Metal band, the material on Bloodfreezing shows that they were distancing themselves ever more from their peers. There is a definite Dissection influence, here, with a similar cold and melodic sound. Even the vocals sound a bit like Jon's work on the demo for The Somberlain, possessing almost a hollow quality. "Black Moon Rising" is a fast-paced track, which is really satisfying compared to some of the material on The Nocturnal Silence, just for the fact that there were more mid-paced parts on that album that felt like they were holding something back, at times. "The Call" is much the same, starting with a sombre bass line before unleashing the freezing cold of Nifelhel. The songs sound, more or less, arranged and finished, not showing much deviation from the versions that would appear on Darkside, though still very interesting to hear how they sounded with Parland's playing.

The overall sound is kind of rough, as it is a demo recording, but still of high enough quality to hear everything that's going on. As a matter of fact, even in this condition, it sounds better than some full-length albums that were being released at the time. The guitar tone is not quite as cold as what would be heard on Darkside, or The Secrets of the Black Arts for that matter, still retaining kind of a Death Metal sound despite the actual songwriting being different than before.

It is too bad that Necrophobic did not manage to record their second album a year or two earlier. I have no idea if the material was even prepared, but if Darkside had been released in 1995, with David Parland still involved, it might have gained more recognition than it did. This was certainly a band that deserved more attention and should have gained a wider following in their earlier years, especially compared to many of their contemporaries. The Bloodfreezing demo is further proof of this. If you're looking for these tracks, pick up the Spawned by Evil re-release.
 
(9 Jan. 2013)

 
 

By 1996, Necrophobic had lost much of the momentum that was built through the earlier demos and their debut L.P. The Nocturnal Silence. There were some creative differences within the band, at this point. Also, Dark Funeral had become quite successful and David Parland was putting most of energy into that project. Right around the time that The Secrets of the Black Arts was released, Necrophobic returned with the Spawned By Evil E.P. Unfortunately, this release marked the departure of Parland. Released in January 1996, Spawned By Evil was not quite what fans were hoping for. Instead of a new album, Necrophobic released this mini-album, which only contained one new song. The other three tracks are covers. This was a little disappointing since, as was later revealed, the band was sitting on a handful of songs that could have been included.

A brief horror intro leads into the title track. It sounds slightly reminiscent of the intro to Sepultura's Schizophrenia, though far shorter. Musically, this isn't much different from the version that would appear on Darkside. The drumming seems a bit stale and repetitive, however. It's much more noticeable on this recording. Another thing that makes this E.P. significant is that this is the first Necrophobic release to feature Tobias Sidegård on vocals. This version isn't quite as raw as the later one, but there aren't too many differences, otherwise.

The next song is a tricky one, as it is a cover of Slayer's "Die By the Sword". The first thing that one might notice is that Tobbe's vocal approach doesn't quite fit the feeling of the song. Here, he goes for a deeper sound that feels a little too forced. The higher parts fit a little better, though. Still, nothing will ever come close to the original. Therein lies the problem in covering such an incredible song; it's very difficult to live up to such greatness. Joakim's drums don't have anything on Dave Lombardo's work on Show No Mercy, either. As far as the guitars, I have no complaints. David Parland and Martin Halfdan do an excellent job of maintaining the feel of the original. Despite the minor complaints, this is actually an enjoyable song. However, any band that tries to match the brilliance of the early Slayer albums is climbing up a slippery slope. Possibly, Dissection managed to get closest to this goal, with their cover of "Antichrist".

A cover of Venom's "Nightmare" follows this. I was looking forward to this, upon first listen, as this is one of my favourite Venom tunes. Here, Tobias sticks with the raspier vocal style, which fits the atmosphere much better. Musically, it's dead on; not much room for error when it comes to Venom. They do a great job of sticking to the original and not straying or changing the feeling. This is a top-notch cover of the Unholy Trio.

Finally, we have "Enter the Eternal Fire". Again, Necrophobic have taken on a hellacious task, as no one could ever possibly measure up to the standards set by Bathory, on the original. However, one must step back and realize that this shouldn't be taken so seriously. Obviously, they weren't attempting to compete with the original bands; instead, this should be looked at as the band simply having a little fun and recording some of their favourite songs. Musically, this is pretty solid. The guitars are dead on. Vocally, it's interesting but not nearly as morbid as the original. The bells and keyboards sound exactly as they do on the Bathory version, and the lead solo was nailed, perfectly. Again, the inclusion of this song is pretty awesome, as this is another song that has meant a lot to me for many years. If nothing else, this E.P. proves that these guys had great taste in music.

Spawned By Evil isn't, necessarily, essential. However, it's worth looking for if you're a Necrophobic fan that also loves Slayer, Venom and Bathory (and who the hell doesn't??). This is a little hard to find, from my experience, so be sure to take advantage of the situation if you ever run across it.
 
(11 Sept. 2009)

 
Darkside (1997)
 
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Darkside is the second full-length album from Necrophobic. Recorded in 1996 and released in 1997, this classic album is one of the most overlooked masterpieces I've encountered. I discovered this album fairly late, picking it up in a local Stockholm record store, Sound Pollution, in the summer of 2003. It was after a short discussion with the guy working there that he recommended this album to me, especially since we shared a fondness for Dissection.

As "Black Moon Rising" begins, one hears that the Satanic Death Metal sound from The Nocturnal Silence has evolved into something more dark and sinister. The guitars are more piercing, the tempo is faster and the sound is all around more raw and dark. Bassist, Tobias Sidegård, had replaced Anders Strokirk as the vocalist, and the result was a much higher pitched, raspier sound. This is Swedish Black Metal at its best.

"Spawned By Evil" continues the frenetic pace, and it's not until "Bloodthirst" that it slows down, somewhat. The songwriting of David Parland (aka Blackmoon of Dark Funeral, Infernal, War) is very identifiable and is one of the best things about the album. This version is a little more refined than the one from the Spawned By Evil E.P.

The instrumental pieces, "Venaesectio", "Descension" and "Nifelhel" do a great job in adding to the atmosphere, and they are spread throughout the album. This album, more than any other I've heard, really seems like a tribute to the night; to the full moon, blood, darkness and evil. The guitar sound is not only cold, it also carries a very nocturnal feel to it. This can also be seen on The Secrets of the Black Arts, but I think it is much more successful here.

The title track, "Darkside", is one of the standout tracks on this album and possesses a great feel. It begins somewhat fast but then maintains a more mid-paced tempo throughout much of the song. The solo work is very well done and fits in with the music very well, working to accentuate the riff rather than some throwaway solo that serves no purpose.

Then, we have "The Call." This begins with a slow, quiet part that builds the atmosphere and produces images of nocturnal rituals of solitude. The pace picks up and the sinister rasps of Tobias Sidegård carry well. By the middle of the song, we have a very oldschool drumbeat behind the main riff, which sounds as if it could have come from a Mercyful Fate album. An instrumental track separates this from "Nailing the Holy One", which features Jon Nödtveidt trading off vocal lines with Tobias. Vocally, they are both pretty similar, yet still manage to compliment one another well and to convey a great hatred for Christianity here. Oddly enough, the mid-paced riff that begins this song is one of the rare Death Metal moments, before transitioning back to the fast tremolo riffing found all over the rest of the album. This may well have been one of Jon's final studio performances before going to prison.

"Nifelhel" has a nearly hypnotizing effect, as the feeling one gets from gazing up at the full moon on a cold winter night, for hours on end. By the time the album closes out with "Christian Slaughter", you feel that you have not just listened to something, you have experienced it. While some could make comparisons to Dissection and Dark Funeral (mainly due to the guitar tone/songwriter and little else), this really stands on its own. It shares small similarities in sound, technique and atmosphere, yet creates something here that I find to be wholly unique. This is cold Nocturnal Black Metal, and it is something that I recommend very highly, especially to fans of old Dissection. Standout tracks include: "Black Moon Rising", "Darkside", "The Call"....really, all of them...
 
(15 Nov. 2007)

 
The Third Antichrist (1999)
 
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The Third Antichrist, released by Black Mark in October 1999, is the third full-length album from Necrophobic and the first effort without David Parland. After going from the Satanic Death Metal of The Nocturnal Silence to the more Black Metal approach of Darkside, it should not have surprised anyone when the band's next album saw a yet another shift in their sound. This time around, things were about as similar to the previous outing as possible, yet with a more varied style and a greater emphasis on melody.

"Rise of the Infernal" is an intro that possesses an apocalyptic feeling, which is exactly what the band was going for. This is achieved with an acoustic guitar and a bit of synth. One really gets the sense that something dreadful awaits.

The opening guitar melody of "The Third of Arrivals" is in the same cold Black Metal style as the band utilized on Darkside, though any hopes that this will be in the same vein are crushed with the introduction of the thrashier riffs that accompany the vocals. Though similar in approach, the aggression is not the same. The two themes alternate, until the middle of the track where things slow down a little and a nocturnal lead solo emerges. Though Parland is gone, the band does their best to continue on the style that he established.

"Frozen Empire" starts with an ominous melody, before launching into a bitter cold riff that brings a chill to any who hears it. Sidegård's vocals are still in the same style as on Darkside, though a bit less raw. He sounds somewhat similar to Jon Nödtveidt, in a sense. As the song progresses, more lead solos are employed, really building the epic atmosphere. The guitar tone is still kind of thin, but thicker than on the previous album. The sound is a bit more polished, as well, losing the raw edge that was present in the past. However, it is not over-produced by any means and the haunting melodies reach a level of quality not often achieved, in the past. The lyrics do a good job of keeping in line with those of the past, while also suiting the music well.

"Mournful, silent is the night
In white, the nature lies asleep
Whining winds are blowing cold as ice
Frozen is the valley of shadows"

The next song is a little weird. "Into Armageddon" features sections with only bass and drums, underneath the vocals, in more of a Rock style. The pace is slower and the overall feeling is different. There is still a sort of gloomy feeling here, with brief a brief backing choir that is slightly reminiscent of Viking-era Bathory. The speed and intensity pick up, around the middle, soon followed by more melodic lead solos. The tremolo riff, that was present at the beginning, reappears and teases the listener. This definitely could have been developed more, but that was not what the band was aiming for.

"Eye of the Storm" starts out with a mournful melody and consists of thrash riffs mixed with tremolo riffs. There seems to be some effect on the vocals that adds an icy feeling. Nonetheless, Tobias sounds like his throat is shredded and this works very well with the vibe of the music. The tempo of this track switches a few times, but the general mood is kind of low. The lyrics also show the first real attempt at incorporating themes of Norse mythology into Necrophobic's music, something that would be further explored down the line.

"I search for the balance of fire and ice
From Nifel to Muspell with longing in eyes
I search for the wisdom the one-eyed once gained
Metamorphosis obtained"

"The Unhallowed" is a shorter track that features more of a straightforward approach. At times, it utilizes thicker power chords with a cold tremolo riff weaving through it. The lead solos show the skill of the guitarists and a really professional level of musicianship.

This is followed by "Isaz", which is one of the standout tracks on The Third Antichrist. Starting out with a fast tremolo melody, it soon transitions to a slower riff. The melody that comes in-between the verses has more of the cold, nocturnal feeling that dominated much of Darkside. The middle section is incredible, building a sense of dread and adding an epic feeling at the same time. The lead guitar solo carves through your mind with its frigid sound and carries you into the shadows.

At this point, the album kind of loses steam. "The Throne of Souls Possessed" shifts gears and goes from Nordic themes back to more of an anti-Christian sentiment. This track is a little less memorable than some of the others, though not for any lack of quality. It includes more great solo work and maintains the cold atmosphere that is found throughout the rest of the album, yet it seems to work better as part of the overall record, rather than standing on its own.

The first few riffs of "He Who Rideth In Rage" are kind of generic and one gets the sense that this song was less developed than the others. While the first part has kind of a Death Metal feeling, the later section is reminiscent of Bathory. This suffers from a lack of consistency, with the most enjoyable riff coming at the very end.

"Demonic" returns to the nocturnal atmosphere, though the riffs sound like rehash of earlier songs. It is mostly fast-paced, though it slows down for a bit and includes a very brief bit of clean guitar and a spoken-word passage. It is a fine song, but it does not stand out enough from those that preceded it.

The final track is an outro that imbues the listener with a very gloomy and horrible feeling. "One Last Step into the Great Mist" features a tremolo melody that is played quite low, with a very simple drum beat and almost-whispered vocals. Actually, this would have made for a great song if the riff had been utilized in a normal way, with fast drums and typical Black Metal vocals on top of it. Still, it works well to end the album on a dark and sombre note.

The Third Antichrist is where the band really established the sound that would persist for the next several years. Taking what David Parland set forth on the first two albums and building upon that, they created a brilliant style of melodic Black Metal that should appeal to fans of the band's later works, especially. Anyone into Dissection, Sacramentum and even Watain should check this out as well. Overall, it is a very solid record.
 
(3 Feb. 2007)

 
Bloodhymns (2002)
 

Bloodhymns is the fourth full-length album from Sweden's Necrophobic. The band began, on The Nocturnal Silence, with a Satanic Death Metal style, displaying Black Metal influences. These influences later dominated the follow-up album, Darkside. With The Third Antichrist, the band continued on this path but the sound was a bit melodic (and less raw). Three years would pass before they released another album.

In early 2002, Bloodhymns was unleashed upon the unsuspecting world. This album continued the evolution of Necrophobic while also regressing. The opening riff of "Taste of Black" sounds like something that could have been recorded by Dismember, in years past. The Sunlight Studio sound is ever-present as the guitars have a little extra edge to them, going back to the rawness of Darkside, more or less. The lyrics are dark and Satanic, as has been customary from this band, and the sound is in line with what one would expect. At only about three and a half minutes long, the opener wastes no time in going straight for the jugular. Tobias Sidegård's vocals have continued to grow more sinister with each passing year.

"Dreams Shall Flesh" begins with a melody that seems to crawl into your flesh and twist its way around your spine. This song is much like the previous one, being very fast-paced and straightforward, featuring blackened thrash riffs. Yet this is but the beginning of a very dark theme that moves through this album. It is something that rumbles beneath the surface, not being obvious as one focuses on riffs or lyrics. There are certain brief melodies that embody the essence of pure darkness; of eternal night. You are slowly prepared for what is to come, as the album progresses.

Next is "Act of Rebellion", which continues with the trademark Necrophobic sound as established over the course of the past decade. This begins as another fast-paced song, with brief nocturnal melodies weaving in and out. Things slow down as a haunting lead melody is introduced and this drags you closer to the gates of utter horror. You begin to realize just how alone you really are. You hope for salvation, but it becomes clear that this is not to be.

The true darkness of this unholy creation is finally unleashed on the next song, "Shadowseeds". While your flesh freezes, your blood begins to boil and your veins erupt. Consumed by both fire and ice, your body fails you. The pace has now slowed down as your soul is cast through the gates and you soon learn that what you had considered to be darkness was like a blinding light compared to the utterly black emptiness that engulfs you. The song speeds up as you are hurled through the chaos of the great abyss, reaching for anything to stop your descent... yet there is nothing.

"Mourningsoul" is the pinnacle of darkness for this black masterpiece. Beginning with a somber acoustic intro, hell is unleashed without warning as you face spiritual death. The pace is faster than the previous song, yet the mournful, nocturnal melodies pervade all. In the chaos and confusion created by this, you almost think that it could all be a dream. Maybe it's not real. Maybe there is hope for escape. But the nightmare is now only just unfolding. This is your existence, a nightmare come to life. The song slows down and the melodies become too much to take. This is the first stage of spiritual death. You are surrounded by grim spectres, waiting to drain your very essence.

"...I seek redemption, not for my soul
My salvation is not like yours to behold
The darkest sky bears scars of light
And even death is much too bright

Without a heart one cannot bleed
What is already dead can never leave
The utter cold is what I choose
With a frozen soul and my eyes closed..."

"Helfire" is next, and it continues the raging fury and fast tremolo riffs of earlier songs, while maintaining the haunting effect of the last two. Just when you feel that you can take no more and that you must be at the end of your feeble existence, you are lead through raging black flames, toward an uncertain fate.

Next is "Cult of Blood". This features nightmarish vocals, as heard while submerged in a river of blood. Fast-paced, for the most part, things do slow down as a chilling melody takes center stage. This lead possesses the cold, hopeless, nocturnal quality that is always present on a Necrophobic album. The pace of the song slows down as you descend deeper into the abyss.

"Roots of Heldrasill" is simply dripping with hopelessness. Abandoned, your spirit is shredded and bleeding. Sinister ghouls of this nightmare void attack you from all sides, drawn by the scent of black blood. This is one of the slower songs on the album, though there are faster-paced sections. The vocals sound possessed with evil conviction. As you think the assault might let up, or that you have reached the bottom, you soon begin to descend, yet again, embraced by the freezing depths.

A hauntingly sinister acoustic guitar, very reminiscent of something from Darkside, begins "Blood Anthem". This is an ode to the true darkness of eternal night; the nocturnal abyss of the nameless void. While it begins with a slower pace, the song does speed up and features a lot of thrashy riffs; however, it slows down and the morbid melodies and desperate vocals serve to cast you deeper and deeper into the swirling blackness. You see visions of other beings, and you begin to think that you will at least have the company of other kindred spirits as you float in a living nightmare of nothingness and despair.

The relief of such thoughts is ephemeral, as you soon wake up to see that it was only a dream within a nightmare. The instrumental, "Among the Storms", is filled with mournful and hellish sounds. You question whether or not such hope ever existed, or if it was simply some false product of your imagination, as your mind is twisted by a dark fate. Falling deeper into the abyss, you arrive into your body. This is your true body. Your life was but a dream. The descent that you experienced, the traumatic nightmares, the pain and betrayal... none of it was real. You are in Hell, engaged in an endless struggle; one which cannot be won. You were always in this place. Such is the darkness conveyed by Bloodhymns...
 
(16 Jan. 2009)

 
 

Hrimthursum is the fifth full-length album from Sweden's Necrophobic, featuring cover art by Tyrant, of Nifelheim. Four years had passed since the release of Bloodhymns, and some had speculated that the band had split up. However, in May 2006, they returned with what was, possibly, their most ambitious release. Tobias once described it as a work of art; creating this album was like making a painting. The epic compositions required that the band hire a professional singer, Sandra Camenish, who assisted in the choir sections that were utilized, here. In the end, they not only expanded their own boundaries, but those of their fans as well.

It actually took some time for me to warm up to this album, initially. I heard one or two of the songs that they put online, and was a little put off and surprised as I'd been hoping for something more along the lines of The Nocturnal Silence or Darkside. However, I gave it another chance after seeing the video for "Blinded By Light, Enlightened By Darkness". It was on this cold winter day that something just clicked, and I obtained the album a short time later. Though it's good to be selective, I had been asking far too much of the band; that they should regress and repeat themselves. Once I opened my mind a bit, I was able to truly appreciate this record for what it is: an epic work of Swedish Black/Death Metal.

The dark atmosphere starts with "The Slaughter of Baby Jesus". This intro, slowly, builds up, as the ritual is about to begin. You heart the crying of an infant, in the midst of chanting and an ominous drum beat. The guitars come in, joined by the choir, creating a monumental feeling. This does well to set the tone for the album. It ends with a simple melody that carries over into the first proper song.

"Blinded By Light, Enlightened By Darkness" features the dark and nocturnal sound that one would expect from Necrophobic, though this is rather fast-paced and straight-forward. It is cold and hateful, slicing through your soul and leaving you reeling. The production is clearer and less raw than on Bloodhymns, actually sounding closer to the sound from The Third Antichrist. The riffs are incredibly solid and the lead solo not only fits the song well, but it truly adds to the feeling being conveyed.

"Death...
The blade that cuts me loose
In a cloudburst I leave
Into darkness so cold"

The next song is "I Strike With Wrath", which begins with an ominous melody, leading into a mid-paced riff that serves well to add to the epic nature of the composition. It seems almost as if Johan and Sebastian have kept David Parland's songwriting in mind, as they do a decent job of trying to use elements of the early albums. Once the song gets going, it resumes a similar speed to that of the previous song. The tremolo riffs are cold and quite memorable and the vocals are vicious in their approach. Near the middle, the song slows down and a brilliant solo is unleashed, adding to the haunting effect of the song. This is accentuated, as the track ends with a somber piano piece.

"Age of Chaos" begins with a slow-paced sound, building on the epic atmosphere with the return of the background choir. There is a melancholic feeling that permeates this song, as it tells of the destruction of life with the coming of the giants. Around the time the album was released, I read that the whole album was to be centered on this concept, but that there was some difficulty in stretching it out so they dropped the idea. Mid-way through, you can hear the sounds of a woman sobbing, which only further adds to the sorrowful feeling of the song. Still, there is something quite sinister about it, as the giants are then hailed and named off, one by one. There is an interesting tale here, and the music is quite memorable.

"We all are falling, we turn into dust
We are cast into oblivion, into the shadows of the past"

This is followed by "Bloodshed Eyes", which opens with a furious pace. The tempo alternates a bit, as slower parts with cold tremolo riffs weave throughout, making for a dynamic listen. After a minute or so, there's a guitar riff that is accompanied by more clean vocals, making for a really memorable section of the song. This is well-constructed, delivering the maximum impact and haunting the mind of the listener. Immediately after, the venomous vocals and lethal pace return to drive the stake into your black heart.

"Blood is everywhere, the pouring source of life"

"The Crossing" is the longest track on here, nearing six and a half minutes. An eerie guitar riff fades in from the darkness, getting louder and louder. It then slowly envelopes your mind as the misanthropic screams and funeral bells overtake your being. The song shifts, then, to something fairly straigh-forward and intense. One can even hear some old Slayer influences, which have always been with the band. After a frantic solo, the pace begins to wind down a bit and Tobias is joined by the choir, in the background, as he proclaims that, "Death is everywhere". Not to overuse the word, but this is bleeding with an epic atmosphere that is only increased by the incredible lead solo that follows. This is one of the best ones on the album, as it possesses a lot of feeling and suits the song very well. As the funeral bells return, there is a feeling of finality as it all fades to nothingness.

"Listen to the haunting choirs of the dead
They sing their hymns in horror and ghastly dread
They chant in reverence for all bewildered souls
They gather, they call us, they keep us forever"

"Eternal Winter" starts out with an intense pace, with the guitar melodies slowly building in the whirlwind of winter and chaos. Similar to "Retribution - Storm of the Light's Bane", by Dissection, this song manages to incorporate some thrash riffs in a fluid manner that works well within the context of the overall piece. Later in the song, the tempo drops and another great solo is to be found. As with many parts of this album, the refrain is very memorable, especially thanks to the cold melodies that it features.

"I am winter, I am death
Frozen still, but not dead"

This is followed by "Death Immaculate", a song that starts out pretty fast but then goes into more of a mid-paced riff after the blitzkrieg opening. The middle section is atmospheric and utilizes some acoustic or clean guitar, with Tobias screaming in almost a ritualistic manner. A lengthy lead solo followes this, lasting for quite some time.

"Sitra Ahra" is one of the more memorable songs, starting out with an acoustic piece that leads into a massively epic riff, bleeding forth a somber tone. The feeling is sorrowful and dark, as this mid-paced track takes you deeper into the shadowy depths. The riffs are haunting and the backing choir adds to this. As with the rest of the album, the lead solo is very well done and it is soon replaced by some brief acoustic bit. This song builds a sense of tension, as if you are being led down to the underworld, forever to escape the realm of life and light. The end is near, and you are soon to be free.

"Longing for solitude, to sleep with the dreaming dead
In the icecold heart of the totenreich we shall live our lives again"

The next song is "Serpents (Beneath the Forest of the Dead)". It consists of varying tempos, going from fast to mid-paced and including some nice cold riffs, as well as yet another haunting lead solo. It doesn't quite stand up to the feeling of the previous song, but perhaps a small break was needed.

"Black Hate" begins with an odd-sounding riff, though I can't quite place the feeling I get from this. There's a brief moment with only a tremolo riff and nothing else, reminiscent of early Mayhem. One would expect this to be a fairly straight-forward track, but the middle section possesses a slow feeling of doom, and yet another solo that will remain in your brain for some time. In a way, this album is a lot to take in, as there's so many good and memorable things, there is the chance that you'll overdose. At any rate, this song does a good job of leading up to the final one.

It all comes to an end with the title track. This song fades in with a feeling, somewhat, simlilar to "Among the Storms", from Bloodhymns. There sounds to be some distant piano accompanying the guitar melodies, for the first few seconds. It may be appropriate, considering the subject matter, to say that this is a giant of a song. It truly comes off as bigger-than-life, in a sense. This is what the whole album has been building up to, and it possesses some apocalyptic feeling. The guitar melodies, backing choir and the overall pacing come together to creat a great atmosphere. The acoustic piece, in the middle, leads into a spoken word part that then gives way to a solo. The sound is crisp and sharp, like a knife slicing through your flesh on a bitter cold winter day. As you watch your blood stain the snow with its crimson hue, you can feel the end coming soon.

"The wind blows colder now
And the frozen old starts to move
The wolves gather on the hills
And the raven is holding its prey"

Hrimthursum is unique among the other albums in Necrophobic's discography. It shows the band pushing the limits of their sound and creating something that is, at times, quite majestic and atmospheric. In a sense, it had to be done as it added new dimensions to their sound and opened the gates for future relases to have more room to breathe, in a sense. Die-hard fans of this band are recommended to pick this up.
 
(19 Oct. 2009)

 
 

Three years after their epic opus, Hrimthursum, Sweden's Necrophobic returned with their sixth full-length, Death To All. It was released on Regain Records, in late May 2009. After such a long wait, I found myself very eager for this release; probably anticipating it more than any of their other albums. This increased as, days before I departed for Berlin, I conducted an interview with Tobias Sidegård. What I found, upon its release, was exactly what I'd hoped for. This album isn't as overtly majestic as the previous outing, yet it retains some of the same feeling. Actually, one can find elements of all the previous albums, here, as this serves as an excellent representation of the band.

What can be heard here is the kind of melodic Black/Death Metal that the band has become known for. On this release, it would seem that the sound and spirit lean more toward Black Metal, as the atmosphere is quite dark. The production sounds quite similar to the previous album, with everything being rather clear but not over-produced in any way. Each frozen note is easy to hear and everything is mixed together quite well. The prime components are the guitars. Johan and Sebastian execute each riff with great precision. Despite the long absence of founding member David Parland, the band tries its best to maintain the dark and nocturnal atmosphere that has become its trademark. Tobbe's lethal vocals have a morbid and depraved aura about them, on this record. As for Joakim's drumming, it is typical of what you would expect of him. The drums are at just the right level, enough to be heard and to keep time, but not so much that they distract from what's important; the guitars.

The songwriting consists of a lot of fast-paced, straight-forward riffs. This album is overflowing with cold and dark tremolo riffs. The hauntingly nocturnal melodies are ever-present, from the very first moments of "Celebration of the Goat". As soon as this begins, there is no mistaking who this is. Naturally, there are a lot of twists and turns, taking you on a dark journey. These compositions are not minimalist in any way. Though the dominant theme is speed, there are slower sections that work to build the epic feeling. In particular, the latter half of "Revelation 666" takes the word 'epic' to a new extreme. The haunting solo that begins a little past the midway point is majestic in all its nocturnal glory. This is one of the highlights of the album, as you are sort of swept away to some dark realm of shadows, far beyond the light. The melody is introspective and almost mournful in tone. "La Satanisma Muerte", abruptly, pulls you from this deep chasm, as the journey must continue. Despite being the shortest song on the album, it is very well constructed and features a slower section with some backing choir to create a hellish and epic feeling.

"For Those Who Stayed Satanic" was the first song made public, as they posted the live video of this long before the album was recorded. Honestly, I didn't think too much of the title, and the performance didn't sound terribly exciting. Thankfully, the album version is much more impressive and makes more of an impact since each riff is clearly heard. Even still, I wouldn't say it's the strongest song on the album. The following track, "Temple of Damnation", completely slays it, especially the haunting middle section that reminds of something from Bloodhymns. As this progresses, Joakim throws in some nice old school drumming to accompany the lead solo. By this point, it seems that there was a lot of thought put into the placement of the songs, as they flow together masterfully. "The Tower" is filled with riffs and solos that would have made Slayer proud, 25 years ago. Though, like the rest of the songs, it's quite dynamic.

As the album nears its conclusion, we come to another one of the true highlights of this record, "Wings of Death". Beginning with a very dark clean guitar, it slowly builds as melancholic tremolo melody is joined by somber thrash riffs. This one isn't as fast as the rest, thought it may be a stretch to really label it as 'mid-paced'. In any event, everything comes together to create something dark and epic; the kind of song that haunts your mind. Tobias sounds particularly possessed on this one, being consumed with utter madness. This all leads into the title track, which kind of picks up from where the previous song leaves off. It would seem like any other song on the record, yet as it proceeds it continues to build. There are several riffs that you might not expect, bringing in a definite old school feeling. After about six minutes, everything comes to a stop, leaving only the cold winds and an acoustic guitar. Slowly, something sounding like a war march fades in, and then slowly fades back into the acoustic piece.

There isn't too much to say about this one. It is very enjoyable from beginning to end and is exactly what you would expect a new Necrophobic album to sound like. There are no surprises here, which may please some fans that had difficulty getting into the previous record. In the end, Death To All is another strong album from one of Sweden's finest. Buy with confidence.
 
(2 Nov. 2009)

 
 

Womb of Lilithu was released in late October 2013 on the trendy Season of Mist label. Though fans of Necrophobic have grown accustomed to the long wait between albums, over the past decade, it has usually been worth it. Not so, this time. In the four years that passed since Death to All, they lost the very talented duo of Sebastian Ramstedt and Johan Bergebäck. The best they could come up with was to replace them with a former member of Unleashed, who does not fit in at all. However, he is not the only one to blame as the two core members were out of ideas long before this abomination was ever written.

Clocking in at over an hour, this is a very tedious listen. Not so much because of the length, but because the material is just awful. Half of it consists of recycled riffs from Bloodhymns and Hrimthursum, with the other half composed of really awkward and out-of-place songwriting that does not belong on a Necrophobic album. Honestly, once the novelty wore off, even Death to All wore thin, with only a handful of tracks worth keeping. With Womb of Lilithu, so much of it sounds familiar from the very first listen. Even worse, it was done better the first time around. The band seems to be creatively bankrupt, at this point. Beyond the fact that is sounds as if they are plagiarizing themselves at various points, the music just isn't very good. Most of it blends together and leaves no real impression, except the parts that stand out for all the wrong reasons. The majority of this consists of a bunch of interchangeable Black or Death Metal riffs that have no feeling and serve no purpose. There is no darkness nor true aggression. Gone are the hauntingly sombre lead solos that the band had long been known for, replaced with a happier sound that is reminiscent of Iron Maiden, which creates a stylistic clash. There are also some that seem to be going for some weird Middle Eastern vibe, but more on that later. The songs just get worse as the record progresses, with Tobbe seeming to rap by the seventh song, to go along with the horrible groove. However, the real lowpoint of the record may be the track "Opium Black". It begins with some pathetic gothic Rock, similar to modern Tiamat, complete with horrible clean vocals. This has Sidegård's fingerprints all over it. If he had not already been ejected from the band for being a scumbag wifebeater, I would say that someone should tell him to keep these lame ideas for his worthless side projects. By the end of the album, more rehashed ideas appear, followed by a melodramatic outro.

Lyrically, this foul recording falls deeper into the Middle Eastern nonsense that seems to have so completely infiltrated the minds of many in the Swedish metal scene, in the last several years. At times, it is as if they are trying to see how many references to qliphotic this and chaotic that, Lilith, Thaumiel, etc. that they can fit into each song. There is nothing even being said, rather, it's often just an exercise in reciting various names and terms with no purpose, much like the music itself. This idiocy has nothing to do with real Black or Death Metal, much like the music on this album. Anyone that thinks otherwise needs their head checked.

The production is even worse than the last record, meaning completely modern and clear and overdone. Everything is mixed improperly, with Joakim's boring (yet oddly overactive) performance pushed to the front. The bass is too audible as well, which is very rarely a good thing. The guitar tone is weak and lacks even the faintest hint of rawness. Even the vocals are worse than before, with the various modern-sounding effects that are frequently used. The clean backing vocals and Tobbe's annoying vocal rhythms don't help things. There is no real reason to criticize the production too much, as even the most raw and necro sound possible would have failed to hide the wretched and laughable songwriting.

Womb of Lilithu is the worst thing Necrophobic has ever released. Bands like Shining are often quoted as saying that they want their fans to commit suicide; all they have to do is make an album like this and listeners will be killing themselves in droves. I'd rather cut my throat and bleed out than to ever again have my ears so thoroughly polluted by such atrocious filth. While Death to All was rather formulaic at times, this actively defecates on the legacy created by past works such as The Nocturnal Silence and Darkside. Though Joakim has recruited their old vocalist, Anders Stokirk, it is unlikely that they will do anything worthwhile unless the songwriting is turned over to someone worthy of following in the footsteps of David Parland or even Sebastian Ramstedt. At this point, it's time to call it quits. Even the live performances are lackluster and one can tell that they are just going through the motions. Avoid this album and anything else this band does, from now on.
 
(29 July 2014)

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