Reviewed: March 2018
Released: 2018, Century Media
Reviewer: Mr. Metalguy
In case you haven’t been paying attention, Necrophobic never actually got their due. Perennial “name you kinda recognize” as being important to that whole Swedish Melodeath thing while flirting with Black Metal and never quite being Dissection, Necrophobic just never managed to click with me. Don’t misunderstand – I have never been against their brand of Melodic Death Metal, with that succulent and distinctly Swedish flair, but nothing about them particularly ever stood out to me. Now onto album 8(!) for a band of true underdogs, “Mark of the Necrogram” finds Necrophobic hungrier than ever, more mid paced than past outings overall, and possessed of one of the silliest album titles of this year. Oh, flirting with Black Metal aesthetics, let the haters come. It’s kinda fun, you see.
Not being well versed in the back catalogue (I am sure I have heard it all, but again, there is just so much to cram into my brain) serves as a positive in this instance as it allowed me to approach Mark… with fresh ears, not entirely sure of what to expect. Is it a reinvention of the sound that Necrophobic has been cultivating (or is that kvltivating?) for a few decades? Of course not. Does it suffer from genre tropes? Sure, but everything does and that fact needs to be acknowledged more often. Was it recorded in a sewer? No. This album sounds massive.
My main issue with a lot of mid paced Melodeath is that eventually it all kinda sounds like Amon Amarth (easily the largest exponent right now). It is serviceable, will do in a pinch, but has no identity so to say. Nothing stands out. You know it is fun to listen to and not much beyond that and dammit, sometimes that is enough. Necrophobic seem to know this, carefully sequencing “Mark of The Necrogram” in such a way that everything flows well, but maybe too well? Each track, from opener and namesake onward, is slick like oil on a puffin.
The production shines, the instrumentation shimmers, but everything ultimately sounds like something else. Now, that may well be a product of my own musical predilections and the fact that for the type of metal that Necrophobic pedal, well, again, they never got their due and so will always be compared to “X”. That is a shame. Taken by itself, irrespective of various influence or listening thinking “Hey! This sounds like _______”, “Mark of the Necrogram” is a damn fun ride.
Necrophobic have crafted an album that is hard to objectively rate simply because my instinct is to compare it to other artists who are similar, which is in and of itself hard since Necrophobic touch briefly on all the hot-spots of Melodeath. Now, taken on its face, that is a rare happening and, again, this band has never had a fair shake. I just don’t know. It’s… good? Give it a listen. I will keep coming back to this album in the future, which is more than I can say for some others.