Stockholm’s Necrophobic may just be the most unlucky and criminally underrated band to have emerged from Sweden’s glorified extreme metal scene in the ‘90s. Despite a stellar discography carrying a cult classic, the much-adored “The Nocturnal Silence”, the band have been plagued with line-up issues and an undeserved apathy from heavy metal’s mainstream eyes. But their eighth record and Century Media Records debut, “Mark of the Necrogram,” may just earn Necrophobic the success they have deserved for years.
Necrophobic are often compared to countrymen Dissection, and it’s easy to see why. While the Swedish scene was rife with excellent death metal and bands offering a Swedish twist on the classic Norwegian black metal sound, Necrophobic and Dissection offered a genre-defying mix of the two. While Necrophobic plugged away in the ‘90s, creating excellent records but suffering label issues and line-up changes, Dissection released one of the finest records ever to come from Sweden (1995’s “Storming The Light’s Bane), and developed a cult following with Jon Nödtveidt’s murder conviction. Though it’s been over 25 years since these bands started in the creative melting pot of Sweden’s extreme metal scene, the sonic similarities between “Mark of the Necrogram” and Dissection’s early work can still be felt.
“Mark of the Necrogram” should, on paper, be the perfect album for Necrophobic to break the curse that has loomed over them since their inception. It is their debut with one of heavy metal’s “major” labels, Century Media Records, and marks the return of Anders Strokirk on vocals – his first studio performance with Necrophobic since the release of their classic debut, “The Nocturnal Silence.” But, does the quality of the music on this record reflect how important an album this should be for the band?
Absolutely. While not every album in Necrophobic’s back-catalogue is as instantly classic as their debut, there isn’t a bad album to bear their name. Kicking off with the title track, Necrophobic don’t walk the line between death and black metal so much as they dance seamlessly between the two, offering up classic black metal riffs one minute before laying into some devastating, Tampa-esque brutality the next. A trend throughout this album immediately displayed in “Mark of the Necrogram” is the use of absolutely massive hooks that penetrate your skull like an ice-pick. For all its brutality, “Mark of the Necrogram” is a surprisingly catchy album.
There are no filler tracks to be found here, though, of course, some songs are much stronger than others. Opening track and lead single “Mark of the Necrogram” is an immediate favourite, starting its namesake with evil hooks and punishing heaviness in equal measure. “Tsar Bomba” is a surprisingly melodic track, leaning more towards melodic black metal than blackened death, complete with an absolutely massive chorus. The latter part of the album features a triple-hit of top-tier blackened death with “Requiem For A Dying Sun,” “Crown of Horns” and “From The Great Above To The Great Below” all delivering near perfection.
There is very little to complain about with “Mark of the Necrogram.” Stellar song-writing that mixes melody with brutality and a blackened atmosphere is present throughout the entirety of the release, the sound is crisp and clear without being over-produced, and the musicianship is excellent. All in, with a change in luck, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see “Mark of the Necrogram” be a late-career game changer for Necrophobic, drawing them the attention and adoration they have been wrongly denied for far too long.