Album Title: Burning Shadows In the Southern Light
Label: Season Of Mist
Date of Release: 2 June 2023
Some of you may remember as far back as October 2021, and my review of the debut full-length release from Necrofier. If you do, you’ll recall that ‘Prophecies Of Eternal Darkness’ was a bit of a hit with me, the Texas-based black metal band hitting the ground running and impressing with their fire, hunger, and ability to blend savagery and dark melody with precision and deftness. Naturally then, when news of the follow-up reached me, I was keen to take a listen. The result is ‘Burning Shadows In The Southern Light’ which, once again, is being released on the Season Of Mist label.
I’m immediately drawn to the press release that accompanies this sophomore effort, as it talks about the fact that Necrofier wanted to create a more organic sound to their music. Band mastermind and pot-banger-in-chief Dobber Beverly is crystal clear in his desire to take Necrofier away from, as he puts it, the ‘clinical and sterile nature that most productions suffer from’, preferring to go ‘back into a real room with real instruments and performances.’ It’s a bold statement and one that’s likely to ruffle a few feathers. But I get what he means completely. To achieve this ambition, Necrofier enlisted the help of Joel Hamilton, the Grammy-nominated producer seven times over, who Beverly and Co. got to know well after working together on the last Oceans Of Slumber album, ‘Starlight And Ash’.
The approach has definitely paid off too, because ‘Burning Shadows In The Southern Light’ is a record that feels alive, and definitely has a feeling of being recorded live, as a band, warts and all. It isn’t a raw, underproduced sound however, like a lot of the more underground black metal entities go for. Instead, there’s an unexpected warmth to the material, created by the quartet comprised of Dobber Beverly on the drums, bassist Mat Valentine, and guitarists Bakka Larson and Semir Ozerkan, the former of which also delivers the vocals. Warmth there is, but as well, there’s an energy and authenticity that comes through as you listen.
Funnily enough, in keeping with my review of the debut, I have to start the more in-depth analysis of the songs themselves with the fourth track. With a strange, and unsettling symmetry, it is the fourth track of this sophomore effort that, like the debut, is my undeniable favourite, and deserves top billing in this review. No surprises for guessing that it might be one of the most immediate tracks on the album, too. Kicking off with a cool lead guitar melody, it is soon joined by some thunderous drumming and bruising guitar/bass notes, which come together and open up into an infectious extreme metal composition, equal parts black metal and NWOBHM to these ears, the latter emphasised by plenty of wailing lead guitar solos and the swagger that permeates. The rasping growls, alongside the earthy thud of the double pedal drumming leave you in no doubt that this isn’t friendly music, though, the sense of darkness and evil, underground intent palpable, especially when the song delves into a short doom-laden section, replaced by faster material, and then haunting choral vocals to add real atmosphere to the composition.
There are a couple of tracks that I’m a little less keen on, but what it demonstrates is the Necrofier do not want to be pigeonholed, and ‘Burning Shadows In the Southern Light’ is a more varied, eclectic beast because of it.
The opener is a gentle piano-led instrumental piece that’s at once beautifully fragile but equally mysterious, brooding, and dark. It’s like the opening to a horror film score, pulling you in because of its subtle beauty and not letting you go until it’s too late. The female operatic vocals, and gradual increase in tension works really well, acting as the uneasy appetiser for what is to follow.
And, what follows, is ‘Total Southern Darkness’, another album highlight. The riffs are slow for a black metal band, but it doesn’t matter a jot. The drumming is eager, as are the spiteful vocals, and together, they coax a much more typical black metal assault out of the guitars. Thus, in time, fast-picked riffing and cold, harsh lead sounds emerge to attack the listener, albeit still cloaked in more traditional heavy metal attire, from the chosen melodies at points, to the playfulness in terms of tempo changes. Again, Necrofier are not ones to shun the power of a lead guitar solo or two, and whilst the one that emerges in the latter stages might be a little harsher than others elsewhere, it still packs a punch.
It feels like the ghost of Venom and others of their ilk has infiltrated the band at the outset of ‘To The Wolves’, thanks to the relatively simple, thrash-infused riff that dominates and leads from the front. It also happens to be one of the most harsh and aggressive songs on the album, too, further emphasising the desire for experimentation and variety within the band. I have to say, too, that the organic production works a treat on this song, infusing it with the kind of energy and raw power that a more polished sound might remove.
You can’t help but love the opening riff to ‘Destroying Angels’ either, as it has a dirtiness and swagger to it that is rather infectious. The track descends more into something a little more akin to symphonic black metal at points, with subtle melodies at play underneath the fast, multi-layered attack. However, this is achieved as far as I can tell, with little to no real orchestration to speak of, just a little by way of synths unless my ears deceive me. Be under no illusion, ‘Burning Shadows In the Southern Light’ is not a sophisticated beast, but the musicians make everything come alive with their abilities and abundant desire to be authentic and natural. When done like this, it can be a potent weapon, and Necrofier understand this.
Another prime example arrives in the form of the superb ‘Whispers That Burn In The Dark’. It kicks off at lightning speed, pure ‘classic’ black metal tumbling from the speakers, a little reminiscent of early Cradle Of Filth at their best. Then, suddenly, on a sixpence, we’re transported to something much more influenced by classic metal, all groove and melody, whilst maintaining an air of malevolence as befits a black metal band first and foremost. ‘The All Seeing Shadows’ then reintroduces a female operatic voice to properly chilling effect, just to further underline the band’s apparent desire to be as varied and interesting as possible.
I may have been impressed by their debut, but with ‘Burning Shadows In the Southern Light’, I am equally as affected. It is often said that the second album is the hardest, but as far as Necrofier are concerned, it hasn’t seemingly been an issue. Hit them hard, grab them by the throat, toy with them, entertain them, and then finish them off in as nasty and raw a way as possible. That seems to be the Necrofier modus operandi with this album, and it works. I’d have loved just a smidge more melody in places if I’m being entirely honest but otherwise, it’s hard to fault this record. Let’s hope that Necrofier are around to create more music in the years to come. If they are, I’ll be willing and ready to listen.
The Score of Much Metal: 88%