Artist: Necrophobic

Album Title: Dawn Of The Damned

Label: Century Media Records

Date of Release: 9 October 2020

Oh for the love of all that is evil, not again. How the devil did I let Necrophobic pass me by until now? I mean, HOW? I love blackened death metal, especially the kind that injects overt melody into the abrasive, aggressive tumult. And that’s exactly what Necrophobic bring here, on ‘Dawn Of The Damned’. And it isn’t as if this is their second or third record since recently forming. Oh, no. The Swedes have been around since 1989, when I could still count my age in single digits. What an utter, unmitigated cock-up on my part. I’m actually incredulous with myself right now, seriously contemplating my ‘Man Of Much Metal’ tag, and whether it should be replaced with ‘Idiot of Some Metal’.

Ok, enough of the self-flagellation, I have an album to review and what an album it is. Representing their ninth full-length studio release over the course of three decades, it is an album that has made an incredibly strong impact upon me. And, whilst I have no frame of reference to back me up, this record would also appear to more than ably demonstrate that the quintet have lost none of their hunger or bite over the years.  

Mind you, the Necrophobic of 2020 is rather different than the late 80s Necrophobic, with only drummer Joakim Sterner remaining as an original member. He’s joined now, by guitarists Johan Bergebäck and Sebastian Ramstedt, vocalist Anders Strokirk, and newest recruit of all, bassist Allan Lundholm. Together, they create a formidable sound, one that I like very much indeed.

Opener ‘Aphelion’ gives little away at the outset. It is a typically dark and claustrophobic intro piece, full of orchestrated drama and malevolence. But despite the increasingly robust use of guitars on top of a haunting lead line, it doesn’t really prepare me for what’s to come during the next nine songs and forty-five minutes.

‘Darkness Be My Guide’ takes over and wastes literally no time in ripping me apart, thanks to an intense rhythmic battery and swift, sharp riffs. The feel is much more on the black side than death, but either way, it’s an aggressive affair, especially when the gravelly bark of Anders Strokirk joins the party. It’s good and has my attention, but it isn’t until the two minute mark when the magic really happens. You can suddenly hear the bass of Allan Lundholm come through during a brief respite before suddenly, we’re treated to a killer melody that has one foot in the 80s, inspired by the NWOBHM scene for sure. The lead guitar line that segues into a wailing solo is catchy and memorable, but completely in keeping with the overall dark tone of the music.

Necrophobic 2020 (left to right): Johan Bergebäck (rhythm guitars) Allan Lundholm (bass) Anders Strokirk (vocals) Joakim Sterner (drums) Sebastian Ramstedt (lead guitars)

A flash in the pan? It must be surely, because I can’t have missed a band of that calibre for so long, can I? But no, there’s no let up to my embarrassment or the quality of the music. ‘Mirror Black’ is next and after a creepy intro, it thunders from the speakers with an immediately arresting groove and accompanying melody led by a shrieking lead guitar line, before returning to all-out attack complete with fast but precise playing from all corners of the band. The riffs and leads are rapid, the drumming is frenetic, the bass is a rumbling blur of notes, but the musicianship remains intact, carrying the listener on the crest of a wave for the whole song, that reverts back to the opening groovy melody from time to time.

Speaking of groove, ‘Tartarian Winds’ is simply irresistible for that very reason; it rattles along at a fair pace, but has a lightness about it that I really like. It feels like it is skipping along, whilst tearing the righteous apart at the same time. Cool lead guitar playing enhances the track, a surprisingly melodic song that gets the head bobbing along in full appreciation.

The intro to ‘The Infernal Depths of Infinity’ is pure theatre, complete with Maiden-esque guitar-and-bass melody, tolling bells and the screams of tortured souls. At over seven minutes in length, it has more of an epic air to it, as well as the time and space to offer variety. The melodies remain but in general, they are slightly less pronounced, as the band explore a more atmospheric approach. It may be a song that takes longer to hit the mark, but thanks to a compelling and rousing final sequence, it soon becomes a winner for me.

If I’m being completely honest, I will admit to preferring the first half of the record more than the second. Mind you, thanks to cracking songs like ‘The Return Of A Long lost Soul’ and closing thrashy firecracker, ‘Devil’s Spawn Attack’ featuring Destruction’s Schmier nestled within, there’s not a lot in it in fairness.

I’m still shaking my head in disbelief, unable to comprehend just how I managed to let these guys fly under my radar for so long. Maybe I have to accept that my radar isn’t as finely-tuned as I thought it was, and accept my punishment. Or, I could instead be delighted that I have another hefty back catalogue of great music to explore. Yes, I’ll do that. In the meantime, I’m going to spin ‘Dawn Of The Damned’ once again, a truly great addition to the pantheon of blackened death metal.

The Score of Much Metal: 90%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Fates Warning – Long Day Good Night

Draconian – Under A Godless Veil

Mörk Gryning – Hinsides Vrede

DGM – Tragic Separation

Perduratum – Exile’s Anthology

Carcass – Despicable EP

Mors Principium Est – Seven

Cult Of Lilith – Mara

Helion Prime – Question Everything

Soul Secret – Blue Light Cage

Enslaved – Utgard

Dynfari – Myrkurs er þörf

Amaranthe – Manifest

Kataklysm – Unconquered

Structural Disorder – Kingdom Crossing

Skeletal Remains – The Entombment Of Chaos

Prehistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)

Ihsahn – Pharos

Hinayana – Death Of The Cosmic
Oceans Of Slumber – Oceans Of Slumber
Okyr – Premorbid Intelligence
Manticora – To Live To Kill To Live
Pain Of Salvation – Panther
Vanishing Point – Dead Elysium
Unleash The Archers – Abyss
Veonity – Sorrows
Nyktophobia – What Lasts Forever
Ages – Uncrown
Awake By Design – Awake By Design
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Gaerea – Limbo
Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine
Navian – Reset
Selenseas – The Outer Limits
Quantum – The Next Breath Of Air
Ensiferum – Thalassic
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Airbag – A Day At The Beach
Re-Armed – Ignis Aeternum
Atavist – III: Absolution
Frost* – Others EP
Darker Half – If You Only Knew
Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews