Necrophobic - In The Twilight Grey

Artist: Necrophobic

Album Title: In The Twilight Grey

Label: Century Media

Date of Release: 15 March 2024

My review of 2020’s ‘Dawn Of The Damned’ was essentially a diatribe aimed squarely at myself and my metal ‘radar’ for allowing Necrophobic to slip past me undetected for so long. I berated myself, wailed to the heavens with imploring hands stretched outwards, and then, once I’d described the album, went into a darkened room for a period of self-recrimination. Melodic blackened death metal is a weak spot for me, an itch that requires scratching on a reasonably regular basis, so to not have ‘discovered’ Necrophobic before then was somehow inconceivable.

Now, happily, I am well aware of the Swedish band and welcome the news of a brand-new studio album, even if the review for it comes a little later than planned. I blame the ridiculously busy release schedule of late but whatever my latest excuse, it’s not really helping me to ingratiate myself with Necrophobic.

And neither is pointing out that, yet again, the quintet has seen a line-up change. Bassist Allan Lundholm has been replaced with Tobias Christiansson for album number ten, ‘In The Twilight Grey’. Tobias now lines up alongside sole remaining founding member Joakim Sterner (drums), Sebastian Ramstedt (lead guitarist), Johan Bergebäck (rhythm guitar), and vocalist Anders Strokirk.

Mind you, there’s an argument for saying that whoever features on a Necrophobic record will do a damn fine job because, once again, the music presented to us is of a high quality and is thoroughly enjoyable. ‘In The Twilight Grey’ boasts a collection of ten new tracks that don’t reinvent any wheels, but which hammer home just how adept the band is at penning ferocious music that’s both vicious and spiteful, yet catchy and memorable. It can often be a tough line to walk, but when it comes to Necrophobic, they make it seem pretty effortless.

That said, it did take me a couple of spins to feel the full effect of the onslaught and to appreciate the more subtle aspects of the songs. Initially, the melodies which are so much a part of the Necrophobic sound felt a little more hidden away within the shadows, eclipsed by a fervent desire to bludgeon the listener first and foremost with their blackened death attack. This is never more evident than with the opening duo of tracks, ‘Grace Of The Past’, followed by ‘Clavis Inerni’.

Necrophobic - In The Twilight Grey

After a brief bass intro, we’re straight into the opener, a rip-roaring blast of fast, icy cold riffing, blastbeats, and black metal dissonance. It’s a thunderous beginning and it takes a while for the subtleties to start to peek through. The chorus is, with time, deceptively catchy, led by a prominent lead guitar line atop more blasts. The pace does slow to allow the riffs to take centre stage and I detect a vague thrash feel, albeit intermingled with dense atmospheres, before a lead guitar solo shoots for the skies. With barely a pause for breath, ‘Clavis Inferni’ sets off at a similar pace to its predecessor and is less overtly melodic overall whilst also managing to snare me in with its grooves and blackened intent.

Things change slightly, though, with the introduction of ‘As Stars Collide’. The pace is slowed to a more mid-tempo stomp alongside an increase in atmospheres, dark theatrics, and melody. There are faster passages to be heard but after the moody opening sets the tone, the bulk of the song revels in hitting the listener with a couple of irresistible earworms. If anything, though, ‘Stormcrow’ turns the melody knob another notch higher and, in so doing, it soon becomes one of my favourites. And yet, the start of the track is pretty harsh and extreme, only releasing its hooks within the simple but effective chorus. I’ve always been a sucker for a catchy riff over a blastbeat and that’s what we get here, made all the better by the chosen guitar tones that I really like. A little surprising is the mid-song break, where Strokirk actually whispers across a pretty reserved and minimalist sonic plateau. And, even more surprising is the time it takes to ratchet back up to full-on aggression, allowing the track to build more slowly and let Ramstedt unleash a rather devastating lead solo in the process.  

Necrophobic also indulge in something a little more drawn-out and ‘epic’ thanks to ‘Shadows Of The Brightest Night’. It stretches in excess of seven-and-a-half minutes, but is packed with malevolent intent and enough strong blackened death metal aggression and frostiness to appease even the coldest heart. And again, the lead guitar solo provides the catchiness that is otherwise reined in, in favour of a more straight-forward heavy bludgeoning.

The second half of the album is, to my taste, equally as strong as the first. For example, how can you not enjoy the hammed-up drama and theatrics of the opening segment to ‘Mirrors Of A Thousand Lakes’, not to mention the wailing spiralling lead breaks that channel their inner thrash? The utterly frantic and exhausting beginning to ‘Cast In Stone’ soon gives way to a mid-tempo gallop to allow the riffs to take centre stage and an eerie-sounding chorus to worm its way insidiously into the brain of anyone foolish enough to listen.

The album closes with an atmospheric, theatrical instrumental in the form of ‘Ascension (Episode Four)’ which I can take or leave if I’m honest. Mind you, it can be forgiven when taken as the calm after the storm of the near-eight-minute title track. A blizzard of blackened riffs come at you with unrelenting force, intermingled with another hugely deceptively melodic embellishment at points. And, if you thought that any of the material up until now was a little on the theatrical side, wait until the latter stages of this composition, where the full force of Necrophobic’s melodic powers are unleashed in a rousing finale that tingles the spine.

Little more needs to be said about ‘In The Twilight Grey’ to be perfectly honest because by now, you’ll already know if you’re going to love it or hate it. Personally, Necrophobic fit squarely within my wheelhouse. I love the aggression, the blackened spite and intensity, and I love the fact that it is delivered with a healthy dose of melody. It might be slightly twisted and malevolent melody, but it speaks volumes to me and ensures I go home happy after each listen. Recommended.

The Score of Much Metal: 89%



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