Extreme Heavy Metal Reviews

Below Average Swedeath - "Mark of the Necrogram" Review (15%)

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Mark of the Necrogram
Mark of the Necrogram by Necrophobic.

Here it is, "Mark of the Necrogram", the eighth full length by Swedish death metal band Necrophobic.

Five years and countless split releases in between, this album marked some kind of return for the band, which seems extremely odd to me as its members had never disappeared - most were always active with dozens of side-projects, notably Dark Funeral and Enslaved, and the fitting basement-record labels willing to toss their stuff into the world.

Anyway, I was curious to check out "Necrogram" and got the album, which comes in a good looking, yet basic sleeve with Necrolord artwork. Necrophobic, Necrogram, Necrolord... you guessed it, they play death metal and want you to know it.

I've followed Necrophobic since their first Incantaclone demos all the way to "The Nocturnal Silence", an album of disputed quality that nonetheless managed to allow Necrophobic to make a name for themselves in the early Swedish death metal scene.

From there on, the band changed music and ideology quite a bit with every subsequent release, of which "Necrogram" is the latest offering. I'm playing this record now for the fifth time, just to get the feel of the album and to see, or rather hear, whether or not it possessed some semblance of musical worth that somehow managed to evade my prior listens.

Though this proved, as often with modern metal, to be unnecessary - it's that predictable, tired trope of generic "melodic death metal" that gets so often compared unfavourably to the worst trends of deathcore. Even the second time it's quite a task to stay focused. It's the typical play-once, wonder "how many times have I heard that riff before", and-forget kind of album, as literally everything on the album has been done before - and much better I might add.

"Mark of the Necrogram" is the type of derivative and boring "death metal" that you'd expect from Behemoth or Belphegor, not from Necrophobic. Ok, they certainly aren't as bad as Behemoth... but still, this is very average "Swedeath" at best.

Below Average Swedeath


The first track "Mark of the Necrogram" is an average one, it's got nothing unusual, the usual blast beats and harmonic minor tremolo riffs are there.

Very much like the album, with which it shares the name, the track is not particularly bad, nor is it particularly good.

It's also not really death metal, if death metal is implied to mean the type of music found on "Pierced from Within" or "The Birth of a Cursed Elysium". Rather, "Mark of the Necrogram" falls into the conveniently vague and generic descriptor of "melodic metal", or "modern metal", much like modern Immortal, Dimmu Borgir or Dissection's "Reinkaos".

If this opening track sets the mood for the album, we're in for unspectacular yet entertaining metal. It has all the standards that also appeared on their previous album, the very average "Womb of Lilithu", and, in fact, it could have been on that album since it follows the same recipe of taking a simple harmonic minor chord progression so generic it could just as well have been featured on a Dark Funeral demo, and building a new song around by adding one or two riffs.

As I said, just like the previous release - and almost all Necrophobic albums before that - pretty unspectactular stuff, but entertaining enough to hear at a friend's place maybe once per year. The following tracks are even less interesting, and when we get to the shameless Phantom-worship on "Requiem for a Dying Sun" the album just goes further and further downhill.

The riffs on "Mark of the Necrogram" mostly resemble Parland/Blackmoon era Necrophobic, basically "The Nocturnal Silence" and "Satanic Blasphemies", which was nothing more than a one-off Bathory clone.

The songs have mostly a thrash metal / pop rock feel to them, for optimal "hum along" catchy riffs, alternated with mid-tempo parts, to have at least some diversity on the album. Even the novice air-guitar type solos are there - you know what I mean, solos for new guitarists to practice to by randomly hitting every note on the neck whilst tremolo-picking all three high strings together.

As on almost all modern "death metal" records, the vocals are really poor imitation death growls that have nothing going on for them except borrowing groove metal's bounciness and mallcore's faux aggression. The vocalist even manages to match each shout with the cadence of the music, like Phil Anselmo of Pantera, hardcore punk and rap rock/nu metal.

Let's be honest for a moment here, as there are too many sensationalist and needlessly negative "this band sucks"/"music like this is an insult to metal"/"made me listen to Bieber"/"worse than Slipknot"/"these posers should retire" type reviews on already.

Almost all of the flaws that plague "Mark of the Necrogram" are the same shortcomings that plague the vast majority, if not the totality, of modern death metal. Necrophobic innovate nothing, neither in positive nor in negative. In fact, compared to say Napalm Death, Kreator's brainless deathcore or Summoning's MIDI emo, "Mark of the Necrogram" is an excellent release.

And yet, "Mark of the Necrogram" epitomizes the artistic bankruptcy of what has been derogatorily called "Swedeath".

A lot of "occult" imagery, very "satanic" lyrics, harmonic minor leads for a Tim Burton like "evil" sound, a lot of blast beats with drums so triggered it sounds like the band used a drum machine - which they don't, and Necrophobic should be lauded for rejecting the trend of replacing their instruments with digital imitations - and forced, mid-pitched cadenced vocals.

The end result is an album without any real substance. It's so generic, so overdone and so standard, it becomes boring after the first listen.

"Mark of the Necrogram" is either a parody of Swedeath, or Necrophobic turning into Dark Funeral to sell more albums to gullible twelve-year-old "satanists" as requested by their label Century Media.

Mark of the Necrogram score: 15/100.

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