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To be honest I wasn’t really bothering myself about Necrocurse at the time, when they’ve been releasing their first couple of 7”EPs, I kind of just wasn’t interested… Or I was, but I didn’t have time and money to buy any of these EPs, as there were some other recordings of other bands, which I focused on instead. But later on I decided to buy “Shape of Death” CD, which is a short compilation of the songs from two EPs of Necrocurse, and well, along with really cool small shape disc I got a really killer thrashing death / black metal and became truly possessed by the music of this Swedish horde. I started to regret that I didn’t buy those 7”EPs at the time when they were easily available, but well, I cannot change the past now and besides, at least I have “Shape of Death”. Meanwhile 2013 brought us a debut full length album of Necrocurse titled “Grip of the Dead” and I can say that this truly is one of the most awesome CDs, which I have bought this year. First of all the graphics and whole look of the digipack is simply astonishing! The quality and colouring is just amazing, with the yellow / gold colour, which really shines and with many killer band photos in the booklet and some other stuff… definitely Pulverized Records did excellent job, when designing and releasing this album. I think I can say that for sure it is one of the best looking digipacks, which I have in my collection. I actually wanted to get the vinyl version of “Grip of the Dead” (100 copies came with saw-shaped slipmat – what a killer idea!!!), but I wasn’t lucky to get it, but I don’t regret now as that digipack is also really, really nice.
But as the saying says “don’t judge the book by its cover” – not always a killer artwork equals killer music and vice versa, right? But in case of Necrocurse I was already sure that the music will bring something remarkable and now, after listening to “Grip of the Dead” about two dozens of times I can only repeat that – Necrocurse shreds! And I can assure you that if you felt frenzy and erection when listening to some of the recent (already classic!) releases such as “Sleepers In the Rift” (Morbus Chron), “In Putrescence” (Stench), “Horror” (Tribulation) or “Deceased to Exist” (Maim) and obviously if you’re also a huge maniac of the Entombed / Dismember / Merciless / Nifelheim / Necrophobic cult, then “Grip of the Dead” is a must have for you. This Swedish troop of death joins the old school styles of death and thrash in excellent, fresh and powerful way and damn, it is just a precious thing to get something so energetic, rotten and lethal. Necrocurse I think sounds like a mixture of old German thrash metal with a huge dose of the classic Swedish death metal, what is especially audible in many harmonious parts, which are spread over the whole album. Sometimes those melodies really reminds me what Necrophobic has been doing on their recent LPs, another time it is just a classic Dismember riff, but played maybe in more archaic way… I don’t know how to describe it, anyway if you’ve listened to Morbus Chron LPs, then I can assure you that the feeling of the music on “Grip of the Dead” is very similar, but maybe the whole album is better written and more straight forward, even more traditional and thrashing.
The best thing about “Grip of the Dead” is the fact that the riffs, which fill the album, are just so damn beautiful and possessing. They infect my mind every time I listen to them and it is almost impossible to resist them and just to sit on the chair and scratch your ass. You must do something – bang your head, throw your fist, scream the chorus parts… do whatever, but the energy of this music will certainly fill your body and demand some reaction. In example that awesome song called “The Devil Cobra” – it is really, really fantastic and memorable tune, with the archaic riffs, which sound so damn excellent that every time I hear it I just scream “the devil cobra!!!!!!!”. And I don’t care if my wife looks at me like I was insane… and trust me, I feel like insane, when listening to this album. “The Devil Cobra” is one song, but the whole tracklist is filled with more possible classics: “Necrocurse”, “Ripping Darkness (the Destroyer)”, “Grip of the Dead”, “Morbid Maniacs” – all these songs will hook you up and rip the guts out without any mercy. For sure I can say that Necrocurse done an album, which I hoped Merciless will finally do. More so, the atmosphere of this music is just perfect – dark, thrilling, obscure and morbid, sometimes it just sounds like a sort of horror soundtrack… perfect. And the production is spotless; especially the guitar tone is just fantastic. I have nothing more to say and desire… I am dead. Recommended!!!!!
Oh, sorry, before I finish… I must add that when I was buying “Shape of Death” CD I didn’t have a clue who plays in Necrocurse. Obviously now I know that the line up consists of individuals from such bands as Runemagick, Sacramentum, Masticator… and the vocals are handled by no one else, but Necrobutcher from the mighty Nifelheim. Can that be enough to get you into this album? Whoever plays in Necrocurse the most important is the fact that the music slays. Death metal rebels!
Standout tracks: “Necrocurse”, “The Devil Cobra”, “Ripping Darkness (the Destroyer)”, “Grip of the Dead”, “Morbid Maniacs”
Final rate: 90/100
If albums like Morbus Chron's Sleepers in the Rift, Necrovation's eponymous sophomore, and Tribulation's recent Formulas of Death are any indicator, 'tis the season of Swedish death metal ceasing its long spell of fucking around and paraphrasing its own 90s blueprints to the point of utter sterility and senility. While it doesn't go quite so far out on a skeletal limb as these other acts, and its membership hardly a rabble of newcomers to this scene, Necrocurse's full-length debut Grip of the Dead is yet another entry into the cemetery sweeps, a compact, crushing revision of its more overt influences into something digestible to the nostalgia hunter who seeks a little gruesome authenticity in his death and black metal. It interprets the fundamentals in its own way. I won't say it's thoroughly memorable or catchy, or as great as some of the works by several of its individual members, but I had some fun with it as a fiendish exhibition.
First off, if you don't enjoy Per 'Hellbutcher' Gustavsson, then fuck right the fuck off. If, on the other hand, you have found yourself drooling over his past works in Nifelheim, one of the more raw, wonderful and abusive acts in that whole European blackened thrash market, and wondered to yourself 'what if Per had gone on to front one of the formative Swedish death metal bands in the early 90s rather than walking the blacker path?' (which he sort of did for a brief time on stage with Treblinka). Grip of the Dead is the answer to that question, and it's an answer that stabs a pitchfork straight up your nethers while sipping blood from a goblet formed of a Christian's skull. Expect some of that old Sunlight guitar tone to be dripping in Hellbutcher's infernal inflection, and you've pretty much got the gist of what's happening with this one. The arrangement of the riffing is duly primitive, with a mixture of uptempo tremolo picked passages and slower, lodestone grooves, but I found that a lot of the actual note progressions were somehow more primitive and didn't just ape Entombed.
There were a few grooves which reminded me of Massive Killing Capacity era Dismember on their first three records, or Runemagick (a band that the Necrocurse rhythm section hails from), and the guitar tone is clearly meant to represent that period, but the inclusion of Per's vocals really transforms it into some even more nihilistic. Great examples include "Death Metal Rebels", "Speed to the Grave" or "Grip of the Dead" itself, which hammer along with a fiery if simplistic energy. The bass lines are fairly minimal, but provide a lot of low end depth that creates a hellish throne for the riffing and snarling. Beats are also held back from being too spiffy or indulgent in terms of their speed and fill work; instead, the kick drums are live and workmanlike, and there's a nice low din of crash to the cymbals and hi-hat which enforces the humble performance. A few doomed melodies will often erupt over a rhythm guitar, and the leads are efficaciously messy and molten, but not to the point where they feel as if their potential impact wasn't carefully planned.
It's not mind boggling. Nor is it science. Grip of the Dead is not an album about innovation or technicality whatsoever, it is simply clashing together the aesthetics of two parent genres to produce something repulsive and entertaining, with absolutely zero degree of pretentious intentions. It's also not perfect: there are times when I felt like the guitar progressions were a little too bare bones. Not necessarily too familiar, but just not constructed with enough compelling charisma that they can distract the ear away from Hellbutcher's snarls. A group whose roster hails from luminaries like Runemagick, Swordmaster, and Nifelheim could probably bring a lot more A-game to the table. But in of itself, the very idea of allowing Gustavsson to retch rancidly over some primitive, pummeling death metal is a brilliant one. There is a slice of the underground who will love this record just for its honesty and traditional values, but I think it could still be perfected with some stronger, eviller sounding chord progressions and dynamic writing.