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In a world of metal mascots overwhelmingly dominated by zombie-like figures and skeletons, Nekrogoblikon have found the obvious (yet somehow overlooked) solution in the form of goblins. If you haven't already seen Nekrogoblikon's music video for "No One Survives" then do yourself a favor and check it out. Nekrogoblikon's first album 'Goblin Island' fused comedy and folk metal together with sometimes bad results. 'Stench' brings to the table a more mature approach to the fusion of comedic themes and heavy metal. They have also traded the folk-metal elements and comedy sketches in exchange for a better produced modern metal sound.
Vocalist Scorpion is a joy to listen to on this record. His harsh vocals are really unique, often disgusting and torturous sounding. The clean vocals sprinkled throughout are also well performed. Everything on this record is a grand elaboration on 'Goblin Island', the guitar and keyboards are absolutely fantastic. The leads mesh well with the vocals and steal the spotlight when they're on their own. Not overly technical wankery, but every lead is appropriate for the part. The bass is the only aspect of the band I wish was more prominent, though I'm not complaining. Perhaps the bassist is simply not concerned with being a prominent role in the band.
The songwriting is sensible and always throwing curve balls. A dub-step intro on "Nekropolis" is the prime example for this as well as a few audio clips from movies ('The Labyrinth' appears twice). It's Nekrogoblikon's willingness to experiment and embrace the silly that makes them so charming and interesting, I think. So many modern metal bands are concerned with the extremes of either being totally serious or being totally silly. In the metal world at large there are also too many people who are concerned with being "true", people who take themselves and their genre a little too seriously. Nekrogoblikon's willingness to embrace the loony, to use dub-step in real heavy metal, and to sing about goblins and bears is a breath of fresh air.
Overall, this is a fantastic album which is a perfect progression from their rough around the edges debut. If you like heavy metal, death metal, or progressive metal, then you will find at least a handful of songs on this album appealing. The energy of this album is so genuine and fun, but also heavy as hell. Nekrogoblikon are destined for greatness if they continue in this way, heavy metal roots with plenty of experimentation and insanity dotted throughout.
Highlights include "Prince of the Land of Stench", "Bears", and "Nekropolis".
Nekrogoblikon the kings of “goblin metal” (or should I say melo-death/folk metal?) are back with another glorious release, simply titled Stench. For those of you who are not familiar with this band, I urge you to stop reading this now, and go give their debut album Goblin Island a listen because I plan to refer back to that album constantly in this review.
The first thing I noticed when listening to the songs on the new album is the slight reduction of their goblin theme. On their first record, every song in one way or another referenced goblins to some degree, and in more situations than not, talked about goblins exclusively; however, on Stench the goblin shtick has been dialed down slightly. Worry not my fellow goblin lovers, the goblin theme is still featured highly through the entire release, it’s just not exclusively about goblins. Some other lyrical themes featured on Stench include: Bears eating people, Giant Birds (once again) eating people, and smelly princes from smelly kingdoms.
So thematic silliness (or awesomeness as I would say) aside, the music on Stench is a vast improvement over Goblin Island. As with the previous release, the guitar-work is still great. The riffs are still heavy and epic, and the lead work is still very melodic and technical. While Goblin Islands guitar-work was great, every aspect of the guitar duo has improved. In a word, the guitars sound “bigger”. The solos are more impressive, the harmonies are more epic and the riffs in general are just heavier.
Even more so than the guitar-work the keyboards on this album are way better. The keys still retain the campy folksiness that they possessed on Goblin Island, however the symphonic aspects have been further implemented as well as the occasional “techno” section. I normally hate when electronica is incorporated into metal or rock but these sections were done very tastefully.
Just as the guitar-work and keyboard sections have improved, the vocals have also skyrocketed in quality. This vocalist is still implementing all the same styles as Goblin Island, however everything is much more polished. His screams, grunts and growls are more solid, and less raw, while retaining every ounce of aggression from the previous album. The real improvement of the vocals on Stench however, are in the clean vocals. The clean singing on this record is still nothing to write home about (this guy is no Rob Halford) but they won’t take anything away from the experience like they did on Goblin Island; in fact, the clean singing on this record (while campy) are actually kind of good and their silliness fits pretty well in songs like ‘Bears’ and ‘Return to the Sky’.
The biggest improvement on the new album can be found in it’s rhythm section. Unlike the last album, the bass and drums are played by actual human beings (though they would claim they are goblins) as opposed to Goblin Island which had a synthesized rhythm section. I still wish the bass was a bit louder in the mix, but neither folk metal or melodic death metal are particularly known for it’s bass-work so being able to hear the bass at all is a plus.
Unlike the last album, Stench has absolutely no filler tracks; there has been no moment where I felt the need to skip a song. Stench is truly an album to be listened to cover to cover, it is just such a masterpiece that it baffles me this band isn’t signed yet. While I truly love this album, and would be my vote for album of the summer (if not year) it does have some minor problems. It’s campy; just like a b rated horror movie. Nekrogoblikon is humorous, corny and fun but ultimately gory, aggressive and metal as all hell just like any one of my favorite horror movies. The problem here is some people have no sense of humor so this will take away from the experience for some purists. Also as previously stated, the bass could be louder.
Overall, I’d give this album 94%. I take off a couple of points due to the mix of the bass and it’s less than perfect clean vocals, but other than that I really love this album. I’d recommend this band to anyone who is a fan of Finntroll, Nordheim and Wintersun. Tracks to give special attention to include: Bears, Nekropolis, and Return to the Sky.