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In the following review, I'm going to try my best to describe a nearly indescribable album. I wish I could give an unbiased review, but I love this album far too much to look at it from a grey area. In all realism, reading a review is probably the worst way to get a feel for this masterpiece, as the best way to understand this album is to go and listen to it yourself. If you haven't given 'Stench' a listen I implore you to go check it out now. Listen to the full album multiple times and really burn it into your brain because it is absolutely fantastic. It's not just good, it's genuinely something special. And as I've already said, it's pretty much indescribable.
To start with, each Nekrogoblikon album is vastly different from the last, and this album in particular stands out to me. I believe it's because despite being a gimmick band, they toned the goblin factor down a few notches from the previous release (aptly named 'Goblin Island.') The end result is that this album is far more melodic and mature, yet, it still has enough goblin antics to split sides. They went the complete opposite direction after this album, and their latest album, 'Heavy Meta,' is just about as silly and lighthearted as a metal release can be. If you've listened to Heavy Meta and are expecting a similarly lighthearted album with Stench, I'm afraid you will be let down. This album is 90% melodic death with folk influences and a mere 10% hilarity, with the goofiest song probably being "A Feast."
One of the most enjoyable things about this album is how it consistently shows how good this band can really be, as most gimmick bands are complete shit. Time and time again, I found myself impressed by the shear amount of thought and emotion each section of every song contains. It's constantly entertaining.
Perhaps I love this album because it cleverly weaves in and out of being cliche and fun, straight to dark, technical, and original. most of the time I can't even tell when I should laugh or be impressed. Whether I should angrily sing along to the goblin themed lyrics or just sit back and feel the song writing prowess. It's amazing how in depth this seemingly pointless album actually is. Maybe I just enjoy the gall the Nekrogoblikon crew must have to even release such a technical, yet only semi-serious album. Again, Stench might not be as ridiculous as the previous album, nor is it as obscure as the albums that follow, but it's mildly serious tone is what makes it even more of a pleasantly baffling album.
When it comes down to picking apart this album instrument by instrument, I would like to start with the guitars. The riff crafting and placement is unrivaled, each guitar lick and solo created to fit into every song seamlessly. They didn't just create guitar riffs to fill in empty spaces, each riff feels like it's actually designed to be there. No riff is boring, and every single note does exactly what it was meant to do. Whether the goal of the guitarist was to lie behind the keyboards, to dive into an absolutely magnificent chorus, or maybe even to make you giggle, there really isn't a time where I thought they could have written something better. Unlike most albums, in any sub-genre of metal, absolutely everything about the guitar fits in every single section, and I can't stress that enough. I'd have to say the most outstanding guitar work can be found in the songs ''Invasion" and ''The Plague,'' with The Plague being a phenomenal song. Not to forget, very depressing.
Similarly, the keyboards are an amazing addition to the album, and they really reinforce why having a keyboardist doesn't have to be a bad thing for a metal band. They are not distracting when they are meant to enhance, but are easily noticeable when it is Nekrogoblikon's intent to let them lead. In the previously mentioned song A Feast, there's a good 11 seconds where a shockingly funny keyboard section appears out of nowhere, only to end just as abruptly. It's very reminiscent of Crash Bandicoot, and it fits hilariously well. I guarantee it will make you smile a little bit, even if you don't normally like comedy spilled onto your metal. A synth/keyboard solo soon follows, making A Feast truly something enjoyable to listen to for keyboard fans. I highly recommend checking out this song and "Goblin Box" in particular. Both songs are among the most well written on the album, with Goblin Box having a more bittersweet sound to it.
The vocal work is top notch and very unique, easily my second favorite thing about Stench, sitting right behind all the depressing melodies throughout the album. His highs are retching and pretty fucking gross (exactly what I'd expect a goblin to sound like), and his sparse lows are supreme. Lyrically, this album shifts between depressing, disgusting, and joyously sinister at will. Some songs are just meant to lighten the mood with some goblin mass homicide, and other songs are genuinely meant to tell a pretty detailed story. But, you know, with goblins in it. There are, however, a couple shady cleans in a few songs and I will admit that they are very sudden and can be distracting to someone who isn't a fan of clean vocals. His voice isn't bad, nor is it boring, it's simply odd. To me, the cleans are just as brilliant as the music behind it, with the vocalist letting his peculiar singing voice add to the albums awkward tone. The ending to ''Return To The Sky'' is perfect, with one of the best ending screams I've heard to date, and ''Prince of The Land Of Stench'' has one section so disturbingly well written that you won't be able to help repeat listens.
if I had to be disappointed about anything, it would have to be the both the drum work and the audibility of the bass. But do not worry, as I don't have any particularly harsh things to say about the rhythm section, only passing notes. The drummer is not incapable, far from it, but he doesn't really shine through during any part in the album. Instead he more or less relies on relatively simple beats and fills to let the decently complex songs breath and flow. The drums are basically just there to keep time on Stench, which isn't really a bad thing. The bass is practically inaudible throughout. This would be very depressing, but, it's simply common for this sub-genre. I can't really nitpick the bass all too much without acknowledging the fact that melodic death metal has never been known for incredible bass work. Truth be told, I refuse to really bash this album for something I never expected from it anyways. I'm not even sure a constantly audible bass player could have added to the album at all, as each song is filled to the brim with talent already.
With my combined distaste for both the drummer's straightforward approach and the bass player's relatively quiet playing, I will have to subtract 1% from this albums final score (shocking, I know.) In truth, neither the bass nor the drums is what was supposed to be highlighted on this expedition of a release, and that is the ultimate reason why I feel like neither of those two things affect Stench.
I'd have to recommend this for folk metal and melodic death metal fans, and you have to be able to take a joke if you want to enjoy the album. Honestly though, I can't stress how much I love it. I have listened to each song separately countless times, and I've listened to the full album stream even more than that. I will continue to do so until, according to the album, I will inevitably be attacked and murdered by bears.
It'll pull on your goblin loving heartstrings, and it'll make you smile; Stench is a masterpiece. 9.9/10
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.