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An Under-Rated Classic Debut! - 90%

SoulCancer, November 29th, 2009

Remember when death metal was something new, and there weren't any clone bands? You know, that era where everyone was still trying to really define what death metal was? Necrophagia are one of those bands that don't sound like anyone else at the time, and it worked out really well for them on Season of the Dead.

Season of the Dead, if you really wanted to pin it down to one thing, was horror movie inspired death metal. There are songs about zombies, mutants, killers from slasher movies, and even some dedicated to Evil Dead (Ancient Slumber) and Bela Lugosi (Insane for Blood). Compared to other bands at the time (Mantas / Death, Xecutioner / Obituary, Morbid Angel, and so on), the content wasn't that much different, but the Satan card is never really played.

But it all comes down to the music for this one: instrumentally, this is a heavier version of thrash metal along with enough distortion and speed to propel it past your typical thrash at the time. Also of note is the unconventional use, in that era, of keyboards, acoustic guitars, electronic effects on vocals, tape slowing, and time changes all the while maintaining a foreboding atmosphere.

Finally, Killjoy's vocals were very unique - they're half spoken, half throaty rasp that one would imagine would be more fitting for a zombie, or maybe even a black metal vocalist? Quorthon and Mayhem are both thanked in the credits, but it's not a far stretch to say that every band they could think of was thanked - the "thanks" takes the entire two internal pages of my copy! Either way, no death metal vocalist sounded like this, and made for a unique and interesting album.

Starting from the beginning, we're taken on a journey. We are lulled in by the calm, yet dark acoustic into before Forbidden Pleasure kicks in, taking us to a sonic slasher flick with the occasional zombie chewing up the scenery. I hesitate to call this "death metal", because it stood out from the rest of the pack. The riffs themselves sometimes sound like they were lifted from horror movie soundtracks - possibly Goblin was an influence in that respect. But from start to finish, this is a solid album that deserves to be listened to from start to finish, as there isn't one filler track here. All of the riffs, leads, drumming, vocals, bass playing (and yes, you can hear the bassist - clearly) and effects are a complete work that works more effectively as a whole album rather than a collection of songs.

If I had to nitpick, I'd say that Killjoy's vocals aren't for everyone on this release. While he would further develop and expand on his style in later years, it's here where something new is being created: something untouched, untried and unheard of. And there are effects on about 20% of the vocals, so it's not a wholly natural performance. However, watching Dawn of the Dead demands you just saw a zombie take a man off of a motorcycle and eat him in the middle of a mall, and the Friday the 13th movies demand you believe Jason is still alive after being shot, stabbed, hung, bludgeoned, beaten and dismembered. With that in mind, the vocals fit perfectly.

This is a necessary album for any true old school death metal fan to have in their collection, as it helped in the development of a sound that, once cut into form, became too common. A lot of the death metal bands of today are clones of one of the original masters and are therefore diluted versions of a potent drug. Season of the Dead, then, is the same drug in concentrated form.

And, if you really had to pick stand-out songs (a problem since they all stand out for me), listen to Season of the Dead / Forbidden Pleasure (they're both track 1 on my CD), Insane for Blood, Ancient Slumber, Mental Decay and Terminal Vision. But you're cheating yourself if you don't listen to the whole album and fully experience it.