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*Insert Star Wars reference* - 83%

Razakel, August 31st, 2011

1997 wasn’t an ideal time for Swedish black or death metal bands to try and get their stuff out there and get noticed, what with Dissection having just released their two legendary consecutive masterpieces. When Necrophobic put out Darkside, I imagine the rest of the country was still too busy salivating over Storm of the Light’s Bane to give it the attention it rightfully deserved but, thankfully, I get the impression Necrophobic didn’t give much of a shit. Their souls had long been possessed by a greater evil and making this special brand of icy, razor sharp black metal with a hint of death only seemed natural, even if it did sound undeniably quite similar to the godfathers of the scene at the time. The more the merrier, I say, and in retrospect this album has aged beautifully.

The first thing you may notice about this album is the gorgeous cover art. Perhaps not something everyone pays much mind to, but it’s certainly always a bonus to me. Not only is it a lovely painting in its own right, but I can’t help but to find myself staring at it as I listen to the darkness within the music it represents. Just where does that foreboding passage lead? To whom does that sinister fortress belong? What unspeakable sorceries painted the skies above blood red? Note how proud and resolute the Necrophobic logo rests atop. The second thing you might notice is the decidedly simpler album title compared to the 1993 debut, The Nocturnal Silence. Surely they were tempted to name the album after one of the cooler, more blasphemous, song titles like Black Moon Rising or Nailing the Holy One. Oh well, enough nitpicking and on with the music.

Darkside is a very fast paced album. The duration itself is quite short, and the songs whiz by like an exciting page-turning book. There are no lame fade-outs and most of the songs kick off with a blast. Things only properly slow down with the few instrumental interludes dispersed throughout the album, and I’m actually left wondering if the overall album would be more violently convincing without them. Nice pieces of music, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Necrophobic decided to tack them on when they realized the material they had didn’t quite make up enough time for a full length album. Venaesectio is a truly beautiful piano melody but Necrophobic just don’t come across as the vampyric Romantics that (I hate to draw the comparison again) Dissection were at the time, and when placed in between two burstingly aggressive tracks it's loveliness seems a bit undermined. Nifelhel, on the other hand, is the only metal instrumental and is actually one of my favourite moments of the album. Certainly the most melodic riffs here, and damn, they sound absolutely great. For some reason it doesn’t throw off the more in-your-face tone of the rest of the songs, and the guitar melodies beam through like bright forks of lightening in the dead of night. This could actually be my favourite song off the album. Other highlights include the mostly mid-paced title track in which the riffs and vocals complement each other for some brilliant verses, and the opening line: “Satan take my SOOOOUUUULLLLL” is simply badass. Nailing the Holy One almost comes off as a sort of anthem, with its chug-like riffs leading into a frenzied blur of blastbeats and storming guitar. At just under three minutes, it’s a to-the-point encapsulation of basically everything this album boasts to offer.

I’m not entirely familiar with the rest of Necrophobic’s career, but I reckon this is a great place to start. It doesn’t leave too much to be desired. Pacing could be improved, but the songs are top quality and the continuity still plays through quite nicely. I imagine this is probably already a valued piece of a lot of your collections, but if you’re looking for some fast ’90s Swedish death/black metal, suck it up and join the dark side.