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Rise! The Serpent! - 88%

Larry6990, May 16th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Century Media Records

The unconquerable machine that is Necrophobic strikes again! It's been a full five years since the release of the Swedish masters' previous LP Womb Of Lilithu and, considering that left a tiny bit to be desired, the expectations were through the roof. Necrophobic's 2018 release had to be something special that both reaffirms the band's relevance in today's environment and pushes the envelope slightly. Thankfully, Mark Of The Necrogram does exactly that. No fan should be left with a bitter taste of any kind, because this album is exactly the kind of satanic glory for which the band are renowned, sprinkled with a few surprises here and there to keep new fans salivating.

Rather than clumsily labelling the quintet as 'blackened death metal' a la Behemoth, 'deathened black metal' seems far more apt. After all, the band's foundations undeniably lie in black metal, with only a few death metal characteristics abound. Mark Of The Necrogram is eighty percent pure black metal, but polished for the 21st century whilst retaining that sense of blackened chaos. Kudos to the mixing job for achieving such a fusion. Unlike most black metal, it's pleasing to hear the vocals right up front (thankfully, Anders' shrieks are on top form here) and driving some of the more memorable passages. The chorus of "Tsar Bomba" especially is a triumph of dark lyrical imagery and accessible vocal patterns. It was a damn good move to release this track as a single!

Speaking of singles, the title-track is also one of the prime cuts here; featuring stellar riff work and a chorus line so fun to scream along with it should be illegal. That's the true joy of this album - how the maelstrom of blackness manages to be both barbaric and strangely catchy. Both "Crown Of Horns" and "Sacrosanct" contain choruses designed to be repeated in a live setting, but never come across as being cheesy or lazy. In the world of this album, they are more akin to a satanic ritual. Taking the unfortunate 'second track' spot is the fiery "Odium Caecum" which manages to uphold the energy between the two furious numbers that encase it. None of this is breaking boundaries, but it's doing exactly what Necrophobic needed to do this year.

The two not-so-sore sore thumbs appear in the latter half of the album. "Requiem For A Dying Sun" is a more doomy affair that brings the tempo down to a menacing crawl at just the right point. The closing track "Undergangen" is the actual sore thumb, being as it is simply an outro with not much to boast about. A few clean-picked chords here and there - good for atmosphere, but definitely skippable; especially after the epic "From The Great Above To The Great Below". I'm not sure if this will make it onto many 'Top 10' lists come December, even if just for the black metal genre. But one thing's for sure, Mark Of The Necrogram is a triumph for Necrophobic and definitely not an album fans of the style will want to miss out on. Furious, dynamic, yet oddly elegant in its darkness.