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Brightest flames of hell. - 75%

GrizzlyButts, June 23rd, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, The Sign Records

Rapacious in their early ambitions Linköping, Sweden based black/death metal band Nekrokraft were perhaps too eager on their first year of demos in 2012. ‘666 Ways to Torture’ saw a band not yet set in their ways, or at least still figuring the best way to approach their country’s higher art of melodic black/death metal. Their first EP ‘Witches Funeral (Reborn in Fire)’ followed quickly that same year, shifting away from the inspiration of early Necrophobic towards the thrashing middle era of Immortal while still maintaining some melodic black metal style. It wouldn’t be echoed in further releases but is worth hearing that early soul-searching on their ‘Witches Funeral’ compilation. In just four years the band made incredible strides in terms of honing in on the meloblack wave of the mid 90’s and incorporating modern black/thrash to keep it interesting. Their 2016 ‘Will O’ Wisp’ EP was at least on par with most still-standing legacy black/death acts from Sweden’s pantheon (particularly Necrophobic) and vocalist Angus Norder simultaneously provided vocals for the two most recent Witchery releases as well.

With some small hiatus allowed for the 2017 Witchery release, Nekrokraft return in 2018 with their first proper full-length and perhaps far greater vigor than previous. A few major changes give ‘Servants’ a heavy-handed feeling appropriate for Swedish black/death metal and most self-evident is the oppressive nature of the mix. Loud and kinetic to the point of abrasion, much like ‘Mark of the Necrogram’ was earlier this year, there is nary a single moment of subtlety allowed on the Audiosiege mastered ‘Servants’. Although quietly present on ‘Will O’ Wisp’ the keyboard work here goes a few steps beyond Necrophobic‘s ‘Hrimthursum’ in terms of dancing dangerously close to sounding like the rush of Dimmu Borgir influenced trolls post-‘Enthrone Darkness Triumphant’. I definitely hear hints of fellow Swedes Triumphator, Setherial, and even some thrashier hints of ‘Banished to the Underworld’ era Satanic Slaughter in the guitar work but no comparisons would stray far from Sweden.

What I suppose I’m not hearing is anything I hadn’t heard before in the 90’s and as a lover of these sub-genres I have no real problem with that. The keyboard work has an odd early Dark Funeral vibe to it and though there aren’t a ton of truly effective melodic black metal riffs, they’ve captured the style in an appropriate way. ‘Servants’ doesn’t necessarily outdo the curiously listenable ‘Mark of the Necrogram’ from the old masters this year but it does at least sit comfortable in the ‘openers’ slot next to comparable projects like Wormlight, Thulcandra, and Istapp. It might be the sort of ‘genre entry’ that Scandinavian metal fans are used to, but I really appreciate how driven the music sounds and the fast-moving ambition of the project is truly impressive. They might need one more release to tweak things towards their own sound but as is, ‘Servants’ is a solid melo-black/death record. Highly recommend the riffs from “Servants ov the Black”, “Brimstone and Flames” as well as “Lechery”.


Black cauldron of quality - 88%

gasmask_colostomy, June 17th, 2018

Nekrokraft are Swedish but they sure as hell fooled me into believing they came from the other side of the Norwegian border, since this is black metal of the sort that Immortal wouldn’t be ashamed to put their name to. Both aggressive and epic, there’s little missing from the mixture in terms of generic components, doing service both with keyboards and screaming guitar solos even as early as the terrific opener ‘Mouth ov Ahriman’. My bridge into the band was vocalist Angst (real name Angus Norder), who has been Witchery’s frontman for a couple of years; his powerful roar is a driving force for the nine songs here.

One may be surprised at the evolution of the group in such a short space of time, since Will o’ Wisp showed a band who just two years earlier were all about pithy short blasts, whereas the windswept grandeur found on Servants would not be baulked at by Dimmu Borgir, though not without a tinge of jealousy at the free way in which the guitarists throw down riffs that Aura Noir might have written if they had cared about pure pace more in recent years. As such, the beastly power of the blasts and enormous melodies that cascade out of ‘Servants ov the Black’ tie together most of the key points of Norwegian black metal in a way that few bands have been doing of late, all the while contrasting the evil intensity with an aura of celebration and infernal majesty, which is exactly what songs with these themes require.

I can’t say enough about the manner in which the songs hurtle along here, dragging the “no fat” songwriting of the debut album into the world of the epic and producing fearsome results. When pure thrash gets pulled out on ‘Rotten Husk’, there is little compromise between that and the blackened atmosphere, shards of broken chords being stuck down into the fills in the same manner as Witchery, though with the intensity notably turned up and the keyboards making the whole song billow out like the evil folds of Norder’s unearthly cloak.

If you’d like to hear some criticisms alongside my lavish praise, you’ll be pleased to note that the album does lose a little of its steam in the second half, spending more time at mid-pace during ‘Eternal, I Am’ and ‘Brimstone and Flames’ than I would deem strictly necessary, while the keyboard line in the former is also the closest we get to cheese. Nevertheless, much of the damage is already done by ‘Lechery’ and the outstanding title track, while ‘Plague’ rounds things off in fine style with an extra pinch of deathly heaviness. If you’ve not been paying attention, these five guys from Linköping are on their way to steal your soul. I suggest you just hand it over.

-- May Diamhea's feat of 100 reviews in 7 days remain unbeaten --