Necrophobic – Womb of Lilithu (Season of Mist)

Wednesday, 13th November 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Despite various lineup changes over the years and a shift toward more black metal stylization (as opposed to the death metal leanings of their earlier work), Necrophobic have managed to carve out a pretty strong legacy for themselves in underground metal. And while they aren’t necessarily seeking to reinvent their approach to black metal with their latest release, they nevertheless do a fair job of living up to their songwriting expectations, while still finding ways to introduce new elements from time to time.

The band itself sounds to be in tight form and has no trouble reminding listeners of what they do best: “Marchosias,” “Matanbuchus,”and “Paimon” blast with the same speed and fury as any piece in the group’s catalogue; “The Necromancer” provides the requisite mid-tempo, Bathory-inspired Viking riffs and chants; and the straightforward attack of “Furfur” and “Opium Black” keeps the record moving smoothly betwixt the more radical ebbs and flows. Tempo diversity aside, however, with few exceptions, the main verse-riffing this time around is quite uniform, making it easy to forget which riffs belong to which songs, and the inclusion of an organ on “Infinite Infernalis,” while a welcome change, conjures too many images of sharply dressed Transylvanians rising from crypts to sound truly malevolent.

Some new elements work quite well, though. From a production standpoint, this is Necrophobic’s cleanest album to date, and the band sounds tighter than ever here. Every nuance of Joakim Sterner’s skinbashing is audible, and the guitar solos cut through the mix clearly, avoiding the sonic black hole appearing on Death to All. As well, the piano-heavy instrumentals bookending the record add needed variety, and Tobias Sidegård’s final vocal performance with this band is one for books, as he seamlessly flows from his patented midrange rasp to convincing invocations of Attila Csihar and Venom’s Cronos.

All these elements combine to make a listenable but ultimately uneven record. Fans will undoubtedly find some noteworthy material here and see their thirst for new Necrophobic sated. Listeners looking for the next step in the band’s evolution, though, while teased occasionally, may walk away unsatisfied.

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