Necrodeath - The Age of Dead Christ - (7.5/10)
Published on April 26, 2018
For an extreme metal band to call themselves Necrodeath, they must be pretty sure about their future direction and also show a certain lack of imagination, what with the double ‘death’ in the name. However, despite a lengthy hiatus in the ‘90s, these Italians have proven themselves worthy of their moniker, both in sticking to their heavy guns and in exploring the same kind of molten extreme styles as Vulcano, Bulldozer, and Sarcófago, who all blend death, thrash, and black metal in rather equal amounts and often undefined styles. The recent history of the band has been one of stability and consistency, since the newer members have nestled in against vocalist Flegias and sole remaining founder, drummer Peso, while releases have come regularly and been met with moderate praise.
The Age of Dead Christ again opts for a thematic approach (2014’s The 7 Deadly Sins contained a song named for each sin) and thus represents another step on that path of consistency, focusing evenly on areas of violent heavy rhythms, creepy suspense, and ugly riffing in a manner that should please old fans but may also attract some interest from further afield. For a short album barely totaling 33 minutes, there is a surprising richness of content, the four-piece rarely content to indulge in too much repetition or define song structures too rigidly. Instead, Necrodeath twist and turn, adding a dose of chaos to the final days of Jesus that might have been overlooked if any other band had approached the topic, while musical sections are often introduced by a total about-face in the compositions, making them difficult to get to grips with. A prime example is “The Kings of Rome”, which opens with dissonant chords, speeds into a Slayer-esque lead break and then proceeds to do Satanic death thrash like the best of them, before throwing in some lumpy down-tuned guitars that seem to be what Coal Chamber would have sounded like if Max Cavalera had been allowed to front the nu metal group. That the song progresses onto suspenseful melodies before a final return to Maxchamber does not make its evolution any less purposeful.
As a result of all this switching and changing, it’s not easy to decide who The Age of Dead Christ would suit. Fans of traditional thrash and death metal are certainly going to feel itchy during the slow, atmospheric “The Triumph of Pain”, though “The Master of Mayhem” will see them donning old Kreator t-shirts and throwing the horns with vigour. On the contrary, the black metal side comes out in more common form when the pace slows down, imbuing the songs with a sense of nastiness that speed and violence alone cannot produce. Once again though, Necrodeath complicate things by adding in some heavily rhythmic sections in “The Return of the Undead” and “The Whore of Salem” that break up both the atmosphere and the hellish momentum of the other components, leaving these moments feeling clumsy and overly simplistic by contrast. All these different styles frequently emerge on each brief song (on average about three and a half minutes), leaving the whole experience as a slightly uneven whirlwind of creative energy.
It must be said that the discomfort of Necrodeath’s style makes their music more or less unique in the densely populated world of extreme metal, even if overlap with other bands is inevitable at times. The overall effect is not far from their preceding couple of albums, though a further feature of The Age of Dead Christ that helps to differentiate it from similar endeavours is the unusual use of acoustic guitars on both the opener and closing title track, the latter of which channels Middle Eastern melody into its lowered intensity, captivating all the more after a half hour of full throttle pressure. Even at the conclusion of “The Age of Dead Christ”, guitarist Pier Gonella is still forging new paths, adding a kind of sludgy doom riff to the denouement of the piece, which provides a lyrical summary of Christ’s betrayal.
Therefore, The Age of Dead Christ stacks up a lot of points for creativity and an effective approach, though consistency is not the strongest element (“The Revenge of the Witches” is a bit forgettable), nor is this an album easy to understand after a couple of listens. Anyone hoping to go straight to the heavy payload would be advised to prepare for some skipping, though those open-minded enough to appreciate new ventures in atmospheric realms will find most to enjoy during “The Crypt of Nyarlathotep” and the title track. For a group with such a one-dimensional band name, Necrodeath show on The Age of Dead Christ a remarkable ability to display many of the attractive facets of extreme metal.