These Swedish veterans’ previous release, “Hrimthursum”, was easily one of my favourite albums of 2006 as well as the definitive NECROPHOBIC effort, so I guess you could say that there was an extra hop, skip and a jump in my step when their latest album “Death To All” landed in my lap. Despite never being the most original band around these guys have always been a dependable bunch, so I had high hopes for this release. My first listen to “Death To All” proved to be less thrilling than I had expected though, as the songs deviate quite a bit from the expansive character of the previous album’s songs. Overall, the songs just seemed a tad too straightforward for their own good – not bad per se, just not that enthralling. My second and third listens, however, turned out much more fruitful as the album’s subtle nuances and solid riffs began to bubble to the surface.
At this point it must be said that if you expected another “Hrimthursum” then you’re bound to be disappointed (albeit slightly), because this album is a different beast altogether – less adventurous than the previous album and significantly more aggressive. If I had to sum up this album (which I technically have to...hehe) I’d say that it’s a damn good cross between “Burning Bridges” era ARCH ENEMY and WATAIN circa “Sworn To The Dark”; you get the thrashy melodic Death of the former and the grand eeriness of the latter, with the massive Black-nesss of the latter getting more significant with every listen. The first two tracks are perfect examples of this, especially in terms of the harsh yet catchy riffs of “Celebration Of The Goat” and the extended melodic lead section of “Revelation 666” which is simply beautiful and acts as a superb outro. “La Satanisma Muerte” is a more straightforward Blackened Death number much in the vein “I Strike With Wrath” off the previous album, but good nevertheless. The highlight of the album would have to be the following track, “For Those Who Stayed Satanic”, a chillingly atmospheric mid-pacer with one of the most blood curdling opening riffs in recent memory. It just oozes that special Swedish vibe and the way that evil as fuck main riff slithers about before giving way to a galloping double-bass and choir-backed tempo shift is simply sublime. Hands down one of my favourite songs of the year, with a kick-ass title to boot! “Temple Of Damnation” and “The Tower” present a relative low-point of the album, and while both are competent slices of Death/Thrash they don’t really add much in the way of atmosphere to the album. Luckily the final two songs – “Wings Of Death” and the title track – end the album on a strong note, and I have to say that the gentle opening strains and subsequent NWOBHM-like stomp of the former is a great demonstration of this band’s ability to fuse MAIDEN-esque harmonies with more darker extremes and still manage to make it sound unique to them.
I’ll confess to missing the ritualistic essence of a song like “Sitra Ahra” or the harmonic brilliance of something like “Eye Of The Storm”, but when all is said and done this is yet another great NECROPHOBIC album. The increased aggressiveness might cause the songs to sound one-dimensional at first but the subtle intricacies are all still intact and as enjoyable as ever. There is always a classy lead to offset a raw riff and a dark melody to add extra oomph to the more Death Metal parts, and with a sufficiently clear production job and immensely tight musicianship (especially in terms of the guitar duo of Johan Bergebäck and Sebastian Ramstedt, who also ply their skills in the vaguely similar NIFELHEIM) this is definiteky not an album to be taken lightly. “Death To All” is a recommended listen for those who prefer their Death Metal draped with Black Metal textures and an ace sense of NWOBHM riff construction to top it all off. I’m sure this one will end up somewhere in my year-end top 20.
(Online June 12, 2009)