Listening to Grip of the Dead, the debut album from Swedish death metallers Necrocurse you just know some critics and genre fans are going to say we have heard it all before, and though arguably a hash statement you can understand the source of their stance, the band reaping and blossoming already in place seeds sown from the first harvest of the genre, but equally the album is a devious instigator of contagious grooves and impacting insidious devilry which makes the final forceful persuasion in its favour.
The seeds and beginning of Necrocurse began in 2004 as an unofficial project but it was in 2009 that things seriously caught intent with the coming together of a full line-up. Driven by current and former members from the likes of Nifelheim, Swordmaster, Runemagick, Sacramentum, and Deathwitch, the band recorded songs which emerged as a couple of 7″ vinyl EPs on Norwegian label Aftermath Music in 2011, Chaos Carnage Cataclysm and Insane Curse Of Morbidity. A third EP Speed to the Grave appeared a year later as did Shape of Death a collection of tracks re-mastered from the previous releases. 2012 saw the band step into live arenas and making impressive appearances at festivals such as The Gates Festival (Norway), Kill-Town Death Fest (Denmark), and Metal Legacy Festival (Sweden). That September the band ventured into the studio to record their first album alongside Andy La Rocque (King Diamond) with the resulting Grip Of The Dead now having its released through Singapore label Pulverised Records.
There has been a brewing anticipation for the album within the genre and certainly the release does not disappoint even if maybe it fails to reach the rich potential hoped. From the opening Preludium of Devastation, an evocative intro of war, devastation, and scene setting enticement, the album erupts with captivating strength with Necrocurse, a track which immediately lights the senses with fiery guitar temptation, careering drums, and ravenous riffs. The acidic squalls of vocalist Hellbutcher take a little getting used to but come in caustic waves to temper the initial encounter. They are not the most accessible tones to devour with greed but against the great group vocal efforts and the infectious grooves which break out make a riveting contrast. It is an impressive full opener with the guitar invention and lures of Stefan Rodin and Martin Andersson especially enthralling.
The following Rotten in the Dark and The Devil Cobra bring their individual vicious sonic encroachments with a certain sadistic relish, the first most powerfully through again compelling guitar engagement and uncompromising beats from drummer Nicklas Rudolfsson. The track bristles with contempt and malice whilst at the same time magnetising the senses with its delicious grooved hooks and persistent hungry breath. The second of the pair niggles away at the ear with abrasive drone seeded riffs at first before turning into a maelstrom of unrelenting rhythms, with the bass of Johan Bäckman prowling throughout the storm with menace and heavy intent. Though the song slips below the standards already set it is still an engrossing and contagious encounter with again only the vocals testing patience and acceptance, though Hellbutcher never ignites abhorrence or the wish to move on.
Though tracks like Ripping Darkness (The Destroyer) and Death Metal Rebels hail to spark any strong responses to their certainly accomplished and inventive violations there are veins of imagination and corrosive malevolence which ultimately win the day and opinion. Further thought and emotion grabbing highlights emerge through Speed to the Grave with its carnivorous intensity and shifting gait of blackened heavy metal fury and grooved death metal hunger and the ferocious title track. The song burns and pillages the senses with another weave of classic and death metal savagery and enterprise which ignites the passions into a brawling co-conspirator to malicious mayhem and satanic primal lust. Both songs provide the ammunition to declare the album as an impressive and inciting force which as mentioned is not thick with originality as such but a release which is impossible not to admire and fall in league with emotionally.
Closing with further ardour grabbing tracks in Coffin Breakers and Infernal Rebellion, the album leaves a strength of satisfaction and pleasure which is not up for debate. Grip of the Dead may not figure in best of lists but certainly will be a release receiving plenty of deserved attention.
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