Probably the best way to describe Nekroza, the new album from Serbian black metallers The Stone is pestilential beauty. It is a release which infest and corrupts the senses and psyche yet seduces with some of the most irresistible grooves and sonic enterprise likely to be heard this or any year. It is a riveting and thrilling encounter unafraid to bind the listener in virulent contagion whilst smothering them in toxic shadows and scarring malevolence. It also has a devilish swagger which spills venom with every swing and a radiant invention which is as predatory as it is bewitching, it all adding up to one rigorously compelling and exciting violation.
Hailing out of Belgrade, The Stone emerged in 1996 as Stone To Flesh and proceeded to release two demos, Serbian Woods and Killed by the Sun, which caught the ears and attention of the metal underground, especially when united for a re-release as Unveiled Evil in 1999. The following year saw debut album Some Wounds Bleed Forever unleashed and the subsequent change of name to simply The Stone. Continuing to make an increasingly noticeable mark through their live performances and following releases, the band really drew an international spotlight with fourth album Magla in 2006, their first for German label Folter Records. It was a trigger to tours and greater attention upon the band globally, acclaim and even stronger success coming with the albums Umro and Golet in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Now their seventh album Nekroza comes to push the band even further to the fore of world black metal whilst providing one of the best genre stirring incitements of 2014.
From the intrigue soaked intro of opener Kamenolom, there is an immediate drama and portentous breath to Nekroza which only expands and entices across song and album from thereon in. The first track’s start is epic and provocative, the readying of battle armour and antagonistic intent before a torrent of onrushing rhythms and raw riffs converge on the senses. It is a potent flood of sonic endeavour lorded over by the dirty caustic scowls of vocalist Nefas. Emerging grooves proceed to vein the wall of corrosive energy cast by guitarists Kozeljnik and Demonetras, their lure subdued yet gripping against the robust and creative rampage of beats from L.G. and bass predation from Usud. It is a hellacious proposition binding attention and appetite with ease before the following Kosmar begins an insatiable enslavement of the passions, its rhythmic hips and grooved flirtation seducing from the opening second. That bait leads into another sonic battlefield, an avalanche of malicious craft and hostile intensity combining before parting its waves for the returning enticement which started the song to infest ears and passions once again. As with all songs there is never a moment to rest and reflect; the intimidating pressure of sound and vocal maliciousness unrelenting though frequently penetrated by a stunning blaze of melodic invention and skill from the guitars to transfix the imagination.
Both Crno Zrno and Dani Crni flood ears and thoughts with their individual temptations, the first ravaging the senses with rapacious riffs and virulent grooves, the latter aspect simmering tenaciously without to provide a constant delicious nagging of ears. The song is like a maze, every turn a wall of rhythmic animosity and a blaze of sonic toxicity, all skilfully and venomously sculpted for a scintillating encounter whilst the second of the two is a darker vicious foraging of the senses but again equipped with masterful sonic bait and a volatile rhythmic battering. Nefas’ vocals are soaked in bile and enmity, his strong abrasing scowls an equal trigger and temper to the maelstrom of invention around him. Parading the narratives in his own native tongue does lead to the only very slight niggle, in that those of us of limited language skills cannot explore the lyrical side of the album, something normally not a problem but you feel you are really missing out with Nekroza.
Lov na Vestice next explores the darkest depths of the album which were opened within the previous song but despite cloaking ears in another enthralling and intensive examination pierced by a glorious scorching melody bound solo, lacks some of the spark of its predecessors. Nevertheless it makes for a demanding and rewarding challenge before making way for Sunovrat, another resourcefully commanding and unpredictable onslaught but again one not quite flicking the switches as potently as other songs on Nekroza. The album’s compelling title track has no such issues. From its first swipe of ravenous riffs courted by a grouchy bassline, the track is a spellbinding and savage rush upon and for the senses. There is certain elegance to the melodic structure of the track and brutality to its intensive underbelly driven by the uncompromising rhythms of L.G. and the similarly merciless corrosiveness of the vocals. It is an engrossing proposition which drifts purposefully into an even heavier and darker landscape, not quite funereal in tone but definitely venturing into a doomy climate which is explored to weightier effect with Mrak. Imposing and pouring menace with every resonating note and grizzled syllable, the track stalks and crawls over the senses and imagination for a slower but eventually inescapable persuasion.
The album is completed by the outstanding Pesimizam, another groove fest spraying the most addictive sonic rancor and vocal bitterness to be found on the release, and lastly Predgroblje. The closer is awash with a grooved and melodic tempting which swerves and lures like an exotic temptress within an exhaustive and ravenous smog of sonic erosion. It is a masterful end to a thoroughly exciting and impressing album. The Stone might still be a secret to some of the metal world but Nekroza suggests that it will be not for much longer.
Nekroza is available from October 1st on Folter Records @ http://www.folter666shop.de/product_info.php?info=p6_the-stone–serbia—-nekroza–digicd.html&XTCsid=578ocl6tcjrd4j5j3fuan1t836
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