Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Necrohell - Possessed by Nocturnal Grimness (2013)

Possessed by Nocturnal Grimness has one of those titles which might mislead the reader into thinking it's some sort of a cheesy parody of its genre, but in truth, this project is (and always has been) prolific Greek musician Ungod's love letter to the aesthetics of the early 90s Norse scene, in particular a Darkthrone or Mayhem. Total newsprint style here, in the artwork, corpse paint and the musical ideas being discharged through the cold and haunted nightscape. Granted, the duo's traditional sense of melody and riff choice here isn't all that far removed from some of Ungod's other bands (Sad, Kvele, etc), but dare to step outside with this one after the sun sets and you'll see your breath clearly in the moon's radiance, and hear the howling of imaginary wolves. Derivative, sure, but just LOOK at the's not pretending to be anything it isn't, and I had a better reaction to this than the first full-length, Under the Sign of a Pagan Winter (from 2009) or the intermittent Where Solitude and Coldness Unite EP (2010).

In fact, Necrohell's latest joins Sad's Devouring the Divine and the latest Dodsferd LPs in constructing a thrifty little scene of primal but well-produced trad Scandinavian black metal right in the heart of Athens! It might not possess the progression and complexities of other Hellenic upstarts like Acherontas or Spectral Lore, who have moved to the fore now that Rotting Christ seem to be taking a vacation from greatness,
but it beats with a black heart of its own. If you've a craving for records akin to Transilvanian Hunger or De Mysteriis dom Sathanas, this is probably your drug. A lot of faster-paced material centered around these sadly majestic chord patterns dominates much of the 44 minute run time, and while few of the tremolo picked rhythms are individually all that interesting or memorable, they at least seem driven, determined and most importantly, tinged with uncaring frost. Like Darkthrone, they also pull off some mid paced rocking rhythms, like those found in "When the Shadow Brings Cold" that will evoke nostalgia for A Blaze in the Northern Sky, but the majority of the material here is pretty intense, and felt like early 90s Mayhem with a different vocalist...Sorg's rasp being a bit less unique than Attila Csihar.

The blasting is a stampede of specters banging on cellar and woodshed doors, clear and effective but not anything out of the ordinary. Bass lines are jugular-pumping and constantly audible, though they're a bit safe in the notation and really just follow the structure of the rhythm guitars, unable to add another level of depth or atmosphere when you listen at a distance. The guitars brought to mind older albums like In the Nightside Eclipse, Born of the Flickering and those I've already mentioned: textured, melodic and not incredibly repetitive, naturally atmospheric when paired up against the echoed snarls. A few tunes might feel overlong at 6-7 minutes, but it's not like their influences weren't writing even more inflated pieces 20 years ago, and I've definitely been a lot more bored with other records in this style. Ultimately, if you're looking forward to the death of summer (physically or emotionally), the snows and slush and ice, then this is an authentic voyage down memory lane. I don't know how cold it gets in Greece, but the temperature in Ungod's heart can certainly fall below freezing point. Nothing at all original, innovative or amazing about this, it's just solid, passionate (or dispassionate, depending on how nihilistic you wanna get), 'been there' black metal that proves why it still does matter even to the jaded.

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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