Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Necronomicon - Escalation (1988)

Escalation seems like the perfect title for the third Necronomicon full-length, due to its direct correlation to the quality of the album. After a pair of duds in the debut Necronomicon and the well meaning sophomore Apocalyptic Nightmare, the Germans had hit their stride, no longer just a mirror of the better known Destruction, but a band with something of worth to offer on their own. That's not to say that they had suddenly bloomed into a garden of innovation and supreme songcraft, because this is still not a top shelf release, yet it's the first of their effort that I'd honestly label entertaining and fun. It's also the last in their deal with Gama Records, but despite a few reissues, the album has sadly gathered no moss as it rolled down the heights into obscurity.

The band was down to a three piece here, with Volker Fredrich and Jürgen Weltin picking up the bass duties from the departed Lars Honeck. Fredrich still sounds mildly similar to Schmier of Destruction, and yet he's acquired a harsher, standout bark to his tone that ends itself towards an individual distinction. There are also a number of well-placed gang shouts here that propel his presence quite nicely ("Death Toll", "Black Frost", "Murder of Profit"). But most importantly, where the band always seemed to have a problem plotting out convincing songs before, they've really gelled here. Each of the tracks holds its own weight in riffs, and half of them are actually memorable. "Death Toll" has some great guitars and bass, whether they're thrusting along the speedway of the bridge or chopping out the slower verse chugging. "Skeletal Remains" is the closest to Destruction, but nonetheless excellent; "Mosh the ABC" defies its terrible title with bristling energy; "...And the Night Will Be Silent" reminds me of old Slayer, Hell Awaits era, but with gang shouts and more melody. "Cold Ages (Darkland III)" is a fitting sequel to the band's ongoing series, superior to either of the previous chapters.

Perhaps the one glaring and awkward song here is "Dirty Minds", which feels like sort of punk rock corny anthem, despite the fact that it veers off into perfectly acceptable territory. No one wants to hear Fredrich making such sounds as he does before the verse, even if he compensates with wicked laughter. Strangely, there are a few decent riffs tucked in there, and had it gone for a straight up German mid paced metal track like S.A.D.O. would write, it might have worked. Otherwise, the album is consistently well executed, with great leads and a fine, airy, lo-fi tone that doesn't betray the rugged roots of their prior works. Necronomicon might not be an A-list thrash act for their nation, never spoken of in the same breaths as Kreator, Sodom or Tankard; but Escalation is their crown jewel, the first album you should check out if you've seen the name and manifested some interest. It's fun, it's not too serious, and it's more than capable of whipping up a headbanging storm from anyone into that age old German tone.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10]

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