Friday, September 25, 2015

Necrophagia - Harvest Ritual Volume I (2005)

I've always wanted to like Necrophagia a lot more than I actually do.

That's not to say that Killjoy hasn't in his own way contributed to the extreme metal culture as a large, he's certainly one of the earlier musicians to cater so much to his cult horror fetish through both his lyrical choices and the samples and intro/interlude bits he collects. He also has one of the more gruesome pure death metal gutturals (and accompanying snarls) you'll hear from those US veterans still kicking about, not as distinct as Speckmann or Tardy or the late Chuck Schuldiner, but still pretty potent. I thought a few of his earlier records were pretty good (Season of the Dead and Holocausto de la Morte, at least), and I also find that I get whipped into a frenzy every time I read about the next disc he's releasing through this band. The cover art is usually campy and fun, the ideas behind it cater to my own nostalgia for both horror classics and their B movie shadows, and when presented with a title like Harvest Ritual Volume I I am insta-triggered due to my love for the autumn season and the once-pagan holiday I so enjoy for both its atmosphere and the activities surrounding it. I truly wanted this to be the Necrophagia recording that finally won me over, but was left hanging...

Similar to bands like Master, or Massacre, or Death, Necrophagia's evolution towards the death metal genre arrived via thrash roots, but unlike those others I just named, the metallic components of Harvest Ritual Volume I remain very heavily balanced in that camp. Extremely simple brute chugging patterns that don't sound like they took a lot of thought or time to craft, with some occasionally breaks into the more morbid tremolo picking we commonly associate as a hallmark of the OSDM style (as in "Dead Skin Slave" or "Return to Texas"). The rhythm tone here has quite a lot of meat and punch to it, but it seems very pit-centric, without interesting note progressions and a few lower bends and fills just to help flesh out the band's aesthetic to a more current brutal flavor. You're really only getting maybe one half-inspired, memorable riff per dozen they fire off, and sadly I find this a common trait for a lot of the records Frediablo has played on. That's not to say it sucks, or it doesn't fit the mesh of mechanics Killjoy is working within here, but at best they only serve as dependable when other things are happening in the tunes, like the 'spooky' synthesizer lines closing out "Unearthed" or the cleaner, eerier guitars dowsed in effects that set up the organs and creepy loops in "Cadavera X".

Another issue I took here was with the vocals. While I appreciate Killjoy's over the top, loudly barking quality, and the lyrics he's spitting are evocative if simple, they often seem far too structured and uninspired in how the syllables are set to the riffs, like clockwork as he's raving between the two inflections. A looser, more raucous approach really seems to work better with this style and would add some desperately needed chaos to the music, for a genuine ugliness. A lot of these tunes just seem too tidy in composition, like he's holding back rather than letting the werewolf out. The drums are simple but powerful, largely just rock laden grooves that hold down the moderate pacing of the songs, but I wouldn't ask for more, since this to me just hasn't been a band about speed, extremity or technique. On the other hand, Mirai's keys are perfectly adequate throughout the entire experience, creating a midway point between progressive influences like Goblin and a more generic but endearing haunted house quality that I just happen to enjoy. But when he's coming up with all this insanity for Sigh, it works because there are also some tremendous guitar riffs woven in and out of the blackened thrash spectacle. Here, he seems like a pylon of pumpkins supporting the stage for a lumbering, monotonous Frankenstein freakshow.

Hell, my favorite track here is "Akumu", pure synth with a lightly pumping bass sound, which feels like what might have occurred if Pink Floyd had scored Halloween instead of Carpenter himself. But then you launch into the following "Stitch Her Further", and the banal chugging of the verses which is lazy at best, or "Excommunicated" which sounds like the same song that had already appeared on the record three times until Mirai's wavering, acidic synth lines burn through the graveyard haze. Harvest Ritual Volume I is an album that wants to be so fun, and comes really damn close, it just needed more time for that thrashing/death foundation to gestate, or perhaps even a different tone with more open, dissonant chords thrust in there to make it more immediately compelling. As it stands, while this isn't the Necrophagia record I like the least, it was nonetheless a letdown. The pumpkins, pentagrams, nooses and crucifixion which grace its cover deserved a little better.

Verdict: Indifference [5.5/10] (mummified womb of Satan)

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