Necrophobic – The Nocturnal Silence (1993)
Long delayed reviews are always interesting to start, and The Nocturnal Silence is no exception. Necrophobic, at least in their early work, is a great example of the processes that lead to the existence of a unique Swedish black metal scene; one founding member (David Parland) even went on to found Dark Funeral, for whatever that’s worth. The Nocturnal Silence is too close to the ‘death metal’ end of the spectrum (even accounting for the simultaneous birth of the Gothenburg “melodeath” scene) to be counted amongst their numbers, but its early…ish grafting of melodic black metal tropes onto polished death metal songwriting is certainly worth a listen.
While the description and the title track (which I previewed first) served to draw me in, the actual melodies of The Nocturnal Silence were sparser than expected. In many cases, they’re monophobic with little in the way of harmonies to back them, which is admittedly quite standard for many varieties of death metal. Furthermore, this melodic approach doesn’t keep the band from exploring the more chromatic and dissonant material I usually associate with death metal. Most songs have a few sections of keyboard accompaniment or guitar leads to add extra breadth to the sound, but in general, I found Necrophobic alternates between both of these approaches. It makes sense on some level – you can’t exactly have and not have an accompaniment at the same time! In general, while this always counts as ‘melodic’ death metal, you won’t hear the constant harmonizing of some of this album’s successors.
Ultimately, the high points of The Nocturnal Silence seem to be built from restraint and cohesion, which isn’t exactly what I expect the more conventionally musical death metal to excel in, but it’s the card we’ve been dealt. On this album, Necrophobic excels at weaving the riffs written together into a cohesive whole and thusly matching their musical narrative to the lyrics being growled. The controlled application of melody allows them to effectively mix the multiple influences they had into a coherent whole, so there’s definitely a working formula on display here. Might be too coherent, though; the worst flaw of this album is that its second half feels derivative of the first. There aren’t really any major musical language changes throughout the album, so you could argue the weaker material got shoved to the back. I wouldn’t say this risk is innate to that kind of album, but it’s still unfortunate to see it here. Still, you get a strong collection of songs, and a blueprint for one of the more popular ways to expand death metal, so there has to be something of value here.
Highlights: “Awakening”, “Unholy Prophecies”, “The Nocturnal Silence”