Oakland death metal band Necrot has taken their time formulating their old-school approach to the genre, releasing several demos between 2012 and 2014 before their debut full length Blood Offerings left a lasting impression on fans in 2017. While the trio certainly wasn’t deviating significantly from their inspirations, they provided killer riff after killer riff and avoided the filler that sometimes plagued newer death metal bands. Three years later Necrot is back with their sophomore effort Mortal, which builds naturally upon its predecessor and takes everything to the next level. The riffs are even catchier, there are even more transitions to keep track of as the band seamlessly moves between faster tempos and lurching grooves, and the sound remains just as dark and crunchy as ever. It’s another example of how to capture the energy and songwriting of classic death metal without merely rehashing what’s come before, and if you don’t know this group yet you’ll want to dive right in with this material.
Where some of Necrot’s songs did blend together a bit on Blood Offerings, Mortal makes them feel a bit more distinctive and the amount of standout riffs from one song to the next showcases how the band has continued to evolve. Rather than simply bludgeoning with brute force and speed or slowing things down for murkier grooves, there’s a tendency to do all of this in a single song throughout Mortal and it’s woven together by transitions that maintain the intensity. That’s not to say that Necrot is cramming in as many riffs as possible or switching elements as often as the technical or progressive variants of death metal, but compared to a lot of the more old-school influenced groups out there right now their writing comes through as more dynamic. Songs like “Asleep Forever” are great examples of what they’re capable of, as the instrumentals start off with mid-tempo grooves that quickly get stuck in your head but by the end they’ve broken off into a faster tempo and scorching solo that recalls the early days where thrash and death metal were harder to tell apart. It’s hard to capture the same energy and amount of standout riffs as some of the classic albums from the 90s, but Necrot comes closer than most and there’s plenty of substance throughout Mortal that will impress even jaded veterans. Even when things are stretched out to over eight minutes in length on the title track, the riffs are still strong enough to stick out and don’t come through seeming like they’re too repetitive or padded with filler.
Luca Indio’s vocals skew towards the lower end of the spectrum, coming through as cavernous growls that expand over the recording with a considerable amount of force. There’s just a slight bit of separation between the instrumentals and vocals, allowing you to easily make out each verse without the power of the growls drowning out the rest of the band, and this fine balance really makes a big difference in Necrot’s recorded output. Indio’s performance has just the right amount of filth and grime to it, reaching the same levels as classic material from Autopsy at times. While it may not deviate significantly from one song to the next, the vocal work has clearly been refined to its most potent level and it consistently grabs you from one passage to the next.
Each year has brought more and more death metal bands trying to recapture the fire of the genre’s earlier days, but many have fallen into repetitive patterns or simply replicated the sound without having standout riffs to back it up. From the beginning Necrot’s taken more care in their approach, and they’ve reached new heights with their sophomore effort. The riffs continually excite and capture everything about this genre that makes it so appealing, and while it’s hard to say if this will become a new classic only a week into release I do suspect people will be coming back to this album for years to come at the very least. Death metal doesn’t always need to be reinvented when it’s played with this level of precision and offers one killer riff after another, and Necrot is a great reminder of that. Mortal is available from Tankcrimes.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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