The Necrogram has awakened! Dormant for nearly four years, the sigil—crafted by Swedish death metal legends Necrophobic long ago in a crucible of fire and ice—will spread hate, plague, and disease once more. A five-pointed star carven inverse, bordered by an upside-down pentagon, ensorcelled with a circle is the Necrogram, and its mark is all powerful and immutable. That Necrophobic titled their eighth studio album, Mark of the Necrogram, is significant in two ways: on one left hand, it represents the rejuvenation of Necrophobic; and on the other left hand, the hellish brand reappears after 16 years as a centerpiece to the Kristian Wåhlin cover art. Mark of the Necrogram isn’t just another Necrophobic studio album. It’s impending doom, the war to end all wars, the final fight against the light of this world.
Mark of the Necrogram is a new beginning for Necrophobic. On all embattled fronts. After a tumultuous 2013, the Swedes called upon the hot winds of Hell to remake the band anew. Their backwards prayers were answered with the homecoming of The Nocturnal Silence vocalist Anders Strokirk in 2014. The Great Beast awarded Necrophobic more black hope two years later by calling upon former guitarists Sebastian Ramstedt and Johan Bergebäck to join ranks with founding member/drummer Joakim Sterner and bassist Alex Friberg. The spiral of death that was broken after Death to All was now complete. While it required several years for Necrophobic to regain their strength, the lineup on Mark of the Necrogram is the fittest and most combat-ready the Swedes have had since Darkside split the heavens in 1997.
“It feels like the band is the band again,” say Necrophobic in thunderous unison. “Full dedication in everything we do. 100% metal people. The live sound and live shows (performances) are back where it should be and it will not stagnate. It will develop. We have always been influenced by bands that did more than just stood on stage and looked at their instruments and played every single note perfectly. We are more into giving something more than the music when we play live. We are not a 100% black metal band. We also have death metal roots, from the years we grew up, when death metal was new, but as you can see, we have nothing in common with many of the death metal bands. While death metal bands seem to dress down for their shows, we feel that attitudes and outfits shall go together, just like our heroes of the 80’s wore studs and leather in the very first wave of black metal. It also fits our music, which is called blackened death metal, because it’s a mix with black metal.”
Written over many black moons in 2017, Mark of the Necrogram finds Necrophobic lancing the wounds of Womb of Lilithu for a darker, more incisive sound. Sterner likens it a restoration of the Death to All sound with more grotesque twists and monstrous turns. In fact, the long-standing pounder pontificates that it’s Necrophobic’s most dynamic and varied offering to date. Songs like ‘Odium Caecum,’ ‘From the Great Above to the Great Below,’ ‘Requiem for a Dying Sun,’ and ‘Pesta’—a song that introduced the Stockholmites to their new label, Century Media—demonstrate Necrophobic not lost their touch. Rather, the Swedes have widened their spheres of influence.
“As always, I am the filter who ensures that the songs will sound like Necrophobic,” affirms Joakim Sterner. “Sebastian is the main songwriter. His ideas come to life as full-blown entities. He seldom puts a bunch of riffs together. He does not ‘sit down to write.’ The whole spirit of the song and sometimes even the lyrics come to life at once. Then, he has to transform [his creations] into the formula of a Necrophobic song. In the old days, death metal bands used to pile on riffs, one after the other. Making great but not logical music. We do the opposite. The recipe of verse—bridge—verse—pre-chorus—chorus—bridge—solo—pre-chorus—double chorus is very effective. The songs are, most of the time, finished in full when the rest of the band hears them for the first time.”
To give Necrophobic’s first metal since pope Benedict XVI resigned and Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman passed a bit of occult weight, Sterner and squad excavated deep into the destruction of life (at the very ends of it), re-imagined invocations from Sumerian stone tablets, and explored Nordic mythology. They were also inspired—think the Soviet RDS-220—by their recent invasion of Russia. But the biggest challenge was inserting the lyrical timeline into Death to All’s three segments, chiefly between The Summoning and Triumph of the Horned. To say Necrophobic traveled intensely on their maleficent crusade to rebirth is an understatement.
“The lyrical theme on Mark of the Necrogram continues where the album Death to All ended,” the band reveals. “The lyrics for the song ‘Mark of the Necrogram’ can be set on a timeline between ‘Revelation 666’ and ‘Triumph of the Horned‘. We created dark poems that match the ferocity of the songs. But we are not fans of explaining every word or line either. That’s up to the listener.”
Necrophobic recorded the Mark of the Necrogram at Chrome Studios with co-producer and former guitarist Fredrik Folkare (Firespawn, Unleashed) between the months of October and November. While the Swedes had abused Chrome Studios in the past to mix and master Death to All, Womb of Lilithu, and Hrimthursum, they decided to hunker down in Folkare’s Stockholm-based studio to do all the work on Mark of the Necrogram. The result is an album that hums the music of conquest and stomps the hooves of famine. Ramstedt and Bergebäck’s riffs are refined and predatory, as aggressive (‘Sacrosanct’) as they are sorrowful (‘Tsar Bomba’). The rhythm section of Sterner and Friberg is also unmatched in its Luciferian faculty. Songs like ‘Pesta,’ ‘Lamashtu,’ and the title track are proof that age isn’t a barrier but rather a rayless blessing. As for Strokirk, his 24 years away from Necrophobic—the prodigal son actually guested on Bloodhymns track ‘Blood Anthem’—haven’t diminished his deathly roars, haunting bawls, and wicked rasps.
“We’ve been doing music that feels honest and true to ourselves,” say Necrophobic. “No matter what’s trendy at the moment. No matter how the winds blow. Our music has stayed the same, more or less, but at the same time we have managed to develop our music. Develop within our region. All bands want to sell more and more albums, so do we, but that is not our goal. If it happens, it happens, but again, we write the music we want to listen to ourselves.”
Indeed, Mark of the Necrogram is Necrophobic. And Necrophobic is Mark of the Necrogram. Make no mistake, the Necrogram sees all, warns all. Join Necrophobic now or die by their spiteful swords.