Sunday 23 November 2014

Necrophagia - WhiteWorm Cathedral (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 28/10/2014
Label: Season of Mist

‘WhiteWorm Cathedral’ CD/DD/LP track listing:

1.    Reborn through Black Mass
2.    Вий
3.    Angel Blake
4.    Warlock Messiah
5.    Fear the Priest
6.    Elder Things
7.    Coffins
8.    Hexen Nacht
9.    Rat Witch
10.    March of the Deathcorps(e)
11.    Silentium vel Mortis
12.    The Dead Among Us
13.    WhiteWorm Cathedral


Muahaha! NECROPHAGIA are back to haunt you! The masters of death metal horror invite you to bang to the Sabbath on a coffin night, when the evil priest and the rat witch raise the dead among us! Once again Killjoy DeSade has taken his time to compose and record 'WhiteWorm Cathedral', but the result was well worth the wait. NECROPHAGIA have generally taken another step back to a more straightforward approach. Although their latest full-length 'Deathtrip 69' (2011) was generally met with roaring applause, there has been some criticism levelled at the album. Killjoy DeSade seems to have drawn the same conclusions and reduced the atmospheric samples to the necessary, while focusing on songwriting and catchiness. Now NECROPHAGIA deliver more old school death metal with a blasphemous groove and killing hooks. The band was formed in late 1983 by the Godfather of Gore Metal, Killjoy and their debut recording 'Season of the Dead' was unleashed in February 1987. In the same year the Americans split despite their tremendous impact in the underground death metal scene, which they helped founding.

 In the middle of the 1990's horror fan Philip Anselmo (DOWN, ex-PANTERA) convinced Killjoy to resurrect NECROPHAGIA and joined for the next three releases including their second album 'Holocausto de la Morte' (1998). The band released two more albums including 'The Divine Art of Torture' (2003) and several EPs despite undergoing continued line-up changes. NECROPHAGIA's fourth full length ‘Harvest Ritual Vol. 1’ (2005) saw some experimentation, while their next eerie incarnation 'Deathtrip 69' featured more evil movie samples adding to the beloved vintage horror feeling. Yet the time has come to light those black candles, chant the incantations and watch the 'WhiteWorm Cathedral' rise! Amen, Brother Killjoy

Necrophagia is:

Killjoy DeSade | vocals
Abigail Lee Nero | guitar
Scrimm | guitar
Damien Mathews | bass
Shawn Slusarek | drums


Necrophagia’s story goes back much further than some might realize. As it was for a number of people, I first heard about Necrophagia back in 1998 when Phil Anselmo had joined the band and played guitar on that year’s ‘Holocausto de la Morte’, which obviously got them a ton of coverage. I read all of the interviews I could, and was blown away by vocalist Killjoy’s seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of all things horror and gore. As a kid who rented every horror movie I could get away with starting at a pretty young age, it makes sense that reading those interviews would make me want to delve even deeper into horror, and obviously Necrophagia as well.

The articles I read also mentioned an album they’d put out long before Phil Anselmo had ever gotten involved; 1987’s ‘Season of the Dead’. As luck would have it, the album had been reissued by Red Stream in conjunction with the release of ‘Holocausto de la Morte’, which I picked up immediately. Both albums spoke to me in very different ways. ‘Season of the Dead’ reminded me of late 80s Sepultura and even some of the older Mayhem material, which I had been introduced to via Century Black’s reissue of ‘Live in Leipzig. ‘Holocausto de la Morte’ was something altogether different, with an emphasis on groove with a sludgier bend to it. Phil Anselmo had clearly worked some of that New Orleans influence into the foundation of Necrophagia’s previous work. It was a sound that carried through for a couple more EPs up until Anselmo’s exit in 2001.

A major shift in sound came from the inclusion of Mirai Kawashima to the line-up, providing horror soundtrack style keyboards into the mix. At first, to my ears, it sounded forced and kind of disrupted the flow of songs by taking too prominent a role for my liking. For a time, Necrophagia kind of fell off my radar. I figured they just weren’t for me anymore. We had our time together, but it was time for us to go our separate ways. I’d listen to other bands; they’d continue to have know idea who the fuck I am. Such is life. ‘WhiteWorm Cathedral’ has rekindled my love of this band in a big way.

It’s not that Necrophagia has reverted back to a previous sound; in fact, they’re as committed to atmosphere as they’ve ever been. There are samples and keyboards all over the album. The difference is that; where the keyboards used to sound wedged into songs in awkward places, they now feel like vital musical elements. These songs would actually suffer without the atmosphere. That isn’t to say that the guitar/bass/drums/vocal foundation of the album couldn’t stand on its own; quite the opposite. ‘WhiteWorm Cathedral’ is an album by a band firing on all cylinders with everyone carrying their share of the load and coming up with an album that sits comfortably alongside their best work.

From a pure sound standpoint, ‘WhiteWorm Cathedral’ is monolithic. Each palm-muted groove digs deep, with a level of power and confidence that would make Tom G. Warrior proud. It all boils down to hooks and execution for an album like this and both are in abundance here. Jaime Gomez Arellano, who is also in charge of the upcoming Primordial album’s production, has done an excellent job, achieving Necrophagia’s best sounding album to date. And while I’d like to think that this material would have worked with a lesser production; the gargantuan sound on ‘WhiteWorm Cathedral’ is as important an asset as any other piece of the puzzle I’ve mentioned.

So, while I’ll admit to having spent some time away from Necrophagia; their brand of infectious, horror-obsessed death metal is in top form in 2014. The band is sounding as good as they ever have and they’re always on my tongue whenever anyone asks for a recommendation for a great death metal album in 2014. They might be the oldest dog in the park, but none of the other pups are having this much fun.

Words by:  Daniel Jackson

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