A note on a scene at large: Music has always held a predilection to take the sounds of the past and repackage them in (sometimes) new and (periodically) creative ways. Or, to be frank, just straight up rip them off. Popular music in particular goes through periods of rabid historic pilfering every few years. Take Paramore’s latest 80s-tinged pop, or the entire genre of synthwave and its plundering of 80s culture in multiple facets. This is music so utterly dedicated to a time and place in music’s history that its very existence is dependent on some very specific sounds that came before. Now, before you call me a backwoods luddite who can’t get down with synths, I actually loved Paramore’s latest record and have found myself in a deep, trancelike state every time I put on a quality synthwave record. An adherence to the formulas of the past does not make music inherently good or bad (whatever that means), but details an important dynamic within the music community. We care about and emulate the past, for better or worse.
This is absolutely true in metal as well, particularly in the modern death metal scene. Old school death metal is in a state of resurgence unprecedented in the subgenre. Father Befouled, Necrowretch, Dead Congregation, Undergang, Portal, and a seemingly bottomless list of other bands have released record after pounding, flesh-tearing record heralding back to Incantation’s doom-laden, suffocating death metal, or Immolation’s fire-breathing aggression. The early 90s is a period of inspiration for many a young death metal band, and especially so for Necrovorous, whose new album Plains of Decay desecrates the shrines of old to create a death metal sound that is both incredibly aggressive and filthy on an unsettling level. If you hate this sound, go find another review of a record you may enjoy. If death metal that venerates its forebears is up your alley, prepare yourself. This record is quite good.
Necrovorous hail from Greece, and like their fellow countrymen in Dead Congregation hold to a strict worship of the sounds of old. But where Dead Congregation have gathered their forces around utterly suffocating soundscapes that intend to squeeze the life out of the listener slowly and methodically, Necrovorous instead go straight for the throat. The band’s first record, Funeral for the Sane, presented a wet-your-whistle offering that dedicated itself to a dirty, almost second wave of black metal production aesthetic that propelled the band’s music through a sonic hellscape that was impressive, if slightly incomplete. Plains of Decay builds on the band’s previous work in every conceivable way, with better songwriting, punchier and clearer production, and excellent instrumental performances throughout.
Album opener “The Sun Has Risen In A Land I No Longer See” displays everything you need to hear regarding the band’s sound. If this track suits your fancy, continue on in glory. The vocals on this track, introduced with emphasis in the track’s opening seconds, are deliciously vile. Controlled, virulent, and absolutely disgusting, they are a consistent highlight throughout the record. The instrumental work here is equally notable. Following an old fashioned four chord death metal progression which bursts periodically from its compositional confines into a rabid, tremolo picked mania that keeps the track both propulsive and incredibly heavy. This balance is consistent throughout the record, as the band trade off and further develop their influences with ease and consistency. Oh, and there are solos. Real, succinct, filthy death metal solos. They’re glorious. We get our first hint during the opening track, then again on subsequent track “Cherish the Sepulture”, which again displays the band’s deft ability to vacillate between tempos and speeds with relative ease. It’s a fantastic start, and thankfully this momentum is not lost throughout the remainder of the record.
The album’s remaining tracks serve to refine and develop the sounds established in the first two tracks. “Eternal Soulmates” and title-track “Plains of Decay” peddle more hyperaggression, while “Psychedelic Tribe of Doom” cranks up the sonic variation with a longer runtime and doesn’t waste a single second of it. Throughout this bruiser of an album, the production is absolutely sensational for this type of metal. The guitars buzz and slice their way through the listener’s conscious with tone and volume that coexist perfectly with the album’s vocal and percussive elements. It feels filthy while maintaining clarity, which is a very difficult balance to master. Necrovorous achieve this mixture and the album is all the better for it.
Front to back, this is an excellent OSDM record that adheres to the spirit and practice of the past without falling into pointless retread territory. Necrovorous have something to say, and they say it well. Plains of Decay is a record from 2017 that feels like it belongs in 1994, and it’s all the better for it. If you are looking for a bunch of tunes that obliterate the boundaries of technical wankery, this album is not for you. If you love death metal as it once was: disgusting, inflammatory, writhing in aimless rage and transfixed by wild thoughts of annihilation, this record will at minimum make your day. A very solid sophomore outing from a band that I hope we hear from again very soon.