It seems like an eternity since long-time Swedish deathsters NECROPHOBIC released an album. It's actually only been four years or so. The excellent "Bloodhymns" was unleashed upon the world in 2002 on the now-defunct Hammerheart Records and left a bloody wake with its lethal blackened death/thrash delivery. I'm sure I'm not the only one that was waiting with bated breath for "Hrimthursum" to drop. But hold on, this is no clone of "Bloodhymns", and it may even take a few spins to full absorb the band's level jump in song dynamics. Much like the development of TORCHBEARER's sound from "Yersinia Pestis" to "Warnaments", NECROPHOBIC injects its blasphemous attack metal with more melody and atmospherics, not to mention a greater attention to instrumental detail. Once the dust has settled and the enormity of the group's creation stares you in the face, the realization sets in that this nearly hour-long journey into darkness may very well be NECROPHOBIC's watershed release.
I'll be the first to admit that I was imperceptibly disappointed the first time through the disc. I was expecting songs along the lines of "Art of Rebellion" from "Bloodhymns", with its unadulterated musical rage and wonderfully metallic lyrics like "I punch my fist into your the flesh and tear out your fucking spine" (OK, I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff). No need to fret though, as the band has kept its foot on the gas and continues to slay with pummeling rhythmic abandon, vicious axe swinging, and bassist Tobias Sidegård decipherable and evil-as-fuck growl. The band just happens to embellish its arrangements, resulting in an impact that will be longer lasting.
After the battle march rhythm and operatic vocal chants of intro piece "The Slaughter of Baby Jesus" opens the album in chilling fashion, NECROPHOBIC is off and running. "Blinded By Light, Enlightened By Darkness" and "I Strike with Wrath", are as destructive as anything heard on "Bloodhymns", albeit with a finer tuned delivery of black metal-tinged chords and brutal beats. It is on "Age of Chaos" though where the wing spreading first appears. In addition to another memorable chorus that includes the standout line, "Pray to a God that don't exist, tell me how foolish is that," operatic harmony vocals (presumably synth-produced) cloak the song in a macabre grandness. Similar effects are utilized on "Bloodshed Eyes" (this time with male choral vocals) and "The Crossing". Sound enhancements aside, it is a simple matter of strong arrangements and choruses that stick to ribs, "Eternal Winter" and "Sitra Ahra" serving as two more cases in point. With "Black Hate", "Death Immaculate", and "Serpents (Beneath the Forest of the Dead)", the emphasis is on feral aggression and a disposition that is blackened to the bone and nasty as hell.
In the end, the wait was worth it. Nagging label trouble may have prolonged the wait, but it is obvious on "Hrimthursum" that NECROPHOBIC was out to prove its staying power in the extreme music realm. Welcome back.