VADER certainly has made the major metal label rounds these last several years, jumping from long-time home Metal Blade to Regain and back to another heavyweight in Nuclear Blast. But that's not the only thing that has changed in the Polish legends' camp. Joining guitarist/vocalist Piotr Wiwczarek on new album "Necropolis" is a completely revamped supporting cast and a new engineer in the world renowned Tue Madsen. Considering such upheaval in the ranks of Poland's leading death metal export (rivaled now by only BEHEMOTH) one wonders about the fate of that patented VADER sound. Wonder no more, as things haven't changed much; they've only been marginally streamlined and given a punchier production, as one would expect from Tue Madsen's consistently strong recording efforts.
Perhaps because of the band's jump to Nuclear Blast, "Necropolis" has received far more hype than any VADER album in recent memory, some in critical circles even dubbing it the band's masterwork, a point with which I respectfully disagree. As a long-time follower of the veterans, my point is that I'm not hearing an album that betters a landmark release like 2002's "Revelations" or even 2006's return to form "Impressions in Blood" (feel free to debate ad nauseam the merits of "Litany" and "De Profundis" as well). It is however another grand declaration of DM intent from a band that has never truly disappointed; and I'm including 2004's "The Beast", an album with which some fans seem to have taken issue.
If anything, "Necropolis" is a more straight-to-the-point kind of effort compared to previous releases, as one might surmise from a 33-minute running time that includes two interludes; the atmospheric "The Seal" and a rather goofy conjuration piece called "Summoning the Futura". In fact, the aptly titled "Blast" is about as concise as VADER gets, clocking in at a mere 1:50 and getting a lot of mileage out of the speedy little demon. The album also contains a few classics in the making, such as "Rise of the Undead", the rather SLAYER-esque (circa "South of Heaven" – "Seasons in the Abyss") "Devilizer", and a mid-paced groover called "When the Sun Drowns in Dark". The compositional style is tweaked only occasionally and subtly, yet quite effectively on songs like "Dark Heart" (vocal patterns/melody on the chorus), "Impure" (the swampy MORBID ANGEL riff-slither), and "Never Say My Name" (the accent in the main riff). Others might deem a song or two from the latter group instead as the next live staple(s). We'll see.
Progression has always been a relative term with VADER albums. The band sticks to a recognized sound that fans adore, while emphasizing good songwriting and an approach that keeps things from growing stale by touching up and slightly twisting. "Necropolis" proves the point yet again. Though time may change my mind, I'm not hearing a watershed release, but "Necropolis" is definitely good enough to warrant my purchase of the limited-edition digipack, which includes bonus covers of METALLICA's "Fight Fire with Fire" and VENOM's "Black Metal" and a bonus DVD not included with my promotional download. Still an easy recommendation.