The holidays are over. You’ve stuffed and gorged yourselves with every manner of confection and alcohol. It’s a new year. Time to back to the essentials. Time to stop evaluating metal on provocation and progression and evolution and esthetic sense. I need the basic building blocks: blast beats, detuned guitars, and growls that shake the earth. Give me my meat and potato death metal, I say to you. Give me my Necrophagous, my In Chaos Ascend and let me cleanse the soul with death metal that’s content to be death metal. Let it punch my gut, stomp my head against the curb and then pick me up like a good metal brother and do the dance again.
Because sometimes that’s all I want in my death metal. I don’t need or crave innovation all the time. What I do crave is execution: if you’re going to play this kind of music, play it tight, brother. That is not a problem for Necrophagous, who come out of Sweden and are made up of members of Visceral Bleeding and Entrails. I’ve always maintained there’s a kind of telepathy present in trios, and the execution on In Chaos Ascend seems to bear my theory out. Maybe it’s due to the bassist (Jocke Svensson) not pulling double duty on vocals, as is so often the case in this configuration. So he and drummer Martin Michaelsson lock in tight on the rhythms creating that perfect old school pocket so many modern death metal bands eschew for whatever reason. Another huge plus is the roar of vocalist/guitarist Tommy Carlsson – he’s able to get that death metal growl to really work within the rhythm as opposed to simply being a layer of hate over the song. It’s super easy to simply shout your unintelligible lyrical vomit over some blast beats and ripping guitars and not care about where it lands; it’s a whole other thing to really project and enunciate and work your vocal rhythms into the songs. Carlsson has that, and some meaty hooks in his guitar playing as well – I have no idea who this would get pulled off live, but damn if he doesn’t sound good on the record.
What about that record? Like I said, In Chaos Ascend isn’t setting the world ablaze with innovation. Instead, it’s doing what it sets out to do with the upmost precision and technical skill available, and damn if it isn’t infectious. After a brief intro “Order of the Lion” comes blasting in with a machine gun riff and Carlsson showing off those vocal chops. It helps that everything isn’t a basic 250bpm onslaught – there is definite order in the chaos where you can indeed get some hooks and riffs embedded in your brain to play on repeat. You get some nebulous solos panning all over the ether – maybe a nod to the modern world – but then it’s right back to primitive soul punishment in the best way. “At Dawn Thee Immolate” has some real Morbid Angel vibes to it, and if there was a band comparison I’d make here it’s to them, with maybe a little later Suffocation on the side.
At a tight 45 minutes there’s a small danger of too much of a good thing on repeat, but luckily Necrophagous keeps the momentum going nice and tight, throwing in some shades of Cannibal Corpse (the crushing “Wolf Mother”) and some mid-paced doom crushers like “Blood on the Stone of Thee Monuments” to break up some of the relentless attack. Far from being a tossed-off album in the beginning of the year, In Chaos Ascend feels like the perfect kind of re-entry for getting engaged with metal again after so much list-making. Who knows, after another few listens I might need to bucket this for next December….