Nekkromaniac – Plague Eater (Album Review)

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In life, many things change. New trends appear that we all adopt, new ways to express ourselves, new values for us to embody, new notions that we embrace and yet so often, the spectre of nostalgia haunts us, beckoning us into its clutches and entombing us in its all-encompassing malaise. Black Metal today is a reflection of this, a genre caught between an unquenchable thirst for the bohemian and novel and a burning desire to display its guttural, rebellious and musically challenging origins on its sleeve. Nekkromaniac’s “Plague Eater” is an ode to the latter, with its distinctly thrashy core combining chaotically with buzz-saw guitars, wounded vocals and frenetic percussion to create one of the most addictively violent and intoxicating albums existing in the genre today.

Welcoming us into “Plague Eater” is the title track of the same name, immediately a groove is created that has you headbanging mere seconds into the album. As soon as the vocals commence, you’re knocked back by their savagery and you quickly begin to realize the brutal 40 minutes you have lying ahead of you, it’s so adrenaline inducing, so vicious and its an energy so many extreme metal bands of today are lacking. Around the chorus, the heaviness fades away ever so slightly and the guitar begins a classical influenced riff which is an impressively intellectual touch in such a pounding onslaught of thrash. Eventually the song quietens down into a solemn, down tempo playing of the chorus riff, lulling you into a false sense of security, allowing you briefly digest what you’ve just heard before exploding into this immensely heavy cacophony of unrepentant sonic overload. It’s simply glorious and feels like a great way to start this sort of album. So often these days we’re forced to sit through meaningless and non-descript ambient intro pieces that are supposed to build tension but more often than not are just boring and end up being skipped every time the album is played however none of that is present in “Plague Eater.”

After an introduction like that, it can be hard for bands to keep the pace and intensity up whilst producing a song distinctive enough from what preceded it, lest a troubling feeling of staleness begin to pervade so close to the outset. Nekkromaniac knew this though, and they expertly manage to craft a song every bit as outrageous as Plague Eater and preserve their sonic core, whilst additionally managing to create a song that is distinct and separate from it. It may not start awfully differently to the preceding song, but it lacks the classical elements of it and some of the intricacy in favor of an even more frantic and First Wave of Black Metal styled sound. It’s probably not the most innovative song but it doesn’t have to be, it is simply enjoyable and there’s something to be said for that – why make complex what you can simply make crushing? Of particular note in this track is how the delightfully harsh vocals are able to remain relatively decipherable, which is fantastic as the somewhat cheesy lyrics are a wonderful addition to the sonic palette used here. They’re focused and pretty catchy yet they also display what I think is a sense of irony which is so important in a genre as inherently dark and foreboding as Black Metal. Impressively the band are German, so this isn’t even their first language!

I’ve always been partial to that classic raw BM sound, there’s something so peculiarly intriguing about it. There’s just this inexplicable energy that runs through it, it feels like something special, it’s like some dudes got together and decided to worship the heaviest sound they could make whilst still wielding the metal umbrella. They weren’t afraid to be controversial (for better and for worse) or were they afraid of making music that would be shunned by all that heard it. It’s the perfect example of the fantastic things that can be created when people avail themselves of the creative norms of polite society, replacing them with the self-determined norms of their own making. It’s great that all the way in 2022, 30+ years after the pioneers of the genre donned their ghoulish corpse paint, enrobed themselves in their spiked battle jackets and penned their masterwork odes to alienation, hatred for mankind and the repressed malevolence of us all that I can sit here and listen to a new album from an artist that respects and honors those pioneers with a distinct yet faithful interpretation of their own.

The third song of the album, “Napalm Funeral” follows a slightly different formula to the other two tracks of the album so far. It is less thrashy, less purposeful but is still very clearly in the ballpark of BM, the opening riff is oddly funky, with a jaunty simplicity that perhaps doesn’t endear itself on a first listen as much as it does on subsequent ones due to its stark contrast to the other tracks. It’s also significantly longer than the other songs so far sitting just over six minutes in runtime. It’s captivating throughout and feels like a worthy addition to the album and a welcome contrast at this point, perhaps incorporating some more 2nd Wave elements on top of the 1st wave worship the album opened with.

In stark contrast to the 6-minute “Napalm Funeral,” is the astoundingly hectic “Awaken the Depths” which only lasts for 2 minutes and thirty seconds. Oh, how enjoyable those two-and- a-half minutes are though, it’s the hardest song so far on the album with a monotonous nature with less scale climbing riffage and a greater focus on chug and ever so slight tonal changes within what actual riffage exists. It’s probably not my favorite track on the album, it’s only “good” and not “great” but that’s perfectly understandable just over halfway through the track list. Sure, it’s a shame the track isn’t better, but it’s short, unique and far from a bad effort, if it didn’t have to exist within the context of three phenomenal songs coming before it, it would likely be a highlight of many bands’ albums.

At this point, half the album has passed, and it’s been fantastic. You never know what you’re going to get with underground BM releases, the DIY culture existing within it and the relative ease of composing and playing the music (as if it is easy to play or compose any music) lends itself to a huge variety in the quality of releases within the field. Of course, the key thing about any music is that it was a true expression of the artists vision and that they are happy with it, but I don’t think it is a stretch to say that some of those visions have a rather…narrow window of appeal from time to time. It’s a firm belief of mine that the “best” acts have a vision that not just appeals to them but one that additionally appeals to many more people.

Heading now into the second half of the album we have “Pit and Pendulum” which opens with a Sabbath-esque riff before catapulting at breakneck pace into straight up BM again. This one is a real headbanger, its chaos incarnate, music for wounded animals and tortured souls. The venerable buzzsaw guitars I mentioned in the first song are still here at this point and they’re used to such fantastic effect throughout “Pit and Pendulum,” their abrasive, raw edge perfectly conveying the Prismacolor of extremity that drips from every fibre of the track. A special word again is due here for the vocals from Akheron too which drift from guttural groans to menacing moans within the space of seconds, there’s a range of harsh vocal approaches on display here and all of them are executed with aplomb and gusto.

The breakneck approach of “Pit and Pendulum” is continued on into “Sacrifice.” It’s not a huge amount different really with perhaps an edge of desperation twinging the track that is less prevalent in the previous track along with a groovier post-chorus section that precedes an instantaneous and unexpected transition back to the noisy and hectic chorus once more. It’s an enjoyable track that carries itself well and effectively sets up the homestretch of the album.

With just under half an hour of the album listened to, I’ve pretty much already decided that its going to be on my regular rotation. It’s one of those albums where you instantly fall in love, you keep playing it, you research the band and its members, you show it to anyone who’ll be willing to hear it (and even those who aren’t) and you get excited about what the band will do next, wondering if they’ll turn their hand to another sound but hoping desperately that it doesn’t stray too far from what you’ve fallen in love with already.

In the final two songs of the album something unthinkable happens. The album actually manages to get better, “Bleed For The Master” is the most clearly traditional track on the album and sounds absolutely mega, it’s epic, it’s angry, it’s dark and most of all it’s a song you can tell more than any other that this is a song the band really wanted to make. The sound cultivated here is so natural and effortless in a special way, a way which is not just rare within the genre but in music as a whole.

Heartbreakingly, the final track of the album lays ahead, but don’t feel too down because it is utterly spectacular. “Tyrant’s Command” is without a shadow of a doubt the single best BM song I have heard this year just ahead of Vorga’s Taken.” This track takes every ounce of energy, every fibre of the bands nailed on sound, every single drop of talent they have and every last trick in the book including but not limited to machine gun drums, a frayed and dying guitar, an immensely clear chorus and even a maniacal laugh that sounds so hilariously evil that it leaves you grinning from cheek to cheek. This is an absolute masterpiece and is the truest example of “leaving the best for last” that I can think of.

Nekkromaniac’sPlague Eater” is an outstanding listen, fun, dark, menacing and a true honour to the bands and wave that inspired it. I could hardly have enjoyed the album more.

Released By: Self-Released
Release Date: May 27th 2022
Genre: Blackened Thrash / Raw Black Metal

Musicians:

  • Akhorn / Vocals
  • Aegror / Guitar
  • Impioeus / Bass
  • Beheader / Drums

“Plague Eater” Track-list:

1. Plague Eater
2. Black Death
3. Napalm Funeral
4. Awaken the Depths
5. Sacrifice
6. Bleed For the Master
7. Tyrants Command

8.4 Great

Crushing, raw and oozing with charisma, Nekkromaniac’s debut LP is an unmissable album for any fan of traditional Black Metal

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 7
  • Production 8
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