Necrophagist - _Epitaph_
(Relapse Records, 2004)
by: Jackie Smit (8.5 out of 10)
And so yet another supremely worthy contender steps up to the no-holds barred battle royal that is the current death metal scene. In 2003 we were blown away by the likes of Zyklon, Morbid Angel, Krisiun and Akercocke, and likewise in 2004 we've already seen superb efforts by Decapitated, Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation. Now comes _Epitaph_ -- an album which if anything gives new meaning to the phrase "inhumanly technical". Off the back of the hyperspeed scale-based opening of "Ignominious & Pale", one might even be nudged as far as to say that this German quartet give Trey Azagtoth and the late Chuck Schuldiner a run for their money in terms of pure instrumental virtuosity. Indeed, Morbid Angel and Death influences do feature heavily on this record, but unlike many of their peers currently trying to make headway into this style of death metal, Necrophagist have enough original ideas to deliver some outstanding songs of their own. Not content to merely blast away (Eric Rutan, please take note for when you record the next Hate Eternal album), the band shift seamlessly through a variety of tempos, melodies and atmospheres, creating a deep-rooted sense of dynamics which one unfortunately doesn't hear all that much anymore. "The Stillborn One" is a perfect example, starting off with a chunky pinch-harmonic riff before building to a Nile-esque speed explosion, which in turns tails off into one of the most haunting guitar leads this side of _South Of Heaven_. Relapse Records obviously know they're onto something special here as well, and have ensured that the production on _Epitaph_ is second to none -- every instrument is given ample to room to breathe. The bass guitar in particular is cast in the spotlight, which is not something you hear on death metal records every day. That said, there is more than enough skill being displayed here to ensure that a sterling production effort simply acts as the trifecta on an album which quite frankly kicks ass on too many levels to mention.

[Brian Meloon: "Aside from some questionable decisions in the songwriting department, this is a very good slab of technical death metal, and a more complete album than their debut. I'd score it 9/10, and rate it above Capharnaum, but below Psycroptic and Spawn of Possession among recent technical death metal releases. And yes, it's far beyond Morbid Angel and Death for sheer technicality."]


(article published 29/7/2004)

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