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Necrophiliac - Chaopula: Citadel of Mirrors
Review: When we speak of "old school death metal" in the present time it is easy to forget that once death metal was a radical departure in that unlike rock, it did not establish a fixed cycle between two riffs of the same intensity, but rather, told a story like an epic poem through a chain of riffs crossing tempo and harmonic boundaries seemingly randomly; in death metal, the story determined the rules of composition, not the other way around. At the time it was radical, but now is even more radical, because unlike much of contemporary death metal, old school death metal embraced the basic sound of vividly fundamental chord progressions and radical shifts in rhythm and root note of melodic pattern.
Necrophiliac embrace this style and then give it as much dramatic beauty as possible, as if hellbent to find a grace and majesty in thunderous music nihilistic in its simplicity and adjustment of formalities to fit its needs. Songs are built around a generalized riff theme of two parts which has at its core a geometric division of the diatonic scale so elemental that it forms a vast and suggestive structure; this meme is repeated in augmentation through changing texture and layers of technique and supporting instruments, then it progresses through different riffs -- those that increase its fluid forward motion without hitting a rhythmic stop or fill, those that are internally-conflicted breakdowns which reverse direction or change tempo, those which establish a melodic circularity on which similar patterns can be played at different tones to give a sense of circuitous descend, and finally those tear-off budget riffs which take an existing rhythmic tendency and give it a single modification and quick return as if to quicken the listener's blood.
Lead guitars are derived from the more theatrical heavy metal and show influences from Metallica and Iron Maiden, often carrying long narrative leads that unlike solos stay at some ratio of synchronicity to the surrounding music and repeat motifs within themselves to emphasize its presence rather than distract from it. It displays the genius of old school death metal in that these diverse collections of riffs come across as a fluid whole, much like a sentence made from unfamiliar words gradually takes form in the mind through parsing of context. Melodic hooks stand alongside drop-dead rhythmic falls and E-chord waffling of an enigmatic sort, all put together with an ingenuous sense of percussion and the pace of change in song.
Vocals are loud and distorted with hydraulic intensity, and function best when they are twisting single syllables into musical if not linguistic elements. The entire package sounds like a fusion of Dutch and Swedish melodic basic death metal (Asphyx, Unleashed) with the free-form symbolic complexity of the Americas; comparisons could be drawn to Cenotaph and Obituary. This album never made it to the big time, thanks in part to its bizarre and mediocre cover art and intellectually unwieldly concept, but it is every bit as listenably sublime as the best from the most orthodox form of the death metal genre.