Friday, November 15, 2019

Full Length Review: NECROPANTHER "The Doomed City" (Independent) by Dave Wolff

Location: Denver, Colorado
Country: USA
Genre: Melodic death/thrash
Full Length: The Doomed City
Label: Independent
Format: CD, digital, streaming
Release date: November 15, 2019
Dystopian concepts aren’t new to metal. Since Voivod and Queensryche experimented with them in the 80s to reflect the state of the world at the time it became increasingly common for other bands to follow suit. Necropanther draw on a dystopian sci-fi novel for an album as relevant and challenging as the novel was fifty years ago. Although many years in the making, “The Doomed City” belongs in a category with albums like “The Key” (Nocturnus) and “Demanufacture” (Fear Factory) for drawing comparisons between an unsung classic and modern society. With modern society becoming more dystopic than ever, it isn’t much of an effort.
Published in 1967 by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, “Logan’s Run” spawned five sequels (two unpublished). The film version of 1976 was the last of the dystopian sci-fi movies of the 70s (“A Clockwork Orange,” “THX-1138,” “Soylent Green,” “Death Race 2000,” “Rollerball”). While the novel and its sequels critiqued youth culture, overpopulation and resource consumption, the movie centered primarily on youth culture and hedonism, adding that rebellion benefits not from decadence but “ethical beliefs that undermine authority and power.” “The Doomed City” does the same while warning us to avoid contemporary society’s distractions.
Metal bands need more recognition for creating concept albums with a basis in literature and original stories as many are intelligent and reveal the work involved. Being conscious of the world and having something worthwhile to say has become rare in the field of popular music. Bands like Necropanther are still thinking instead of responding to the daily stimulus we’re bombarded with. What’s more, they express their viewpoints without empty preaching or threatening to shame the listener.
“The Doomed City” is Necropanther’s third CD, following their 2018 EP “Oppression.” The band has a fair amount of experience writing concept albums. Their debut (self-titled) was based on “The Terminator,” their second “Eyes of Blue Light” (2018) was based on Frank Herbert’s “Dune” and “Oppression” tells of an artist imprisoned by a fascist police state. Reviewers think crossing metal with “Logan’s Run” works because of compatible plot developments: a computerized society trusted to run everything, a mindless police force enforcing computer decree, a disaffected minority questioning the system and the question of whether mankind can survive “outside.”
While “The Doomed City” includes elements of the novel and the movie, tying them together convincingly, I would suggest reading Nolan and Johnson’s novel for the frame of mind needed to appreciate it. The chapters move at visceral, breakneck speed that fits the condensed length of the songs. The songwriting’s tense caliber creates an effect similar to “Oppression.” Here you experience the protagonists’ mortal fear and desperation as they seek to escape from their mechanized world. It constantly reminds you you’re not only fighting computers dictating life and death, but the police force carrying out its directives and a controlled populace.
The guitar duo of Paul Anop (vocals) and Joe Johnson exhibit inch-perfect musicianship, carrying out mid-tempo thrash, melodic riffing and lead harmonies with equal accuracy. Think of melodic death metal bands like In Flames, At The Gates and Amon Amarth with a more generous helping of thrash and classic metal. There are no keyboards or elements of metalcore like some melodeath bands are incorporating, but many of the riffs seem to reflect on the movie’s futuristic theme and the futuristic overtones of the novel. It’s like the material the band had in mind for this album required them to push forward and mature, disregarding the rules of past releases.
Anop’s dual guttural/rasp approach to his vocals helps represent the imagery of “Logan’s Run” as effectively as the music. There is a contrast between blind acceptance and the desire for freedom adding a lot to the narrative quality described above. All this is designed to hit the proper nerve as the album progresses through key moments in the novel and movie. I don’t want to give any of those away if you’re not familiar with “Logan’s Run,” except to say they’re integral to the storyline and keep everything moving. Suffice it to say “The Doomed City” is heavy on theatrics, takes its subject matter seriously and may lead you to want to watch or read. -Dave Wolff

Paul Anop: Vocals, guitars
Joe Johnson: Guitars
Marcus Corich: Bass
Haakon Sjogren: Drums

Track list:
1. Renew
2. Death at Hand
3. Arcade
4. Cathedral
5. The Doomed City
6. Hell
7. The Thinker
8. Paid in Flesh
9. Parricide-Genocide
10. Tiger
11. Sanctuary
12. Deep Sleep
13. Argos

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