Spawn of Possession - Noctambulant - 2006 - Neurotic Records
1. Inception 2. Lash By Lash 3. Solemn They Wait 4. Render My Prey 5. Eve Of Contempt 6. Sour Flow 7. By A Thousand Deaths Fulfilled 8. Dead & Grotesque 9. In My Own Greed 10. Scorched
Spawn of Possession are the darlings of the underground. Their debut, ‘Cabinet’, was a favorite of 2003 for many aficionados of the technical death scene, and the buzz surrounding their follow-up, ‘Noctambulant’ has been superlative.
Their style is immediately recognizable as the rapid-fire, fret-board vaulting death metal usually signed to Unique Leader (who, actually, did indeed release ‘Cabinet’, though the band is now on Neurotic Records). The tag of ‘Unique Leader’ often is a euphemism for soulless barrages of 16th notes for 30 minutes or so, but Spawn of Possession have been able to gain a significant following due to their ability to inject snatches of melody and groove into their clinical display.
The first discernable change from ‘Cabinet’ to ‘Noctambulant’ is the heavier inclusion of effects. The album opens with a nearly two-minute synth instrumental that flutters about like the title song for a medieval-themed DOS game. Upon repeated listens, it becomes apparent that Spawn of Possession’s continually morphing, densely packed sound shares much with the MIDI harp noodlings we all used to enjoy during Wizards & Warriors, Castlevania, and so on. (Note: This is a compliment. Old video-game soundtracks are most choice.)
And then ‘Inception’ gives way to the first song, ‘Lash By Lash’, and all nostalgia is purged by these Swedes’ fierce determination. Immediately, a progression from ‘Cabinet’ is noticeable. The guitar melodies retain their inherent complexity but at the same time are more memorable and unique. Though this is not a record easy to hum after a listen or two, the riffs have noticeably more character to them than ‘Cabinet’ and most other bands playing this style.
The soloing is also more adventurous, though not in terms of extreme technicality; Spawn of Possession mastered that on ‘Cabinet’. Instead, guitarists Bryssling and Karlsson turn toward more classical, melodic theory to enhance their leads and solos. Though still congruent with the no-less-than-8th-note-palm-mute-to-the-bitter-end riff style technical death such as this uses, the mixed approach augments the success of both. It is during these moments where ‘Noctambulant’ is at its best, particularly on tracks such as ‘Dead & Grotesque’ and the closer, ‘Scorched’.
The album also benefits from a lyrical concept that, in this context of violent death metal, excellently fits the mood of both the music and standout artwork.
‘Noctambulant’s’ production does not quite live up to the standards set by the rest of the package, though. The bass, but for isolated instances (most notably the first track), is essentially unheard as an actual instrument, existing rather as a vague presence when it should be the cleaver backing Bryssling’s and Karlsson’s filet knives. Records like this could peel paint off the wall and melt the brick beneath if the production had the grit to back the guts.
‘Noctambulant’ has been mentioned as one of the year’s best—and while it absolutely deserves consideration for the technical death crown of 2006, it is not for everyone. Fans of the genre will adore it for its boldness and class, but those who do not particularly enjoy the more frenzied, amorphous techniques of death metal will find much of this album forgettable. It is true that sometimes the riffs are simply too much to process and the flow of a song (and the album itself) is lost in constant guitar wandering. This is not to say that three-chord anthems are the answer, but more development of each melodic theme would make ‘Noctambulant’ a far more compelling and memorable a work, facilitating their deserved rise to fame.
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