My younger brother, normally an upstanding man of good taste, introduced me to the utter barbarity of banana bread beer and then said it was delicious. Besides the specious justification of the yeast connection1, I have no idea why such a thing exists or what horrid part of the human consciousness that so horrified H.P. Lovecraft was tapped into to conceive of it. I’m not yet olde enough to do the “I remember when…” thing convincingly but nonetheless I indulge in nostalgia for the recent past rather often these days. I remember when beer was beer, I remember when we didn’t have to pretend Morbid Angel’s discography concluded with Heretic, and I remember when multiplayer simply required one game, one couch, 2-4 controllers and 1-3 friends in the same room; in a word, I remember a simpler time. American death dealers Necrot remember when death metal was just death metal, and The Labyrinth is their testament to that seemingly distant memory.
Clearly influenced by Chumbawamba, Necrot sings songs that remind us of the good times, and songs that remind us of the better times. This is death metal of the old school persuasion, and chances are that brings to mind Incantation and/or something to do with Leprosy, which isn’t too far off the mark. The Labyrinth aims for a simplified Incantation sound, not unlike early Convulse and Rottrevore. Their modification to this idea is to further drag it down into the gutter like Vastum (with whom they share a member), meaning that the chug-heavy style of riffing known to fans of Asphyx, Benediction, and Obituary is well represented here. The Labyrinth possesses nowhere near the amount of detail and complexity of Onward to Golgotha and instead decides to keep things simple. Necrot’s sound is a constant bludgeoning, faster and more complex than Coffins but hugely similar in straightforwardly punishing spirit.
Necrot’s success seems to be a product of experience. They don’t take their eye off their defined stylistic ball and more often than not keep their songs from running too long. This adds a type of uniformity that makes elaborating on the pros and cons of The Labyrinth little more than an exercise in riff comparison, both within the confines of its own thirty-three minutes and within the larger context provided by their influences. For instance, fans of Undergang’s filthy riffing will be pleased with “The End” and its violent, chugging style. Those looking for something more involved ought to look into “The Abyss” and let it look into them, with its noticeable Funebrarum vibe and a rare glimpse of incredibly simplistic melody that adds a bit of interest to its conclusion. “Scattered” is another interesting tune, bringing a hint of Swe-death and Blood Red Throne’s Come Death into the mix to successfully spice up the formula in a minor way.
If you catch an epistemologist in a moment where they’re not feverishly contemplating whether or not they have hands, they would likely tell you that success is a shifty term. So while Necrot succeeds at making filthy old style death metal stylistically, they’re light on the substance. “Into the Labyrinth” tries to merge Incantation with death-thrash, but by being unremarkable at both styles just makes the song aural wallpaper. “Cycles of Pain” sounds like something Undergang left on the cutting room floor from their last record, and provides us with no reason to listen to it more than once. “Consume Control” sounds like a bunch of faster riffs that didn’t make the Patricidal Lust cut sewn together into a song that just flounders about, seemingly unaware of its own mediocrity.
Going back to Chumbawamba, The Labyrinth reminds me of a good time. It brings me back to when I bought my first death metal disc, a Nuclear Blast compilation called Death…Is Just the Beginning Vol. 2 at a used shop for $3 when I was 13. I put it on my small portable stereo and let the filth waft through the air, not sure what to think at the time but being completely taken in by what I heard. Like any compilation, there were unremarkable tunes that fit perfectly with the others, weren’t offensive, but ultimately were just lesser examples of death metal. Such is the case with Necrot. They’ve got the form down pat, but the matter pales in comparison to a band like Vastum, who pales in comparison to Funebrarum, who pales in comparison to Disma and Imprecation, and so on; you get the point. The Labyrinth is aggressively adequate, and will satisfy those just looking for some simple death metal. This is fine, but I find such a level of quality hard to actually care about and even harder to earnestly recommend.