Necropanther – Betrayal Review

Bands like Necropanther are the cornerstone of a healthy musical diet. Everyone has that handful of bands in rotation that are guaranteed to release incredible, year-end list-making music on a regular basis, and with Betrayal, Necropanther has further solidified their tenure within this hallowed pantheon. Granted, Betrayal has seen a longer gestation period than prior releases, but thanks to the 2021 stop-gap EP In Depths We Sleep, the wait was barely felt. I’m just now realizing that I’ve already spoiled how I feel about this record, but given my past affinity with Necropanther’s burly, vicious brand of Skeletonwitch-adjacent thrashing death, was there ever any doubt? It’s a new Necropanther album! Buy it! Fucking buy it! However, for those of you who require more convincing…

Betrayal, in contrast to 2019’s more methodical (yet no less impactful) The Doomed City, is absolutely ferocious. This record comprises what is undoubtedly Necropanther ‘s fastest, most aggressive compositions to date, exuding a primal energy throughout that feels distinct from past releases. At the same time, Betrayal excavates much of the cathartic melodicism that defined Eyes of Blue Light. The riotously triumphant twin guitar-led climax of “Into Danger,” and the soaring leads accompanying the blistering black metal passages in “Wanderers,” are two broad examples in a record liberally peppered with bursts of melodic effervescence. Relatively straightforward stompers (“Furies,” “Out to the Sand”) abound as well, with other surprises at every turn ensuring that Necropanther remains as diverse as ever. It’s sort of unbelievable that this band has kept their quality consistent across all of their albums, and Betrayal is just as likely to be anyone’s favorite Necropanther record as any other.

And yet – I find that Betrayal hits a little differently for me than either of Necropanther’s two preceding LPs. While as brilliantly fun as anything the band has written prior, I personally connected with Eyes of Blue Light and The Doomed City on a level that I can’t say has happened yet with Betrayal. Those past records felt disarmingly emotional and nuanced for a band that has always described themselves as “short, thrashy death metal songs from a dystopian future.” Betrayal is a more visceral experience by comparison, and as its personality feels distinct in Necropanther’s catalog, that is certainly not a knock against it. I had just anticipated establishing a similarly deep connection with Betrayal, and instead, I’m merely left with what’s sure to be one of the most fun extreme metal releases of 2023. Boo-hoo, woe is me.

I have to wonder if I would feel differently had Betrayal not sounded like a downgrade from The Doomed City in the production department. Betrayal is mastered louder and features more abrasive tones than any of Necropanther’s prior works, and while the engineering is an effective match for the music, it also further obscures any trace of nuance. At least the band’s mission to ensure bassist Marcus Corich is always audible continues here; Betrayal is loud, but balanced. The members of Necropanther are thus as audibly talented as ever, but I must give special commendations to drummer Haakon Sjogren in this release cycle. His complex cymbal patterns and fills performed on Betrayal are a step up from his past performances, and grant the record a rhythmic personality that is more lively and dynamic than those of previous albums.

Betrayal is going to be a lot of people’s favorite Necropanther record, and that statement doesn’t just hold true for fans of The Warriors (which this album’s concept is based upon). This is Necropanther’s angriest, thrashiest effort to date, and stands out enough in the band’s discography that many folks will effortlessly gravitate toward it. As for me, I find that almost everything I love about Necropanther remains intact with this album. In time I might grow to adore Betrayal just as much as their other full-length efforts, but I still absolutely love it on its own terms. It certainly won’t be leaving my active rotation once my review obligations have concluded because, despite its shortcomings, it still scratches that itch for brawny, speedy death metal that only the claws of the Necropanther can properly reach.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: March 3rd, 2023

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