Classic black death combo Necrophobic return on Mark of the Necrogram. Five years in the making, along with significant lineup shifts following the ouster of frontman Tobias Sidegård, the Swedes’ new album is a return to the halcyon days of Necrophobic. We’re talking The Nocturnal Silence, Darkside, and The Third Antichrist. The unholy trio of Necrophobic’s past. But Mark of the Necrogram isn’t just rehaunt of old cemeteries. In fact, it’s a left-hand path forward, dark, malign, and obscure. That it’s a follow-up conceptually to 2009 stand-out Death to All is one thing, but musically it feels like blackened death metal anew. Tracks like “Odium Caecum,” “Tsar Bomba,” “Requiem for a Dying Sun,” and the title track display Necrophobic on full (nuclear) blast. That’s a reference to “Tsar Bomba” not the label, Nuclear Blast.
Now inked to Century Media, the Swedes can now rest easier that the label behind such modern classics as Morbus Chron’s Sweven, Firespawn’s The Reprobate, and the upcoming as-yet-untitled Unanimated understand Necrophobic’s position, sonically and lyrically, on death and black metal. While some have disregarded the Swedes for Sidegård ‘issues,’ make no mistake the band in 2018 are of a different moral compass (still evil, no less) and musically they’re writing some of the best songs since The Call scared the shit out of the scene in 1993. Read on as drummer, founding member Joakim Sterner details Necrophobic in 2018 and what it took to get Mark of the Necrogram from Hell to stereo.
Would you consider Necrophobic in 2018 a new beginning?
Joakim Sterner: Seeing it in the way that our first singer [Anders Strokirk] from the first album is back for a few years, and recently also the guitarists that have been in the band for most [of our] years, Sebastian and Johan, and that a new, long-awaited album is out, with all the expectations that came with it–yes, a sort of new beginning. Or a return–with full force.
Right. Sebastian Ramstedt and Johan Bergebäck have returned to the Necrophobic fold. Anders Strokirk also marks his return, though a few years earlier. What’s that like to work with former bandmates?
Joakim Sterner: It feels like the band is the band again. Full dedication in everything we do. Metal people 100 percent. The live sound and live shows (performances) are back where it should be and it will not stagnate. It will develop. We have always been influenced by bands that did more than just stand on stage and look at their instruments and play every single note perfectly. We are more into giving something more than the music when we play live. We are not a 100 percent black metal band. We also have death metal roots, from the years growing up, when death metal was new, but as you can see, we have nothing in common with many death metal bands. We are not on stage with clothes that ‘feel comfortable’ to play in, like shorts and t-shirts. On the contrary, we wear the leather clothes and the bullet belts/studded belts and stuff like that, like our old heroes had in the ’80s, and it separates us from others. It also fits our music, which is called blackened death metal.
Your new album is your first since 2013’s Womb of Lilithu. What happened in the Necrophobic camp to account for the four-year gap?
Joakim Sterner: A horrible 2013 led to low energy, but as we had Anders coming back to the band, we got the right injection that the band needed. We have been playing shows around in Europe, USA, and South America on mini tours, to stay afloat. On New Year’s Eve 2017, we presented the ‘new’ strong line-up and have been working on new material up till October, when we started the recording of the new album. During 2017, we also signed with Century Media.
You issued the Pesta EP on Century Media. What was the feedback like to the EP?
Joakim Sterner: Tremendously good! People were dying to hear more.
Any new influences coming into Necrophobic? Or, are they the same as they’ve always been: Slayer, Bathory, etc.?
Joakim Sterner: We have been doing this for so many years now, so we can’t say that we are influenced by any bands right now. Of course, those aforementioned bands have meant a lot to us in the early years. We wanted to create something similar. But we have, since many, many years ago, created a way we want to make our music. A musical landscape that consists of dark feelings.
What were the writing sessions like for Mark of the Necrogram?
Joakim Sterner: Today, we don’t rehearse the way we did many, many years ago. As always, I am the filter that ensures that the songs will sound like Necrophobic. In the old days death metal bands used to pile riffs one after the other. Making great, but not logical songs. We do the opposite. The recipe of verse–bridge–verse–pre-chorus–chorus–bridge–solo–pre-chorus–double chorus is very effective. Sebastian is the main songwriter. His ideas come to life as full-blown entities. He seldom puts a bunch of riffs together. He does not ‘sit down to write.’ The whole spirit of the song and sometimes even the lyrics come to life at once. Often while doing something completely different. Then he has to transform this into the formula of a Necrophobic song. The songs are, most of the time, finished in full when the rest of the band hears them for the first time. All the other members write as well. We contribute with riffs and ideas, but rarely put together whole songs. Sebastian takes our material and arranges it. Then he makes demos at home. The whole band gives feedback and Sebastian re-arranges it until it sounds right.
How were they different, if at all from Womb of Lilithu?
Joakim Sterner: The way the songs have been written has been in the same way for so many years now, but the Womb of Lilithu album is a bit different, because of the line-up that created it. But speaking of the upcoming album, it is a bit more dynamic and more varied than before. But the songs still have the Necrophobic ‘trademark.’
Lyrically, what kind of topics are of most interest to Necrophobic in 2018? Is there a central theme to the new album?
Joakim Sterner: The lyrical theme on the new album continues where the album Death to All ended. The lyrics for the song “Mark of the Necrogram” can be set in a timeline between “Revelation 666” and “Triumph of the Horned.” We have dug deep into some of the historical great epics and created dark poems that will match the ferocity of the songs. We are not fan of explaining every word or line. It’s up to the listener. The lyric ranges from self-perceived destruction at the very end of life as in “Sacrosanct” to interpretations of old Sumerian stone plates in “From the Great Above to the Great Below.” “Tsar Bomba” was written on tour in Russia and “Pesta” dwells with our own northern mythology.
You’ve been doing Necrophobic for almost 30 years. What are your thoughts on Necrophobic’s longevity?
Joakim Sterner: We’ve been doing the music that feels honest and true to ourselves. No matter on what’s trendy at the moment. No matter how the winds blow. Our music has stayed the same, in a way, more or less, but at the same time we have managed to develop our music. Develop within our region. All bands want to sell more and more albums, so do we, but that is not our goal. If it happens, it happens, but again, we write the music we want to listen to ourselves.
What are Necrophobic’s next steps? Can we expect more touring, more festivals, etc.?
Joakim Sterner: Play mini tours, festivals, gigs here and there, as much as we are able to do.
** Necrophobic’s blackened death masterpiece, Mark of the Necrogram, is out now on Century Media Records. Orders in various bundles, including vinyl and CD, are HERE. There will be no better Swedish blackened death metal album this year!