Ecnephias – Necrogod

About a year and a half after the release of a magnificent work such as Inferno, Ecnephias are back with a new record for which expectations were quite high: Mancan himself, in presenting the new work, as is his custom, certainly did not hide behind facade statements, proclaiming with conviction that Necrogod would be the best album ever recorded by his band. While it is true that statements of this tenor are commonplace on the occasion of new record releases, it must be said at once that what the Lucanian musician claimed corresponds in all respects to reality. For Ecnephias, on the back of the excellent feedback received in the recent past, it would have been easy to reintroduce a sort of Inferno part two, but it is enough to know their history to immediately rule out this possibility: here we are talking about a band that, starting from the black with nevertheless evocative traits of their beginnings, has evolved over the years toward a form of dark and melancholic heavy metal with broad dark overtones, in a manner similar to what was done, albeit over a broader time span, by Moonspell (who, along with Rotting Christ and Septic Flesh, have always been explicit points of reference for Mancan). It would be a grave mistake, however, to expect a faithful but faded version of the Portuguese band: Ecnephias rework the varied musical influences (stated and unstated) assimilated over the years by its leader, as well as by his longtime sodal Sicarius, resulting in a product that possesses, in every way, an irrefutably and immediately recognizable trademark. If in Inferno the extreme legacy still peeped out at times within the individual tracks, in Necrogod all this gives way to a form of heavy metal with gloomy tints in terms of atmosphere and attitude, while any residual drive traceable to black seems to have been entirely channeled by Mancan into his reborn Abbas Taeter project. After premises of this kind, it would be fair to expect a catchy or easy-to-grasp work, and instead, after the first few listens exactly the opposite happens: in fact, Necrogod enjoys an unexpected depth and, for this reason, could be misleading for those who unconsciously approach it expecting more immediate episodes along the lines of A Satana or Chiesa Nera. It is possible that the total renunciation of the use of Italian had its own weight in making the assimilation of the songs more complex, but there is no doubt that the characteristic of unfolding slowly, of granting itself to the listener only after several passes through the player, is a peculiarity of great records. Those who manage not to approach Necrogod in a superficial way will get in return the chance to enjoy a fascinating musical journey focused, on a lyrical level, on the deities known and worshipped in pre-Christian times: thus, in the nearly fifty minutes of the disc’s duration, Mancan leads us on a religious-historical journey that includes the ancient Middle Eastern deities (Baal, Ishtar, Inanna), the feathered serpent of the Maya (Kukulkan), Greek Egyptian mythology (Hades, Osiris, Anubis, Horus), the terrible Indian goddess Kali, the monstrous Leviathan of biblical memory, and the magical rituals of Voodoo. But let us move on to a deeper examination of the aspect that matters most to us, namely the music: the record is opened by a short instrumental track that already foreshadows the new course of Ecnephias: increasingly evocative atmospheres enriched by ethnic and tribal elements, in deference to the themes dealt with. On the first impact with Necrogod, the two tracks that certainly strike the most are The Temple Of Baal-Seth, possessing an enthralling rhythm and a Portuguese chorus led by Mancan in exemplary fashion, and Voodoo, where the obvious Rotting Christ quotation is actually intended to pay homage to guest Sakis, who lends his unmistakable voice to an exciting track, within which the guitar takes on Maidenian accents at certain junctures. The title track and Leviathan show the more violent face of Ecnephias, although the melodic component is certainly not put on the back burner, but it is clear that their best the band from Potenza offers it in the most emotionally involving episodes, when the rituality of the invocations to the deities naturally amalgamates with guitar fugues of great intensity by Nikko, all punctuated by the elegant keyboard work of Sicarius and the powerful and precise rhythmic base by Miguel José Mastrizzi and Demil. Thus, if Ishtar takes on different musical guises in the course of its unfolding, in deference to the mutability of she who for the Sumerian Babylonians was at once goddess of heaven, earth and the underworld, Kukulkan and Anubis gradually unravel, showing all the ability of Mancan and associates in devising songs where growl and extreme riffs are naturally married to deep clean vocals resting on melodies that are seemingly persuasive, but constantly shrouded in a veil of darkness. The best example of what has just been stated is Kali Ma, a song that explodes in all its dazzling beauty only after several listens, as if the fearsome deity represented in it had wanted to conceal her own disturbing charm for as long as possible. Winds Of Horus is another instrumental track, placed at the close, over which the credits ideally roll on a work that deserves to be listened to again and again to fully savor its most hidden fragrances. Necrogod not only reaches but exceeds the already very high level reached by Ecnephias with Inferno; surely for the Lucanian band this can be considered the work of definitive maturity and represents the achievement of a status that should not be considered, however, a point of arrival, but rather a consolidated base from which to continue the constant stylistic and compositional progression. It is not blasphemous to say that, for the value of its last two works, the Lucanian combo can currently place itself at the height of the oft-mentioned Hellenic-Lusitanian triad; the real challenge now, for Mancan, will rather be to equal or, at least, approach its artistic longevity.

2013 – Code666 Records