Norwegian trio Nekromantheon have stated that they’ve one goal in mind, to play “fast, evil and dirty thrash”. And as the band’s sophomore album, Rise, Vulcan Spectre, is a riotous and hugely enjoyable celebration of the golden age of late ’80s/early ’90s thrash, I’d say that’s mission accomplished for the band. Influenced by a raft of quintessential outfits, Slayer, Sepultura and Kreator—along with a whole bunch of underground, obscure thrash luminaries you and I have probably never heard of—Nekromantheon’s unrestrained thrash is chaotic, blistering, and above all else, unaffected.
Nekromantheon started out in 2005. Based in Kolbotn, Norway (original home of Darkthrone, how’s that for a little hometown inspiration?) The band released its first EP,We’re Rotting, in 2007, and its debut full-length, Divinity of Death, in 2010. You’d be hard pressed to say Rise, Vulcan Spectre was any development on Divinity of Death, if anything it’s even more devolved—a stripping back of the fullness and complexity of latter-day thrash to a time when its brutal, primitive progenitors were kicking things around squats and basements in the ’80s. It’s beer soaked, filthy thrash, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
The squalid, insalubrious messiness that defines Rise, Vulcan Spectre is thrown right in your face on the first track, “Cast Down to the Void”. A Beneath the Remains-era Sepultura riff kicks the song off, a jarring, shrill solo drops in, and it grinds out on a Slayer-worthy sandpapered finish—Nekromantheon don’t deal in subtleties. The album is littered with deferential nods to thrashers of yore, and while there are commonalties between the band’s unholy racket and other thrash revivalists, there a real sense of spontaneity and fervor about the album that lifts them above the pool of merely nostalgia-driven acts. It’s as if the band members themselves are unconsciously tapping into the primordial sea of metal, rather than sounding deliberately or calculatingly retro.
Like all stripped-back, breakneck-speed thrash albums there are similarities between all the tracks on Rise, Vulcan Spectre. The pace and coarseness on offer never lets up for a second, and while that similitude—where one track essentially just bleeds into another—is often a big issue for whip-cracking thrash bands, Nekromantheon do have a couple of points in their favor to give the album a degree of variation.
Firstly, vocalist and guitarist Arild “Arse” Myren Torp, has a harshness to his voice, one infused with a grinding hardcore huskiness that he sets to great use on tracks like “Rise, Vulcan Spectre” and “Blood Wisdom”, spitting out vocal lines with throat-scouring intensity. Secondly, the drumming of Christian “Kick” Holm is just unrelenting. Captured in its raw state Holm’s percussion just pounds away from start to finish. With little regard to convoluted fills, when he does add a flourish here and there, like on “Coven of the Minotaur”, it’s like a lifesaving breath in an otherwise choking assault. And lastly, and here’s the key to the album’s ultimate triumph, there’s just an endless stream of fantastic riffs and discordant, screeching solos all delivered with an impassioned and scrappy lo-fi ferocity. Just tune into “The Usurper Command”, where the whirlwind of riffs dissolve into capricious solos and back again until the whole thing implodes, or try, “Raised by Dogs”, where the savage, unhinged simplicity of the riffs just propels the whole thing along – it’s impossible not to get swept up in the neck-ruining frenzy.
There’s nothing remotely complicated, sophisticated or innovative about Rise, Vulcan Spectre. It’s just eight tracks of primal metal distilled from the baseline of crossover ’80s metallic punk. Belligerent, unrefined and filled with rapid blasts of hammering metal, it’s an album that owes a debt to classics like Kreator’s Endless Pain, yet has its own pugnacious personality lending it much credibility. “Fast, evil and dirty thrash”, that’s what Nekromantheon said, and that’s exactly what you get, and when was the last time you heard an album that delivered on its promise? Short, sharp and confrontational, Rise, Vulcan Spectre is 30 minutes of cantankerous metal made by a bunch of guys who sound like they’re having the fucking time of their lives.