It’s been over four years since Nekrogoblikon‘s Goblin Island came out. That album was produced by just two of the band’s current members, and it was essentially no more than a big preproduction release. So Stench, the group’s latest offering, represents an entirely new Nekrogoblikon, and along with the change in members comes a remarkable change in every other aspect of the band’s music and image: the melodies, the technicality, and, of course, the art.

Stench finds Nekrogoblikon sounding considerably more professional than they did on Island. This is due, at least in part, to an improved mix; each instrument is clearly defined, has a significant role in the album (although the bass, is, of course, a bit hard to hear), and meshes with the rest of the instruments. The keyboards are the most notable – they’re not there as a mere addition like they were on the previous album; they’re a real instrument and actually take some crazy awesome solos, like the one starting at the 3:45 mark in “A Feast”  (currently streaming here).

Also adding to the band’s new sheen is the fact that their instrumental and musical skill has gone through the roof since their first release. There are solos, there are frighteningly complex riffs and sweep patterns, there are polyrhythmic drum fills — in other words, everything a music nut could want in a metal record. Goblin Island was fun, but Stench — like all the best albums — will always reveal something the listener hasn’t noticed before, hidden somewhere in the layers of complexity.

But the album’s technicality never hinders Stench‘s captivating songs. “The Bog” and “A Feast” have the most infectious of choruses; I’m finding myself having to pull away from “The Bog” so I can make decisions for my year-end list. The songs just work really well. I never once thought, “Man, that just didn’t fit.”  The few breakdowns aren’t monotonous (on the whole) and the use of inhales is done tastefully rather than obnoxiously, a la Whitechapel.

The worst I can really say for this album is that some of the songs aren’t perfect — but what song is? Stench gives metal fans pretty much everything they need: heaviness, shred, goblins, awesome mix, badass art, brutal vocals – and a sense of humor.

Also: Check out the album art. It’s fucking awesome. Apparently it was done by an obscure Argentinian artist who contacted the band and asked to do it. This is one instance where you’re gonna wanna look at the full booklet.

(4 1/2 out of 5 horns)


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