Nuclear Blast
rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Torn In Two
02. Death's Forgotten Children (feat. Tom Barber)
03. Necromanteum
04. Crowned In Everblack
05. The Pathless Forest
06. How The Knife Gets Twisted
07. Architect Of Misanthropy
08. Infinite Night Terror
09. Bleed More
10. Heaven And Hell At Once

Proud stalwarts of a deathcore scene that many predicted would never last, CARNIFEX become more distinctive and imperious with every passing year. Having leant enthusiastically into the realms of horror and the occult and written multiple albums that brutishly backed up that dark intent, the San Diego quintet fully blossomed on 2014's "Die Without Hope" and have been on a ghoulish roll ever since.

Inspired by a clandestine practice involving blacked-out rooms full of mirrors and conversations with the dead, "Necromanteum" is the most conceptually ambitious record of the band's career by some distance. There was nothing much wrong with either "World War X" (2019) or "Graveside Confessions" (2021),and each added a few classics to the CARNIFEX repertoire, but neither had the startling impact of 2016's "Slow Death": a big label deathcore benchmark that firmly established the breadth and depth of a band that was once routinely derided for being generic by dreary people on the internet. These days, CARNIFEX only sound like themselves, and their influence can be heard in many of deathcore's biggest and brightest, but a major statement of renewed intent is clearly needed, and "Necromanteum" is big and bombastic enough to provide it.

From its lurid, spooked-out artwork to the elegantly rounded crunch of its production, "Necromanteum" presents a more immersive experience than deathcore is generally known for. As Halloween approaches, it is hard to imagine a more suitable soundtrack. Masters of their craft at this point, CARNIFEX spew out a righteously theatrical blend of pummeling deathcore, symphonic black metal and visceral old-school death, with gothic horror flourishes hurled in at every opportunity. Songs like crushing curtain-raiser "Torn In Two" and "Death's Forgotten Children", which features a brilliantly twisted cameo from CHELSEA GRIN frontman Tom Barber, are thoroughly three-dimensional and as wickedly ornate and cruel-hearted as CRADLE OF FILTH at their operatic best.

The title track encapsulates CARNIFEX's supreme confidence: absurdly fast, densely arranged and gloriously epic and overblown, it packs a ridiculous number of great ideas into its four minutes, and still manages to deliver a lobotomized deathcore slap to mortality's forehead. "Crowned In Everblack" is equally mighty. This band's black metal influences have been apparent for a long time, but here the frosty discord of the legendary Norwegian scene is a tangible presence and the intensity of the blastbeats is at DARK FUNERAL levels of viciousness. Oh, and there is a richly melodic finale, a haunting shimmer of piano and a final beatdown that is laugh-out-loud repulsive.

Elsewhere, "Infinite Night Terror" is a harrowing bad trip set to some of the most extreme and extravagant-sounding music CARNIFEX have ever written. "Architect Of Misanthropy" embraces a sinewy and grotesque slower pace, with frequent bursts of light-speed vitriol and a particularly commanding vocal from Lewis. The closing "Heaven And Hell At Once" eschews the big gothic finish in favor of completely berserk and horrified symphonic deathcore that strains at the seams of its blood-stained straitjacket.

"Necromanteum" is exactly the kind of haughty, multi-faceted record that a band of this stature should be making, if only to remind everyone else that class, like horror, is eternal.

Author: Dom Lawson
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