EcnephiasThere has always been a bit of a geographic conundrum involving Italian band Ecnephias but then again as this album is narratively focusing on ancient pre-Christian cults they could hardly have embraced their Roman origins here. Musically having heard them in the past one has always got the impression that it was the Greek style of dark metal that they worship and considering they have gone as far as to get Sakis of Rotting Christ involved as a special guest on this their fourth album there is no denying this in the slightest here.

Taking on a focus trod from death metal bands such as Nile and Melechesh you pretty much need to be prepared before taking up this journey of tomb raiding metal. Water, hard hat, rope and weapons are essential and that’s before we get to sun cream and scorpion and snake repellent. As we are taken into the mystical intro of the ‘Syrian Desert’ it is time to let the history of the ancients wash over us as the charming (as in snake) trill of traditional ethnic instruments mesmerises. The Middle Eastern influence is all over this here, it is more pronounced than anything heard on the new Orphaned Land album even. As we drop into a slow brooding beat and melodic guitar weaves of ‘The Temple of Baal-Seth’ it is like finding yourself in a very familiar place. Yes, if you take a good splash of Rotting Christ, SepticFlesh and Nightfall all at their most melodic then you will no doubt like me be re-checking things to see if this lot are really Italian. That sense of identity aside the melodic twists and turns and harmonic clean vocals from band muse Mancan are pretty damn infectious and surprisingly upbeat and jolly! Basically after a few plays you are going to be hard pressed not to find yourself at least humming along to some of the songs here and possibly even trying to growl along with the gruffer vocal parts.

The Dan Swano Unisound master has made this all the more intriguing, things are very loose in the mix and you can hear everything going on individually; the sound is not built up and layered at all which really allows you to focus on the melodicism all the more. It all has a very classic feel to the flowing style behind it too and the addition of occasional ethnic sounding pipes really adds to the mystic vibe. The title track is a ritualistic summons to the Necrogod itself complete with some chest beating vocals which are really commanding. As for ‘Ishtar – Al-‘Uzza’ the band prove their influences a bit further perhaps as when the song starts it harked back to the likes of Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and vocally Moonspell! The latter bands aura does come through a fair bit more as the album progresses on songs like ‘Kali Ma – The Mother of the Black Face’ but it’s all done in a very catchy way and if you like any of the aforementioned bands there is a good chance that this will gel with you. Voodoo – Daughter of Idols is a stand out track and Sakis stamps his authority on it even if you could say that Ecnephias had been doing so throughout the album in effect. Finishing off with a 4 minute instrumental kind of loses the flow, a shorter one as an intro worked well but here it strikes as a bit too much. All in all though Necrogod proves a pretty damn enjoyable album even if not one that struck as particularly original.

(7/10 Pete Woods)