The four years Raleigh death metallers Necrocosm spent woodshedding have paid off. Not long after forming in late 2011, the band became a staple of local bills, but the group didn't rush a recording, that typically pernicious rookie mistake. Instead, Necrocosm carefully crafted its debut, Damnation Doctrine. The diligence impresses.
The time—and money—the band poured into the record is obvious even on the cover. Local tattoo legend Errol Engelbrecht's meticulous illustration suggests the fluid, florid motion that John Dyer Baizley has worked up for Skeletonwitch and his own band, Baroness, or even the vintage pen-and-ink details of Pushead. Producer Jamie King, whose most famous clients might be Between the Buried and Me, offers his ability to balance precision with raw energy.
These investments go beyond veneer and credits. Recalling the cover's cosmic demons, singer Zach Senicola growls and shrieks about Lovecraftian horrors and inevitable death. The low-end pummel of bassist Matt Brocking and drummer Adam Walker matter just as much as the crisp leads of guitarists Kevin Spivey and Brent Overton. A similarly dynamic mix of elegance and brutality made legends of At The Gates and headliners of The Black Dahlia Murder. It requires careful production—too clean and it loses its heft, too dirty and the melodies get muddied. With King at the helm here, Necrocosm nears the sweet spot.
Despite its obvious allegiance to melo-death inspirations, Necrocosm isn't a sub-genre tribute or a one-trick act, either. Yes, "Architects of Death" immediately hits a brisk stride, offering a battle between a sharp riff, Senicola's stern bark and Walker's agile drumming. But when the chorus hits, Spivey and Overton nod toward black metal and NWOBHM at once, tremolo-picking in harmony. Spivey's solo in "Disavow" shifts suddenly from In Flames melody to Slayer squeals.
Necrocosm's members are obvious students of and zealots for all things metal. By taking the time to establish themselves first and their Damnation Doctrine second, they have made a reverent and refreshing survey of their influences—a promising first outing for a band with clear dedication to cause and craft.