The last several years have been tumultuous for Vader: Long time drummer Doc left the band in 2004 and met an untimely end in 2005. The band seemed to take the loss in stride releasing two solid albums in The Beast and Impressions in Blood, as well as a 25th anniversary collection, but in 2008 the entire line-up of the band dissolved. Undaunted, founder and sole remaining member, Piotr “Peter” Wiwczarek, assembled a new line-up with the notable inclusion of Decapitated guitarist, Vogg. What effect, you may ask, has such a drastic line-up overhaul had on Vader’s sound? The answer: None. Necropolis is a Vader album, pure and simple. Those expecting the addition of Vogg to the band to have given Vader’s sound a technical death metal makeover had best divest themselves of such notions. One listen to Necropolis will make it clear that Peter yields the helm of the good ship Vader to no man.
Vader’s compositions have never been the most complex in death metal, but they do feature a lot of different riffs and tempo shifts, which demand a precise performance from the band and a relatively clear, punchy sound. Whether it is a testament to the musicians involved, the producer, pro-tools or some combination of the three, the sound of Necropolis is slicker than snot on a doorknob and punchier than Iron Mike Tyson. Despite their short time together, this new Vader line up is running like a well oiled machine.
Much like the band’s performance, the songs on Necropolis are tight, polished, no bullshit affairs. The tracks are predominantly short, with only one song breaking four minutes and most well short of three minutes. The brevity by no means hampers the songs’ effectiveness, on the contrary, the brutal efficiency seems only to increase it. Pardon the cliché, but it must be said: Necropolis is all killer, no filler.
While the quality of the songs on Necropolis are high across the board, the album is a tad short on truly classic moments. The fast and furious “Anger,” for instance is catchy, but lacks the anthemic quality of live staples like “Carnal” and “Xeper.” The one track that really stands out from the pack is “When the Sun Drowns in Dark.” Vader’s most memorable tracks in recent years have been songs like “Revelations of Black Moses” and “The Sea Came in at Last,” in which the band slows down, stretches out and evokes a little more atmosphere. “When the Sun Drowns in Dark” fills this role on Necropolis. The track rides a repetitive, but infectious mid-paced grove in a manner reminiscent of Sodom’s “Remember the Fallen.” The song also showcases some superb solos from Vogg, whose more melodic style provides a pleasant contrast to Peter’s Slayer-esque whammy abuse.
Whether or not Vader was ever a leading creative force in death metal, the band’s consistent output and relentless touring has made Vader into a death metal institution. Necropolis, however, proves the band is not taking its veteran status for granted. Vader is playing with the same passion and power, if not quite the same level of creativity, that made albums like De Profundis and Litany so devastating. Necropolis may mean cemetery, but there is still plenty of life in Vader.