I’m not sure what you, dear reader, want out of your heavy metal, but I’m in this for the riffs. To me, good riffs are the foundation of good heavy metal. What makes a riff good is, of course, subjective, but by my personal measure: if a riff gets the old noggin rockin’, it’s a good one. Certainly, arrangement, performance, recording quality and various other factors play their part in crafting good heavy metal as well. You can start with good riffs and still go wrong, but if you don’t start with good riffs, you will always go wrong. Oakland California’s Necrot is, on the surface, a solid, but unexceptional death metal band, but the group’s full-length debut, Blood Offerings, separates itself from the pack by offering, in addition to blood, some damn fine riffs.
Necrot counts in its ranks present and former members of Vastum, namely guitarist/vocalist/bassist Luca Indrio and drummer Chad Gailey, but Necrot, while certainly heavy, is not nearly as weighty or cavernous as Vastum. Blood Offerings is not necessarily a no-frills affair, but it is a relatively stripped down, old-school-leaning death metal record. Thankfully, Necrot’s old-school bent doesn’t owe too much to any particular band. Cianide, Master and Unleashed come to mind, not necessarily because of a particularly similar sound, but because of a comparable stylistic simplicity.
None of Blood Offerings‘ tunes are mind-blowing, nor are they filled with any ideas you haven’t heard before if you’ve heard your share of death metal. But Necrot has a knack for putting the right riff in the right spot. For instance, the opening track, “The Blade”, begins fairly mundanely, with a sort of sing-song tremolo riff, somewhat enlivened by Gailey’s varying drum patterns. It’s a fine enough passage for what it is, but if it went on too long it would be tedious. At about 45 seconds, however, BOOM: here comes a big fat chugga-chugga riff. And suddenly, Blood Offerings gets a whole lot more interesting. The title track features a similar climactic change. The band spends the first half at a fairly hard-charging pace before slipping Groove City in the second half, riding out the song’s duration on essentially one brutish, but slinky as Hell riff. Virtually every track on the album offers moments such as these, where a riff will simply demand your attention.
Although Blood Offerings is at its core a straightforward and riff-focused death metal record, Necrot gives the impression that it is not showing its full-hand – that it is reigning in its talent a bit in order to serve its chosen style. The solos, for instance, while not abundant, are deft and well composed, and they are not the only source of melody on Blood Offerings. “Empty Hands,” and particularly “Layers of Darkness,” feature some substantially melodic components. The former has a main-theme that brings to mind Bloodbath’s infectious style of death metal, while the latter features a bouncy, harmonized outro that isn’t too far off from Thin Lizzy. However, even in the band’s less blatant melodic overtures, there is an inherent tunefullness woven into the fabric of even the most barbaric riffs. Hammer-ons, pull-offs, trills and various other little flourishes are used to add depth to and enliven the group’s otherwise relatively simple musical approach.
Blood Offerings has only a few weak points, the first being the vocals. Luca Indrio has a perfectly serviceable, deep death growl, but his vocals don’t deliver any sort of hooks, nor do they really do anything to elevate the music. Secondly, Blood Offerings suffers somewhat from an overabundance of mid-paced material that leaves the affair feeling a bit too homogeneous, despite strong individual songs. At only forty minutes, however, the album will not be an undue tax on the listener’s attention.
While I consider myself an ardent fan of old-school death metal, after years of reviewing, it has grown ever more difficult to get excited about the seemingly endless stream of old-school-styled death metal bands that keep cropping up in my inbox. Necrot, however, has hit upon the tried-and-true formula for making me give a shit: RIFFS. If Blood Offerings can get a rise out of a jaded old bastard like me, it’s a fair bet it’ll do the trick for you, too.