Review Summary: Season of the Dead is early Death Metal at its best. A macabre mixture of horror and pain, Necrophagia’s 1987 release is essential listening for any fans of the genre.
There’s a little bit of hometown pride for me on this one. I grew up in Wellsville Ohio, home to Frank Pucci (aka Killjoy) and remember the stories told about him and his “devil band” to me when I was all of seven or eight years old. Of course that band was Necrophagia, a pioneer in what would come to be known as death metal. I don’t remember too much of them from my time there, as I moved in 1989 (2 years after this release) but I remember writing back for a copy of this LP a few years later when I started really getting into the genre.
Season of the Dead blends the spirit and theatrics of a horror movie into an auditory experience. A decade or more before bands like White Zombie and Manson, you had Necrophagia taking the extreme ends of the music and horror movie spectrum and weaving them into an incredible tapestry of brutality. More similar to Death’s Scream Bloody Gore
, but maybe a bit more theatric, The riffs are there, and are even be a little heavier, more doom oriented than SBG. The album starts off with an eerie acoustic piece leading up to what can only be described as a 70’s horror movie soundtrack. After about three and a half minutes of introduction the blood begins to flow.
Heavy, thrash laden riffs, double bass blast beats and signature time changes are all here in abundance. It has those great early to mid 80’s tones that were just so damned heavy for the time. Killjoy’s vocals are very hit or miss for people. Friends that I have played this for either really love them, or can’t stand them. If I had to compare them to anything it’s as if he is halfway between a death metal growl (think Chuck from Death and John Tardy from Obituary) and spoken word. It’s not as melodic, yet doesn’t quite reach the full level of black metal screaming. Horror movie clips are interspersed throughout the release (though never to the over-bearing point) and only increase the intensity.
One of the things that I always listen for (and love to find) is a release that manages to capture the natural sound of a band. The issue with a lot of modern death and metal bands is the over-use of studio effects, triggers and pro-tools. None of that is to be found on Season of the Dead. It is as raw and deadly as anyone could ask for. Akin to a pile of corpses stacked 10 feet tall, this is a release that every Death Metal fan should have in their collection. I can’t say much about their later work (yes they had Phil from Pantera as a guitarist after re-forming in 1997) but this is one of the building blocks of death metal.