NERVECELL - Psychogenocide [Review]

Genre: Death/Thrash Metal

Label: Spellbind Records (Middle East)/Lifeforce Records (Europe)

Released: March 31st (Middle East), May 2nd, 2011 (Europe)

Reviewer: Kareem Chehayeb

Nervecell is by far the most successful band in the history of the Middle Eastern metal scene. What they have accomplished has inspired many others to try and do the same. Essentially, you probably live under a rock if you haven’t heard of Nervecell and happen to live in the Middle East. Psychogenocide is Nervecell’s second full-length album, and it has lots to live up to, after their huge success with Preaching Venom in 2007. Psychogenocide was released in the Middle East under Spellbind Records, and under Lifeforce Records in Europe. The lineup still consists of Barney (rhythm guitar), Rami (lead guitar), James (vocals/bass), and Psychroptic drummer, Dave Haley, recording drums - talk about a deadly alliance!

What I always enjoyed about
Nervecell is how they used Middle Eastern influences without sounding cheesy and tacky. They apply it subtly to their influences, which sound a lot like Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, and even Nile to a certain extent. Psychogenocide has more Middle Eastern influences in there, but they also upped the amount of brutal death metal in there too. I can’t say I disapprove one bit!

The album opens up with Anemic Assurgency, a 2 minute chilling intro track with the “oud” being played with what sounds like tympanis, cymbals, and a couple of Arabian percussion instruments. There are some light backing tracks too in the background to fill up the atmosphere, and it sounds awesome.

Upon An Epidemic Scheme comes in and all hell begins to break loose. James comes in with a growl that sounds in a different range, and I knew that I was going to love this. Though I will never complain about a vocalist’s range being too similar, I think it’s awesome how James is going for mid range vocals in some parts of the album without getting rid of his lower growls, which are incredible as is. The way the song is structured reminds me a lot of Symbolic-era Death, where there was the experimentation of different time signatures and offbeat rhythms, but using it sparingly to make the song a bit more unique, unlike many bands today….

All Eyes on Them is the next track and while it delivers the same skull crushing riffs Nervecell always deliver, I can’t help but say that the interlude in this song is incredible: the short clean portion, Rami’s short but sweet solo, and the heavy breakdown with James’ growls and incredibly tight riffs. I was really impressed with the song.

The next song is one of my favorites off the album: Amok Doctrine. Though I am usually the passive stander at the metal show, observing the band’s gear and watching the musicians play, I would be a 15 year old again and headbang to this till I can’t feel my neck. The black metal-esque verse is incredible too. James tends to use high screams to layer his growls in various parts in this song and it sounds incredible. Of course, I can’t help but to notice another great interlude with this song. The riffs have a great groove to them and the leads sound great and memorable. Just like in their last couple of tracks, they use a variety of different riffs but keep them well connected. The title track, Psychogenocide, is another excellent song. I felt a little bit of Necrophagist in the intro, which always makes me happy. If anyone wants to hear the dynamic variations in James vocals, I think this the right song! It’s incredible, and I can’t help but to applaud Rami and Barney as well for the riffs on this song too.

Shunq (To the Despaired…King of Darkness) features Karl Sanders from Nile doing vocals with James. James growls in Arabic, and Sanders growls in English; holy shit. This is definitely a track you can’t miss from the album. While Nervecell aren’t the first metal band to have Arabic vocals (Kaoteon have done so in the past with Anthem of the Dead), they did a great job with it. The combination of James' deep growls (which have gotten deeper since Preaching Venom – somehow) and Karl Sanders raspy growls combine incredibly well! This song has a consistent groove to it but gets incredibly technical and sounds more like Nile and Necrophagist. Of course, Rami plays a beautifully phrased solo towards the end. I think that solo in particular is my favorite off the entire album.

The Taste of Betrayal is an instrumental track that is a lot more atmospheric and somewhat mellower than “Ratios” that was on Preaching Venom. I did enjoy the use of traditional percussion instruments in the middle of the song, before Rami unleashes an eerie guitar lick that ultimately ends the track.

Driven By Nescience
comes after and puts this album back on its brutal course. It comes in with no fancy introduction with a groovy breakdown that is bound to stir up some chaos in a moshpit. I can’t help but to praise Dave Haley once again; he is an incredible drummer! A notable feature in the song too is the black metal like interlude. I thought it gave it a cool atmosphere, and I always felt that Middle Eastern influences could go hand in hand with some black metal.

All in all,
Nervecell somehow raised the bar again. They came up with a unique new album that had all the great things Preaching Venom did, but also added something new without changing to the scope of the band. I’ve definitely been following Nervecell religiously since I saw and met them at Dubai Desert Rock Festival 2008, but I can’t help but say that this is one of my favorite Death metal albums that came out this year, and definitely one of my favorite death metal albums in general. This band constantly impresses me, and I wish I could say something negative about the album. I’d give this a 10, but no album is perfect, so this will do:

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