Necropanther lead guitarist Joe Johnson has a confession to make: "We are kind of a cat band."
"I have a cat," confirms Paul Anop, who sings and plays rhythm guitar. "I used to have a few other cats. Joe has cats. Haakon [Sjogren, drums] has cats. We like cats."
Aside from being a self-professed "cat band," the group chose the name Necropanther because it's memorable, and the bandmates wanted to avoid the trap that a lot of thrash and death-metal bands fall into, using a rehashed, unoriginal-sounding name. The musicians also picked Necropanther to prove that they didn't take themselves too seriously.
Nonetheless, these rockers do take themselves seriously when it comes to the music they make, including their latest record, Eyes of Blue Light, which was recorded and written as a collaborative effort between all of the musicians.
"It's about collaboration," says Johnson, regarding the band's new approach. "It's about everybody getting their voice heard and recognized and fulfilling their artistic needs, and even more than that, the thing that I think is the best is that we were able to write for each other and fulfill the artistic expectation that any one of us couldn't do on our own. That's what it is for me."
Necropanther formed because all of the members want to collectively play heavy, brutal music and create satisfyingly dark songs. The outfit has released one full-length, a self-titled record that has garnered acclaim in both the national underground death-metal and the local scene.
"I think we each have our own influences that come from completely different places," explains Anop when talking about the sound for the new record.
Like previous efforts, this one is decidedly hard-hitting and agressive, but with a fun throwback flair that keeps it lighthearted and listenable.
"I would say that Paul is probably stricter, more brutal death- and black-metal influence," Johnson adds. "My brand of playing is probably a little more power metal and melodic rock stuff — the Gothenburg sound, At the Gates, In Flames, Dark Tranquility — and, of course, Haakon and Marcus [Corich, bass and backup vocals] have thrash backgrounds. I think one of the constraints we put around what we wanted to accomplish was short songs that are memorable in death metal, but with this expansive pallet, we ended up using melodic guitars and trying to find a hook, so it ends up being sort of more brutal melodic death metal. We all write in the band, so there are different songs with different influences.
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In addition to writing heavy, memorable music, the band also focuses on epic science-fiction storylines in their lyrics. Their last album was based conceptually around the Terminator series, and Eyes of Blue Light is inspired by the Dune book series.
"When I first started writing lyrics for the band, I tried to break away from the norm and kind of go for something bigger than just gore, something more concrete than just philosophy and witchcraft," explains Anop. "If you want to call it a concept, you can. I think part of the concept for the art as well as the lyrics is that we pull inspiration from an ’80s action movie or novel that we all enjoy. Part of it is secrets and fun things to put in there, so I don't think it's a mistake that they've been high-concept ideas, but also ’80s action movies — high-concept lowbrow, like ZZ Top."