I have a confession to make, and I suppose this is a good time as any to come clean: I don’t like black metal.
In its purest sense anyway. I try to like it, I swear to God – or whoever – that there isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t hop on the streaming services, click on an album cover that has an evil spider-web band logo against a surreal nature scene that Bob Ross might paint during a dark period in his life – and each time I feel let down. Too often it sounds like the anguished cries of a teenager who has isolated himself in a hollow log.
However, when added for flavour, blackened elements in metal are terrific — black metal is like the cilantro. A pinch can make something great, but add too much and I’m sending the fajitas back and asking to speak to a manager. So when Montreal’s Necronomicon flew onto my radar a few years ago, I was a little hesitant because they wore corpse paint and (at the time) had “blackened” as one of the subs in their sub-genre. I was pleasantly surprised when I first spun their 2010 release The Return Of The Witch (Napalm Records); instead of lo-fi agony, I got kicked in the teeth with some punchy, darkness infused death metal.
With Unus (Season Of Mist) Necronomicon continue to create their art inside that space where ‘brutal’ and ‘melodic’ overlap. The album seems to be split up into three movements, with a symphonic prelude tying each of them together. I’m not sure if this is an actual concept album or not, but I can tell you that ‘Unus’ is Latin for ‘alone’ which in many ways is appropriate; fierce individualism is a theme metal musicians and their fans frequently draw strength on. And the music on Unus taps into that ‘me against the world’ sentiment.
The playing on this album is stellar, with Rob The Witch handling guitars, bass and vocals. Riffs are razor sharp and memorable, and the grooves are tight. The drumming by a man simply known as Division is particularly mind blowing and perfectly showcased on the albums second track Infinitum Continuum.
While Necronomicon doesn’t exactly break a lot of new ground with Unus, what I think sets them apart is they add a little bit of rock and roll swagger to this music. The Witch’s vocals are warm and ominous rather than screechy, and the guitar solos have a reckless, almost bluesy quality to them. If I had one complaint it would be that the symphonic elements (orchestra, strings and choir) sometimes interfere with the other instruments during busier sections of the songs. That aside, this is a great sounding album from a band that’s been grinding at it for a long time, and who deserves more recognition.
Now, where’s my goddamn fajitas!?
Catch Necronomicon on their remaining dates of The Relentless Onslaught tour with Abiotic, Belphegor, and Suffocation:
20/11 – Richmond, VA – Canal Club
21/11 – Clifton Park, NY – Upstate Concert Hall
22/11 – Patchogue, NY – Stereo Garden
23/11 – Reading, PA – Reverb
Unus is out now.