Necronomicon // The Return of the Witch
Rating: 3.5/5.0 – Epic death metal that doesn’t sound fruity.
Label: Napalm Records
Release Dates: EU: 04.06.2010 | US: 06.08.2010
There was a time where I loved all death metal and I mean all of it! When the death metal explosion started up in the mid to late 80s, I couldn’t get enough of the stuff whether good, bad or really awful. I just loved those Cookie Monster vocals. Over time however, as more and more bands glommed onto the style, my tastes refined and I steered toward those bands that were trying something different or unique within the genre. Canada’s little known death metal three piece Necronomicon (not to be confused with German thrashers of the same name) was always a band that did things a little differently and always earned my respect. In fact, Necronomicon helped jump start the whole “Egyptian themed death metal” style alongside Nile with their debut album Pharaoh of the Gods in 1999. Happily, their efforts to create unique death metal continue on their third album The Return of the Witch.
The Return of the Witch sees Necronomicon continuing the fusion of their atmospheric, epic moods and vibes with a straight forward death metal attack and they really hit a perfect balance this time around. Necronomicon have taken the core sounds of Nile, Behemoth, Morbid Angel and Immolation and layered in choral, classical piano and orchestral pieces to fashion eerie, menacing and epic soundscapes. Importantly, where some extreme metal bands like Therion, Hollenthon and Dimmu Borgir have over incorporated these elements at the expense of sheer heaviness, Necronomicon never lets them overwhelm and overshadow the true death metal essence of their music.
From go, the listener is treated to well executed, mostly mid paced death metal with occasional blast beat fury and anchored by the excellently guttural vocals of Rob “the Witch” Tremblay. Likewise, Mr. “the Witch” has crafted some excellent death metal guitar riffs that linger in the brain and really bring a degree of grandeur and epic scope to the proceedings (especially on standout tracks “Into the Fire,” “The Order of the Moon” and ultra- creepy “Necropolis”).
Throughout The Return of the Witch, the timely doses of choral work sprinkled into traditional death metal compositions adds to the overall mood and quality (most notably “Into the Fire” and “The Awakening”). However, not every track includes these elements, thus insuring they aren’t overdone or become tedious. Worth special mention is “Lillith,” an odd and spooky instrumental track near the end of the album. Think “Danse Macabre” off Celtic Frost’s classic Morbid Tales and you get the basic idea. Very well done and interesting! Adding to the overall success here, the production is appropriately big and epic sounding to suit the grand yet brutal atmosphere Necronomicon is trying to craft. The only real chink in Necronomicon’s armor this time around is the feeling that the last two tracks are a drop off in quality compared the rest. This isn’t to say they are bad songs, just not as memorable as the gems that precede them.
Overall, The Return of the Witch is an above average death metal release by a band that hasn’t gotten much fanfare or attention as yet. With this release, that seems about to change. Fans of quality death metal won’t go wrong by checking this out. Although it contains orchestral elements, this isn’t Therion and it remains a brutal enough album to satisfy all but the most blast beat crazed amongst us.