Guess who’s back, again: The Necromancers are back, so tell a friend, yo! A scant year and change after rocking the Hall straight to Hell with their diabolical debut Servants of the Salem Girl, the fresh faced French foursome stand at the door and knock with their party supplies in one hand and Of Blood and Wine in the other. Last time around the party raged on and on, fueled by the venomous fervor of a fledgling band trying to make a name for itself; with Of Blood and Wine arriving so closely on the Salem Girl‘s heels, can we expect more of the same satanic enthusiasm/enthusiastic Satanism or are we doomed to discover that Servants was just a flash of hellfire in the pan?
In some ways, The Necromancers are still the same doomin’ dudes we met last year. Tom Cornière-David’s gravelly growl is immediately recognizable and as powerful as ever, lending energy to the more aggressive moments of “Join the Dead Ones” and “Secular Lord” as well as cementing the signature sound of the band overall. To that end, Tom and guitarist Robin Genais are still serving the same warm and crunchy tones of classic doom riffspiration we know and love from the Salem days… sometimes. More to come on that, but for better or worse, this is no Servants… Part II. Though there’s definitely some exploration and transformation contained within Of Blood and Wine’s 6 tracks, the important thing is that The Necromancers still sound like The Necromancers…
Sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, “Secular Lord” could easily have been conceived within the same Sabbathian stew ov riffs that gave us last year’s party album. However, a good portion of this year’s offering feels like the weary and painfully sober march back from Ibiza; for better or worse, Of Blood and Wine spends much of its time less interested in the bawdy rabble-rowsery of Servants as it explores the calm, classic proggery of “Lust” or else the somber blues of the title track. Rarely does this route to sonic maturity lead to louder, more chaotic fare, and The Necromancers have taken more than a step or two down the ol’ Nopeth road with this decidedly progressive sophomore effort. This isn’t to say that the songs themselves are necessarily any weaker than on Servants, yet there’s no denying that Of Blood and Wine is significantly easier on the neck and ears.
This shift in sonic priorities is significant enough that the potential for a divided fanbase is already looming on the horizon, lurking in the writhing shadows of Servants‘ sheer energy. Where the songs coalesce into a functionally cohesive album with enough dynamic shifts to keep things lively and moving, it’s clear that The Necromancers know how to do what they’re doing here, and I can’t fault a band for exploring how far they can take their sound throughout the sonic galaxy; however, I’d guess that even the most patient of listeners are likely to detect the same sense of listless, aimless meandering that pervades my ears each time I commit to “Erzabeth’s” 12-plus minutes. Perhaps it’s an unfortunate side-effect of my own disenchantment, but I can’t help but feel like even the more aggressive moments of the album just feel off somehow; at best the energized growling of “Join the Dead Ones” seems somewhat poorly coordinated with the surrounding instrumentation, almost as though the respective build-ups and payoffs of the vocals and the band are somehow mismatched, and at worst there are parts that will feel downright lifeless in comparison to Servants, such as the clean ‘n soulful blues comprising “Of Blood and Wine.” If prog and patience aren’t your thing, remember: I’m just the messenger.
Unlike the wild debauchery of Servants, Of Blood and Wine has proven itself remarkably difficult to rate. Though there are some flaws in the delivery, overall these bold new moves are executed admirably, yet in many ways this directional shift is so drastic that it might not even be fair to use Servants as a point of comparison. Ultimately, The Necromancers have given us something that rocks less but explores more, the end result being an album that covers new grounds for the band without offering much in the way of compensation for their deviation from the form we last loved. By all means, check out Of Blood and Wine with an open mind and a half-full glass ov optimism, but be sure to have a chaser ov something stronger on standby should the taste of disillusion prove too bitter.