Home > Music > Necromantia – Scarlet Evil Witching Black (1996)

Necromantia – Scarlet Evil Witching Black (1996)

Necromantia has become somewhat notorious in recent years for using a bass guitar instead of regular electric guitars. Despite this, I’d say they are significantly more accessible than your average black metal band. It’s probably because the distortion settings used on the basses create a very melodic tone; combined with the frequent use of keyboards and frequent midpaced passages, this provides lots of content that a metal neophyte can grab onto.  The songwriting is also accessible, in that it goes for a dramatic, almost film-score styled approach. Case in point – a Youtuber mixed the song “Pretender to the Throne” with footage from the film “Sword and the Sorcerer”. To say the least, the video brings out the occult atmosphere of the music.

Anyways, Necromantia was one of the major players in the Greek extreme metal scene of the 1990s, often mentioned in the same breath as their more famous countrymen Rotting Christ and Varathron. The members of the band participated in a lot of side projects, but from what I’ve read, they saved their best material for this band, and perhaps this album in particular. They write a lot of ‘epic’ riffs – consonant, heavily varied in tempo, backed by the keyboards. A lot of traditional heavy metal filters into this – for instance, “Black Mirror” begins with a riff that wouldn’t be out of place on an early Black Sabbath album. In most places the influence is more subtle, or subject to the extreme metal techniques employed by the musicians – most of these songs have a few sections of blastbeats, but other rhythms played by the percussionist are often quite slow, bordering on doom metal.

There’s also a bit of a neoclassical influence on this album. Most good metal has a hint of it that manifests in extended songwriting and practiced ensemble playing, but here it’s extended further (although not to the level of Yngwie Malmsteen or such). Mostly, this means that the keyboards are very prominent, although from a composition standpoint they usually play backup to the bass guitars. The band also writes some non-metal material, the primary example of this being “The Arcane Light of Hecate”, which is a short piece with a ritual atmosphere, and oddly enough, a saxophone solo. Arguably, it was more prevalent on previous albums (Crossing the Fiery Path, and Black Arts Lead to Everlasting Sins, their split with Varathon), which play up the ritual, repetitive aspects of the band’s sound further. Later albums apparently shift towards the metallic aspects, being faster, more aggressive, and so forth. The way Necromantia merged all the aspects of their sound here may explain why this is (apparently) their best known and appreciated album.
Highlights: “Black Mirror”, “Pretender to the Throne”, “The Serpent and the Pentagram”

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