Well, here’s a blast from the past... and not so much in terms of actual chronology, but definitely in terms of the sound UK-based Necronautical smash out on Apotheosis (pre-order the album or a merch bundle here), their third full-length album for Candlelight Records. I say ‘smash’ because it’s a fairly punishing affair, from start to finish, firmly rooted in the symphonic black metal era kicked off by the likes of Emperor’sIn The Nightside Eclipse and honed on Dimmu Borgir’sDeath Cult Armageddon.
It’s the latter I’m most likely to compare with Necronautical, though: not just for the sparing, yet tasteful application of keyboards over fairly complex guitar passages but for the use of clean, almost operatic vocal passages, such as in the title track. Even if vocalist Naut is not exhibiting quite as impressive a range as ICS Vortex, it’s still a well-balanced performance that counteracts the standard-issue screeches and growls. Another well-placed counterpoint is the occasional use of clean guitar arpeggios - especially in the album closer, “Down the Endless Spiral,” where the clear, ringing notes add a haunting backdrop to the proceedings.
Some excellent discordance is also brought into full effect on “Here Begins The Fall” - so much so, in fact, that the introductory riff’s halftones border on nails on a chalkboard - but in all the right ways. In fact, the only glaringly wrong critique I have of Apotheosis is with the final master. Perhaps it’s just the digital promo, but the bass presence is mixed lower than I would have liked, given the predominantly low-end vocals.
“Nihil Sub Sole Novum” amply illustrates the comparison made between the above-mentioned Norwegian stalwarts.
Necronautical is not the first UK band to flirt with this genre of black metal - the likes of late ‘90s Cradle of Filth or Hecate Enthroned are immediate associations with semi-symphonic orchestrations - but their revival of this sound on Apotheosis is executed convincingly. The keyboard histrionics are restrained enough to complement the ensemble, the musicianship displayed is of the highest quality, the compositions themselves hover comfortably around the 7-minute mark (a very good length for black metal, given the ease with which atmospheric meandering can happen) and the variety of vocal styles makes for an interesting, dynamic listen.
Apotheosis Track Listing:
01. All is Vanity
02. Nihil Sub Sole Novum
03. Lure of the Abyss
06. Here Begins the Fall
07. Down the Endless Spiral
Run Time: 50:18 Release Date: August 30, 2019 Record Label: Candlelight Records