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Necromantia is one of the most revered bands in the Hellenic black metal scene. However, their first album is certainly not the reason for this. Released by Osmose in September 1993, Crossing the Fiery Path showed a good amount of promise, very little of which was actually realized here. While being rather unique, for a number of reasons, Necromantia could not maintain a high level of quality throughout the entirety of their debut effort.
At its best, the music here manages to capture the dark and occult feeling of the Second Wave of Black Metal while also infusing a good bit of traditional Metal influences as well. At times, the results are quite brilliant and make for some very memorable moments. "The Warlock" and "Unchaining the Wolf (At War...)" are good examples of this. As a matter of fact, the latter is probably the most consistent song on the whole L.P. However, at its worst, the material presented on Crossing the Fiery Path is inconsistent, cheesy and nonsensical. Utilizing an 80-string bass in place of a rhythm guitar, Necromantia took quite an interesting approach to creating their sound. This is expected, since this band features Magus Wampyr Daoloth, a man well-known in the Greek underground. Nonetheless, whatever the ultimate goal of this record was, it ends up giving the listener the distinct feeling that it was poorly planned and somewhat underdeveloped. Too often, gothic elements dominate the music and take away from the main purpose. Synth and clean vocals do a lot to ruin this album. Not only with the intro, outro and interlude but also "Les Litanies des Satan," in particular. It is so over-saturated with this idiocy that the great riffs and solos near the end are easily overlooked. Similarly, the lengthy ambient section of "The Warlock" seems only to undermine the momentum that was created during the first half of the track. Whatever effect this was supposed to create was destroyed once it became such a tedious and prolonged experiment. By the time the riffs return, most will have lost their patience. Following this up with an instrumental track, that has absolutely nothing to do with creating an atmosphere of darkness, was also an unwise decision.
The production is fairly standard for an underground release from this time period. The overall sound is rather gritty and dry, largely due to the utilization of a second bass, instead of a guitar. The mix gives more of an organic feeling, though the synth is a bit high, at times. The drum sound is not especially powerful and possesses very little echo or reverb. At least, unlike many of their peers, the managed to recruit a real drummer. The double-bass should have been buried a little, to hide the inadequacies that are present on this recording. Otherwise, everything is rather acceptable, with even the vocals being at about the right level in order to convey a grim sense of morbid evil.
Crossing the Fiery Path is worth listening to, as some may be more open-minded than others and even the most narrow-minded listeners will surely find something of worth. "Unchaining the Wolf (At War...)" is definitely essential for any Necromantia fan. However, in the end, this record is more of a curiosity and gives the impression of being very disorganized or even unfinished. It would not be until 1995's Scarlet Evil Witching Black where the band was finally able to combine the various elements present here in order to create a coherent album.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
Unconventional and exotic, Athens' Necromantia are not only the most distinct of the classic Greek black metal bands, but one of the hidden treasures in the entire 'second wave' of the genre, if we are to extend that classification to artists outside of its preferred Northern European sphere. Duly atmospheric, to an extent surpassing even peers Septic Flesh or Rotting Christ. Simultaneously refined and lewd, with their fingers upon the pulsing artery of the entire 'cult' aesthetic that so characterizes the black metal pioneer, and yet as the stoic and regal vampire on its cover would imply, fully prepared to sink its fangs into that very same vein and draw sustenance to its own, belabored creativity.
Crossing the Fiery Path does not reach the vibrant, beautiful menace of its successor (Scarlet Evil Witching Black), but its a succulent tribute to horror, and one of the most creepy (if often campy) albums ever produced in the land of the jealous and devious ancients. Conceptually, it treads a path often too broad for itself, and yet the musical content permits naught but vile, life sucking rapture. You've got such a large range of elements, from the hellish chanting intro to "Les Litanies de Satan", to the Gothic piano/synthesizer overture "Tribes of the Moon", to the drawling 13+ minute black/doom epic "The Warlock", that it takes several listens to truly ingest. The use of a second 8-string bass to supplant the traditional guitar gives the album not only a streak of unbridled distinction, but a primitive aesthetic that parallels the pioneering wrath of the great Hellhammer.
The admixture of raw drumming, dueling distorted bass and the malicious rasp of Magus Wampyr Daoloth through "The Warlock", "Lord of the Abyss", or the more rampant rocking of "Unchaining the Wolf (at War)" is memorable and authentic, and the synthesizers are used sparingly to create a haunting efficiency to the ghoulish landscapes the Greeks are extracting. Where other early works in the field from Zemial or Rotting Christ were slightly lacking in their atmospheric reach, Necromantia feels like a fully formed, primal orchestra of morbid terror paradigms, the soundtrack to a series of un-manifest exploitation films set in an idealized Transylvania. From the pompous martial malevolent that inaugurates "The Vampire Lord Speaks", to the funereal immediacy of finale "Tribes of the Moon", the cult-addicted will be almost entirely in the debut's peaks of Gothic foolery and valleys of raw, ripping evil...
I say 'almost', because there is one track that slightly deviates from the blood-sodden path, and that is the "Last Song for Valdezie", a 5 minute bass solo with brief flourishes of ambient choir keyboards. Though its soothing and inoffensive, it does serve to breed some monotony and break up its demonic environs like an unproven ocean liner striking an uncharted ice mass. This is no "(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth"; it's not used as a brazen indulgence of ability. But neither is it even a shred so catchy as that Cliff Burton piece. Its simply a lull in the carnal festivities. But aside from this, Crossing the Fiery Path is rather amazing in its vision and sincerity. Necromantia loses nothing for its uncanny decision to run with the 8-string throttler over the range of the guitar, and this debut remains both grim and endearing nearly two decades later, the best of Greek black metal until their hell-stoking sophomore arrived, wreathed in plague and perdition.
We dare not to venture into the unknown. Whether it is a child fearing the absence of light under his or her bed, or a worshipper wishing away his fears of death, the thought of the void mesmerises us and perplexes us with its promises of finality. Let us pray. Let us cringe and hide. Let us die. Forever do we fear the day when fiends crawl out of the cracking surface of the earth and sweep over us like a plague of locusts, feasting upon our flesh until the dawn of eternity. Also do we fear the day when the tears of angels wash away the bloodied soil in a river of pain and suffering. Alas this would mean that we have perished into the place of no return. Alas our fickle life would be at an end.
Necromantia plunge unflinchingly into the dark abyss, spiralling without return towards the vast grey expanses of the netherworld. The uncertainty of life and the pale link between Life and Death bares its powerful jaws, whilst man shivers as thunder sounds in the distance, resonating in his sorrow as he tries to grasp at the mysteries of his puzzling existence. With a tragic sense of heroism, ‘Crossing The Fiery’ accepts the jaded fate of man, a Life destined to suffering within the morbidity of the universe, but instead of retreating to an early grave or taking asylum in a shell of hedonistic neurosis and hiding Reality behind Illusion, it resolutely presses on into the unknown, determined not to wallow in the insignificance of some God’s failures – fearless of the feral meaningless present in the mortal realm, well aware of he who rides on his pale horse.
Lessons learned from the early NWOBHM explosion are invaluable in forging this formidable work. The bounding intensity of Judas Priest is muddied under the stench of the 8-string bass and cleansed by the fruits of the earth, reviving itself triumphantly to march deep into the clouded future. The tempo is often halted so that the richly textured power chords can sound out as if they were the screams of dying souls echoing throughout the night air, reluctantly announcing the triumph of death. In these sections the storm brews, playfully taunting us mere mortals, until again the resurgent tremolo caresses our souls with its deathly touch. The phrases are long and include ambiguity, thus there is much to ponder. The warm, organic production helps give the atmosphere the tepid feel of a Mediterranean spring, a space of brooding and hellish deviance. Occasional lead breaks leap out like a serpent from the pits of Hades, unleashing waves of exotic melody and tension, winding and weaving in the darkness beyond the light, tempting the subconscious to venture out of its comfort zone. This world beyond is decorated in all its irreverent magnificence with slight traces of eerie synth - the choir of the dead. Ghoulish whispers narrate forlorn tales of demons and werewolves, the denizens of the night.
Stylish Mediterranean acoustic bass instrumentals and ambient interludes give this a distinct Greek feel – a celebration of the Hellenic spirit and its eagerness to seek wisdom and experience in the face of human mortality and the morbid nature of our irrational existence, finding beauty amongst the sadness of Death and honour amongst the desolate ruins of Life. This voice from the ancient past inspires us to reach towards the infinite possibilities of life and combined with Necromantia’s strong sense of the occult inspires us to look to Death to liberate us from the clutches of purposelessness. Herein Life is given a new meaning. For the strong soul this is a truly freeing experience, for the weak this is but an interruption in a life full of empty gesture. If anything, the message here is simple; find courage and venture into the unknown and you will find meaning behind the veils of Death.
Magus Wampyr Daoloth. A well known name in the Greek scene and mostly, for a reason. He's been around as a musician and producer for more than 15 years. Necromantia(being his main band) has reached quite a reputation over the years and it surely is justified.
This was the first Necromantia album I heard and one of the first things that got caught in my ear was it's originality: 8 string bass + 4 string bass? No guitar? It sounds like it wouldn't work, but it does indeed work fairly well. The 8 string is pretty similar to a guitar, but it's tone is a lot grittier and the higher strings have a really weird sound to them, reminding me of a massively downtuned Sitar, which is strangely very appealing.
The songs themselves are mostly very long, spiced up with dark ambient pads and weird "acoustic" passages. (The 8-string bass playing acoustic chords in a guitar-like manner).
Drumming is solid and keeps the pace very well without being exceptionally technical or innovative. The mixing is pretty rough, but I doubt you'd be here reading this if you were looking for a crystal clear, polished production.
The album (keep in mind that this is Necromantia's debut) is not flawless, though. It's greatest flaws are apparent in the songwriting. Necromantia try to keep their long songs(The Warlock clocking in at over 13 minutes) varied, but often fail in that department. It's not the lack of arrangements needed, it's the lack of MEMORABLE ones. Fortunately, Magus seemed to realize that and his future works do succeed a lot better in this part.
In conclusion "Crossing the Fiery Path" is a very interesting and original record, with many underdeveloped, yet promising ideas.
Ghostly, Majestic and Abyssic is the music of Necromantia.
Necromantia are not overly heavy, extremely fast or very technical, but very atmospheric, melancholic and captivating, and draws the listener into a vastly evil and sinister abyss-like atmosphere.
The use of 2 basses (one possessing 8 strings!!!) and (apparently) no guitar has a huge impact on the musical outcome, as it might though, I suppose.
It kind of makes things a little flat, but that makes it all the more evil sounding and helps create the atmosphere.
"Crossing..." is not one of those albums that is an all out metal war from start to finish, there are lengthy interludes of piano and spoken word passages in between most songs, which do not at all get boring, unlike many bands that do the same thing.
The majority of Greece's black metal bands all adopt this same type of songwriting and production, see the early releases from Rotting Christ, Varathron, Thou Art Lord etc, and also from italians Mortuary Drape.
"Lord of the Abyss" is the standout song on this for me, this particular song also appears on this split with Varathron.