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Though the band has never issued a bad album, I must admit that I'm not a fan of the aesthetic sinkhole that Necromantia flung themselves into post-Scarlet Evil Witching Black. Where once the band shelled out for these diabolic, colorful covers that wonderfully mirrored their brutal and sadistic bass-symphonies, they seem to have dropped the ball with a series of bland, symbolic standards that felt like something any random underground act could spawn. Of course, once you actually start spinning the disc, you're treated to an appreciable act of occult, pounding madness, but admittedly, even the music upon The Sound of Lucifer Storming Heaven seems to lack the sinister luster of its predecessors.
The intro is a symphonic jumble of war samples, big orchestral keypads and forgettable riffs that don't really build much anticipation for the rest of the record, while "The Order of the Sphinx" is simply not one of the more memorable constructions of their career, a largely blasted piece with fairly mediocre riffing, grimy rasped vocals and blaring horns that don't really do the trick. Once you delve a little deeper into the heart, there are more varied and engaging pieces like "For the Elder Magi: I - Eibon the Necromancer" and the roiling, heavy metal charge of "Knights of the Black and White Eagle", but even at its most immersive and engrossing ("The Invisible Empire") the writing seems scattershot and unable to match the epics from the first two records. Granted, this is still much of what you pay for on a Necromantia effort, a merger of blasphemous bass and cheesy but fitting orchestration.
By this point, the novelty of the band's approach had worn thin, so the onus was on the the duo to use their unconventional instrumentation to write their bloody hearts out, which they just do not accomplish here. Where the older records (even IV: Malice) had excellent bass riffs and a creepy if campy atmosphere, this just feels like the same ingredients were mixed in a blender with no care as to the results. They were never a band high on production values, yet with the 90s fare, there was still an inescapable charm to each release. Here, it feels like Baron Blood and Magus Wampyr Daoloth were attempting to write something more chaotic and disjointed, but instead of transporting to a limbo of rituals and dark arts, they come off brash and churlish. The lyrics are more solid than the music. The Sound of Lucifer Storming Heaven isn't terrible, but it's the worst of their full-length albums, and a bit of a letdown after a seven year wait.
Necromantia is something of an underground favorite. Definitely not something for every metal fan, their music often transcends the conventions of metal, blending orchestral arrangements with eerie sound-bytes and odd instrumentation (they're the only black metal band I know of to successfully implement a saxophone on one of their older albums). As if that weren't enough, their unique brand of Hellenic blackened heavy metal is dominated by two bass guitars - an 8-string and a regular electric bass - usually without the help of a traditional electric guitar.
On their most recent full-length, The sound of Lucifer storming Heaven (2007), the songwriting is probably not as "out there" as on, for example, their classic split with comrades Varathron, Black Arts Lead to Everlasting Sins. These songs are mostly cyclic, with a traditional verse and chorus, and split in half by an interlude. If you just look at the bass riffs, it's almost like hearing a Mediterranean version of old Manowar - simple but melodic neoclassical heavy metal - exclusively in minor keys.
These songs have a pleasant knack for dynamic and broad display of emotion, doubling back on themselves and presenting old music in a new light. Also worth noting are that the orchestral arrangements have improved, and the band's prodigious compositional abilities allow them to easily live up to their self-donned title of "black aristocratic metal." This ideal is further supplemented by the feature of the writing of French novelist J.K. Huysmans in the lyrics to the last track (in the past, Necromantia sampled Charles Baudelaire).
True, this work is on the surface diverse, but it's all tied together by the solid, tried-and-true structures provided by the rhythm section. Production-wise, it's relatively thick, so this may take one or two listens before one acclimatizes to the sound.
Overall, this album is highly enjoyable, being simplistically heavy and intellectually stimulating simultaneously. Necromantia is a band dedicated to their dark art, and The sound of Lucifer storming Heaven is no exception to the fastidious standards set by their earlier material. If you liked any of the old stuff, this one should fit right in to your collection.
(Originally written for http://www.examiner.com/x-20872-LA-Metal-Music-Examiner)
Necromantia’s newest album is slightly different than the Necromantia I know. The band has definitely tried to expand on a style on this album, which isn’t necessarily bad.
The band uses their awesome evil sounding basses and song arrangements throughout the album. The Sound of Lucifer Storming Heaven is quite riffy like a lot of Necromantia, but they are relying on they keys and extra orchestra stuff more than I expected. The album is kind of like Scarlet Evil Witching Black, but with more orchestra and keys and a orchestra breakdown in almost every song; moreover, the only difference is that the song writing is a bit lacking while trying to expand on the orchestra and keys. They tend to repeat a lot of the riffs that don’t really accomplish what they want. Usually the circular songwriting works very well with black metal because it makes the atmosphere and keeps the ideas together, but The Sound of Lucifer Storming Heaven seems to lose focus in the middle of some songs, which make the 41 minute album slightly tedious. The album definitely has the standard dark, Hellenic and sinister atmosphere, that Necromantia does so well but it just doesn’t capture it as well like Scarlet Evil Witching Black. The riffs in the album are catchy, the break downs are solid like in Scarlet Evil Witching Black, and the band can really does create and atmosphere; however, I do not ever see myself coming back to this album, like I constantly do with their early material.
I have been knocking the album during this review, mainly because I hold Necromantia so high in terms of black metal, but this album is quite solid. It is definitely an above average black metal album, with some bits that can be unfocused. Fans of Necromantia will enjoy the album through for a few listens, because Necromantia’s song arrangements are always interesting and intriguing. I doubt the album will catch repeat listens; however, I highly recommend at least a few listens.