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Crossing the Fiery Path - 75%

Noctir, January 30th, 2012

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.

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