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"All I say is nuke 'em all!" - 95%

Zodijackyl, May 9th, 2014

Gothic metal was stillborn in 1989. It didn't grow up. It was seen once, and it died, then heavy metal and gothic rock gave it another shot. Soon, they built a family with the imposing big brother Type O Negative, the gothic doom/death cousins, and a bastard litter of wimpy "gothic metal" bands that sullied the family name. If only the younger kids had been like this, it would've been a dynasty. You see, this isn't "gothic metal" like those bastard children you know by the name.

Necrospirituals is certainly influenced heavily by early Candlemass. The feel of the music, the overall sound and production, is reminiscent of Christian Death's Only Theater of Pain - a crunchy, reverberated atmosphere that feels dark and gloomy despite the treble crunch of the guitars. The feeling of crunchy reverberated 80s guitars is almost reminiscent to a slower band playing with a similar atmospheric hiss to early Bathory, though the drums certainly have a much cleaner and more pronounced room feel. The choice of lyrical themes is intriguing - occult themes, American pride and the Vietnam war, hellish motorcycle riders and a bit of occult-tinged sex. The lyrics fit the songs very well. Through a variety of themes, the band manifests each one well.

There are two distinct movements, tracks 2-5 and 7-8, each preceded by a rock and roll song - something characteristic of albums of the era where albums needed a radio-format song or two to be published by nearly any company. Stillborn's take on this concept is great, with the sorta-offensive southern rocker "Nuke 'Em All" mocking America, and the even more radio-unfriendly title "Streetsatan" on the B-side. Another sign of the times is that the ~24 minutes of tracks 2-5 wouldn't have fit on one side of a record.

Stillborn explore the central concept of Necrospirituals in the first movement - taking Black Sabbath's idea of making music inspired by horror films and melding that guitar-centric style with the morbid aural aesthetics of gothic rock. The band embodies this concept, their sound, so wholly that they remain aesthetically united while exploring different sides of their gothic/doom/metal sound. The guitars can drive an occult rock/horror-inspired song, the vocals can lead a gothic rock song without the roar of the guitars, and the whole band can unite to plod through an epic tale of doom reminiscent of the storytelling styles of Candlemass and Bathory in the late 80s, though Stillborn remains much gloomier and doomier than either. The vocals are downright dreary, deep and morbid - a flat contrast to the regal voice of Messiah and comparatively bright pop singing of Peter Murphy.

The second movement has more upbeat, less barren songs backed by a chanting chorus, a dark ensemble feeling. While the first movement had the more barren gothic movements akin to Christian Death, the chorus fills the atmosphere here with eerie deep chants while the lead vocalist pushes the depths of his range with a sickening snarl. The band gets dark and groovy to contrast the chorus, and ends with an epic finale with an organ in true horror fashion.

Stillborn meld the gloomy horror film origins of doom metal with the morbid aesthetics of gothic rock and create something special here. Essential listening.

Cool, but way too scattershot - 67%

iamntbatman, July 1st, 2013

Stillborn are a weirdass band, I tell you what. First of all, they're from Sweden and their name is Stillborn, and this album is called goddamn Necrospirituals, but this stuff almost sounds like Danzig doing a collaboration with Van Halen in a doom opera at the biker bar from the Blues Brothers movie. It's pretty fun stuff, but probably isn't going to be topping anyone's list of lost classics anytime soon.

The whole album has an undoubtedly theatric, gothic feel emanating from bassist Kari Hokkanen's deep, operatic-sounding voice. You almost expect him to start shouting “Yo ho, yo ho!” at several points on the album, or possibly to start invoking some sort of spell in order to prevent Gandalf and the rest of the fellowship from crossing the Misty Mountains. Actually, this is pretty much exactly what Christopher Lee wishes he sounded like on those miserable Charlemagne albums.

Songs are inconsistent as hell in both style and substance. Opener “Nuke 'em All” is a sleazy rocker and was probably meant as a soundtrack to some teen vampire movie set in the 80's, specifically for the scene at the end when they all meet up at the local coffee shop/music/venue/dance club and party as the camera slowly pans out. Trashy stuff, and kind of entertaining, but jarringly different from what you'd expect going into the album. “Flesh for Iuses” is a huge turn in the opposite direction, an occult, doomy piece designed for maximum theatrics. Then “Albino Flogged in Black” is pure 80's sex. There are doom-laden guitars, yeah, but the slinky, sultry bassline is really the whole point. In some alternate universe, Gary Numan probably covered this. “I, the Stillborn” is pure metallic muscle, more like Bathory's viking stuff than anything else, albeit with Kari's capable baritone (or bass, I'm not a scientist) taking things where Quorthon couldn't have gone. “Streetsatan” is basically a harmonica-laden Social Distortion song.

You get the idea. It's almost like a potluck album; there's some vague consistency in influence and sonics, but the songs here sound like the work of a band that couldn't, at this point, decide what the hell they really wanted to be playing. Some of the experiments work much better than others; some are just a little too goofy for my tastes. The musicianship is pretty poor – the band definitely sounds better when they don't make attempts at guitar heroics. The doomier pair of tracks in the center of the album actually sort of bring to mind a simplified version of Candlemass, which isn't surprising considering Messiah Marcolin was later involved with these guys.

I have a hard time picturing someone who will thoroughly enjoy this album from start to finish; you're more likely to like a handful of tracks and not really dig the others too much, since there are such huge stylistic shifts throughout its duration. Kari's vocals are captivating enough to make even the dumbest moments hard to ignore. Luckily, the production places them front and center, with typically 80's guitar and drum production (shitloads of reverb on the snare!). The closest things I can compare it to are probably Danzig, Type O Negative and maybe Root, minus the black metal. People into vaguely gothic, deep, charismatic vocals will probably get more of a kick out of this than anyone else. Unfortunately, this is the only Stillborn release I've heard, so I can't even imagine what subsequent albums sound like, since Kari left the band the same year this came out. Whatever they sound like, I betcha it's weird.