‘To the Depths We Descend…’, Necromantia’s newest album, is a bit controversial. On the one hand, you really want to listen to the new work of the Greek Black Metal legend, on the other hand, it is clear that it’s not those times now, ah, for someone any recording without Baron Blood will not be what they would like to receive. Yes, to be honest, we were very afraid of being disappointed too. Well, listening to ‘To the Depths We Descend…’, we can conclude that Magus Wampyr Daoloth did not set himself the goal of repeating the classics, his own classics. At least the main and primary goal. Right, that would be inappropriate. Necromantia’s new release is an attempt to create something fresh and new on an old foundation. The Magus, with the assistance of George Emmanuel and Yiannis Votsis, did not create another masterpiece in the history of Black Metal, but at least it’s interesting to listen to.
It is beyond dispute that this is a very intensive album. ‘To the Depths We Descend…’ is equally filled with vibrant guitar riffs and pompous and dark keyboard parts, right, they are to be expected from Necromantia. Blastbeat-laden sections are interspersed with groovy mid-tempo insertions and almost Ambient pieces, so you really will not be bored at all. At the same time, the structure of the songs cannot be called sophisticated, if only because, as the very first song ‘Daemonocentric’ demonstrates, the main riff is often repeated throughout the composition. This is almost a rule for the album. The songs are not too long, nothing in them is dragged on, they even end unexpectedly for the listener.
From a musical point of view, Necromantia effectively exploit the patented techniques of Greek Black Metal, and equally of Swedish Black Metal (‘And the Shadows Wept…’ and ‘Eldritch’). But everything is interweaved in a very original way. The material is really perceived as fresh and vivid, in tune with the current state of affairs in the black metal scene, however, it seems that Necromantia don’t risk using the means of modern ‘Back Metal. For example, the apparent dissonance is used only once throughout the album, in ‘Inferno’. By the way, perhaps this song can be called the best on ‘To the Depths We Descend…’, there is a fraught atmosphere here, some sick suspense can be felt in it.
It is found interestingly that the palm muting technique is an essential component of the new Necromantia music. Palm-muted riffs, often on the verge of Thrash Metal, are present in the album’s four main tracks (‘Daemonocentric’, ‘And the Shadows Wept…’, ‘Inferno’ and ‘Eldritch’). Palm-muted downstroke produces anger and groove, so this rather unexpected move brings new feeling to Necromantia on ‘To the Depths We Descend…’. The most striking example is ‘And the Shadows Wept…’: the opening section is a classic template from Necromantia, it contains tribal ritualistic drums and pounding bass, however, in its development, the song does not sink into the past thanks to the palm muted rhythm part and mystical solo that is gradually creeping. ‘To the Depths We Descend…’ is generally notable for its solos, perhaps their piercing vibe is a point of contact between the old school and modern sound that is characteristic of this album.
Unfortunately, the same, i. e. “new life”, cannot be said about another no less striking example – about the last piece, the instrumental ‘To the Depths We Descend…’. At first we seem to be dealing with a “modernized” Necromantia, well, studio facilities clearly not from the 90s were used for such a mystical orchestration. Suddenly the saxophone enters, much like in ‘Scarlet Evil Witching Black’ (1995). And this deja vu spoils everything. The new Necromantia crashes exactly where it tries to repeat itself old. Ah, perhaps it would be better to use shofar, or something like that for this piece. ‘To the Depths We Descend…’ turned out to be somewhat contrived, in addition more pompous than gloomy. Another instrumental on this album, ‘Give the Devil His Due’, is more successful with its dark climax, a burst of dark energy.
The additional songs ‘Lord of the Abyss’ and ‘The Warlock’ are modern versions of songs from the debut album ‘Crossing the Fiery Path’ (1993). With these bonuses, the new Necromantia stepped onto thin ice. Well, in the vast majority of cases musicians believe that they give a “second life” to their classical song by re-recording it, while fans rarely sanctify the new version, the old one will always be better for them, even if it had some (technical) pain points… Who knows, maybe Magus Wampyr Daoloth made these MMXXI-versions more for himself and Baron Blood than for listeners.
Compared to the new material, both songs sound rather dry, as if they left their essentials in the 90s. Well, at least they show us that if Necromantia decided to record a new album in a retro manner, they would sound pretty pitiable. The Magus has correctly defined the strategy for the new album, i. e. “something fresh and new on an old foundation”, but it was not followed in full spirit. That is why the feeling of contradiction does not disappear while listening to ‘To the Depths We Descend…’. So listen to either new songs without bonuses, or old songs in their classic versions. Mixing them is not recommended. Actually, this was the summary.