REVIEWED: Necronautical - 'Slain In The Spirit'
Contrary to what the ‘trve cvlt’ brigade would have us believe, black metal has long proved a pretty versatile and accommodating medium to work with, its frost-stricken, infinitely malleable foundations easily lending themselves to an ever-growing array of genre-bending hybrids and variants. And from the blistering, ritualistic grandeur of Rotting Christ to the coldly entrancing progressive intricacies of Nordic genre gods Enslaved, these numerous stylistic splicings and mutations every so often produce the stuff of genre-obliterating brilliance - a point richly illustrated by Necronautical’s latest exquisitely orchestrated tour de force, ‘Slain In The Spirit’.
It’s been a full two years since these talented Mancunians floored us with the flourishing, icily visceral magic of 2019’s ‘Apotheosis’, and while we had no doubt that its anticipated successor would certainly step things up a notch, what the band have accomplished here both in terms of the sheer scale and synergy of their sound is nothing short of remarkable. Having, significantly, shed the ghoulish corpse paint of bygone creative phases, there’s a palpable sense of assured maturity at work here, underlined by a fierce refusal to conform to the monochrome-tinted trappings and tropes of the old school. Above all else, this is a sound forged out of feeling and instinct, unshackled from the rigid constraints of style and genre.
Among the rich array of sonically expansive highlights contained herein, 'Occult Ecstatic Indoctrination' is exceptionally grand in scale, its crippling slabs of bone-shattering bass groove rumbling with ritualistic majesty beneath deliciously caustic lashings of tremolo. And from elegantly unravelling, Opeth-flavoured fretwork and notey progressive intricacies through to gossamer-fine crescendos of choirs that dissolve into the ether like exalted souls entering the great beyond, every separate element is assembled to seamless and collectively absorbing effect. Elsewhere, ‘Necropsychonautics’ revels in explosive episodes of blasting aggression and thick, endlessly contorting layers of fretwork in a darkly euphoric assault that leaves the senses reeling with adrenaline. All frenzied acceleration and gnarly, frostbitten textures, ripping first single ‘Hypnogogia’ finds the British black metallers at their most intensely brutalising and abrasive, with a generous measure of slamming, densely sinewy groove making for instantly addicting listening.
But from its immense title track’s electrifying blend of brimstone-scorched aggression and sweeping, Cradle-esque orchestral flourishes to the melancholia-drenched wealth of delicate fretwork that abides in the violently churning throes of ‘Pure Consciousness Event’, it’s these many instances of pure, genre-defying alchemy that elevate ‘Slain…’ to the stuff of darkly compelling compositional genius. As deliciously visceral in flavour as it is drenched in symphonies so exquisite as to have been forged by the hand of the divine, ‘Slain in the Spirit’ is, without a doubt, one of the most riveting new albums the extreme metal world has witnessed all year.
'Slain In The Spirit' is out now via Candlelight