Saturday, January 7, 2012

Necromantia - Scarlet Evil Witching Black (1995)

After making a somewhat negative impression with their debut album, Crossing the Fiery Path, Necromantia made sure that the follow-up effort would blow everyone away. Released by Osmose Records, in November 1995, Scarlet Evil Witching Black saw the band realize the potential that was hinted at on the first album, and then some. This is the sort of brilliant album that a band could hang their hat on for years to come, and is definitely Necromantia's crowning achievement. In fact, this is one of the best albums to be spawned from the Hellenic Black Metal scene, period.

While the material on the band's first L.P. was very disjointed and seemed incomplete, at times, Scarlet Evil Witching Black succeeds in mixing the various elements together and creating something unique and incredible. There is a raw intensity that is present here, something that was lacking on Crossing the Fiery Path. The album features many more high-speed sections, though never neglecting to maintain a sense of variation in the tempo of each song and incorporating more traditional Metal within the overall sound. Some of the faster sections show an influence from the north, which gives this record a stronger association with the Second Wave sound. As well, one can detect some old Bathory influence, which is always a good thing. This time around, the clean vocals and keyboards are worked into the mix a lot better, appearing to fit naturally rather than coming from nowhere and marking a severe shift in the direction of the record. Of course, nothing is perfect, and there is still one rather useless track ("The Arcane Light of Hecate") that does little to add to the album, as a whole. But with such powerful songs as "Devilskin" and "Scarlet Witching Dreams", it is easy to overlook minor flaws. Even the synth manages to fit in well and accentuate the atmosphere, instead of taking away from it. Much of the material possesses an epic feeling, such as "Pretender to the Throne (Opus II: Battle at the Netherworld)". This song also includes a bit of acoustic guitar, which only strengthens the majestic vibe that it conveys. In a sense, this track does well to represent the entire record, showcasing many of the types of things that can be found, here.

The production seems a little clearer than on the first album, though it is a little difficult to tell when it comes to Necromantia. Obviously, with no guitar, there is a unique and strange sound. The 8-string bass has a crunchy sound, which gives the music a raw and dirty feel. The drums are about at the right place in the mix, though the synth could have been buried a slight bit more. The vocals are loud enough to be heard but never drown out the music, as is the case with some bands. Whenever the acoustic guitar is utilized, it is done in a natural manner that blends well with the rest. Oftentimes, when a band attempts to mix this in with the rest, it is much too loud and ends up standing apart from the rest, quite a lot.

In the end, Scarlet Evil Witching Black is an excellent offering from Necromantia and is a worthy contribution to the legacy of Hellenic Black Metal. It contains just the right amount of raw energy and epic atmosphere to create something very memorable. The band corrected all of the major shortcomings of their first record and really lived up to their potential. This album comes highly recommended, but should be heard after Crossing the Fiery Path, to get the full impact.