Review Summary: A solid slab of Greek black metal, however not really much else.
When it comes to things Greece is renowned for food, myths and porn often come to mind, along with a plethora of different images of small stone houses by the beach and donkeys riding up steep mountains. However there is one thing that the Hellenic people do very well and almost never get properly recognized for. Black metal. The Greek scene was truly a force to be reckoned with in the Nineties and Necromantia is a prime example of this. Their aggressive and raw style puts up against Scandinavia’s finest exports, and no record showcases this better than Scarlet Evil, Witching Black.
The disc kicks off with a little lullaby played on a sort of xylophone, only to be heavily interrupted by Devilskin, a furious rampage of blast beats over powerful riffs, often accompanied by ominous church organs. The production is, well black metal production, yet not as horrible as some, allowing for all the unorthodox instruments in the recording to be heard properly. Though the record isn’t really an innovating piece of art the band does allow their own touch to shine through occasionally, mainly in the more hard rock influenced riffs that can be heard in many of the album’s eight songs. But perhaps the band’s most distinguished trait is their lack of a rhythm guitar, all riffs are performed by two bass guitars, traditional six strings are used only for solos, most of which are pretty awesome may I add. However though Necromantia plays the black metal game mighty fine the traces of outside influences, such as Wagner samples in “Pretender To The Throne”, Saxophones in “Arcane Light Of Hecate” and flamenco guitar in “Spiritdance” are so perfectly pulled off that one wishes the band would experiment and incorporate these elements into their music more.
If the record is truly missing one thing its variety, sure in that sense its not as bad as say Darkthrone, but the similarity between songs hurts the album, making it a bit of a boring listen and seemingly a bit unoriginal. Few songs really stand out as different, the awe-inducing “Scarlet Witching Dreams” and the powerful epic “Spiritdance” being notable exceptions of this. These songs show Necromantia’s true potential, by using their arranging skills, which are insane by the way, and applying them to black metal they incredible songs that display a compositional maturity that far outshines the rest of the album.
The one thing that is truly different in Hellenic black metal from the Norwegian bands is that it strives for a different kind of atmosphere. Scarlet Evil, Witching Black is no exception; instead of the regular cold feel of black metal the album displays a warmer sound; meant in the best way possible. It doesn’t sound like you’re surrounded by snow in the middle of a lonely forest, instead the music evokes a more Satanic feel, something represented in its lyrics, almost as if you were right in the middle of some pig killing ritual that involves lots and lots of fire. In this sense the album draws more from the forefathers of black metal, Venom, Hellhammer, Sarcofago, and expands on the anger and hatred displayed in those classic records, ignoring the sadness and melancholy of Norwegian black metal.
In short Scarlet Evil, Witching Black is an excellent black metal record, recommended strongly for fans of the genre. However it is not magnificently innovating or original, and displays a band that is holding back a lot of potential for sake of being constricted to their genre.
Scarlet Witching Dreams