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Crossing the Fiery Path (1993)

Necromantia is one of the most revered bands in the Hellenic black metal scene. However, their first album is certainly not the reason for this. Released by Osmose in September 1993, Crossing the Fiery Path showed a good amount of promise, very little of which was actually realized here. While being rather unique, for a number of reasons, Necromantia could not maintain a high level of quality throughout the entirety of their debut effort.

At its best, the music here manages to capture the dark and occult feeling of the second wave of black metal while also infusing a good bit of traditional metal influences as well. At times, the results are quite brilliant and make for some very memorable moments. "The Warlock" and "Unchaining the Wolf (At War...)" are good examples of this. As a matter of fact, the latter is probably the most consistent song on the whole L.P. However, at its worst, the material presented on Crossing the Fiery Path is inconsistent, cheesy and nonsensical. Utilizing an 80-string bass in place of a rhythm guitar, Necromantia took quite an interesting approach to creating their sound. This is expected, since this band features Magus Wampyr Daoloth, a man well-known in the Greek underground. Nonetheless, whatever the ultimate goal of this record was, it ends up giving the listener the distinct feeling that it was poorly planned and somewhat underdeveloped. Too often, gothic elements dominate the music and take away from the main purpose. Synth and clean vocals do a lot to ruin this album. Not only with the intro, outro and interlude but also "Les Litanies des Satan," in particular. It is so over-saturated with this idiocy that the great riffs and solos near the end are easily overlooked. Similarly, the lengthy ambient section of "The Warlock" seems only to undermine the momentum that was created during the first half of the track. Whatever effect this was supposed to create was destroyed once it became such a tedious and prolonged experiment. By the time the riffs return, most will have lost their patience. Following this up with an instrumental track, that has absolutely nothing to do with creating an atmosphere of darkness, was also an unwise decision.

The production is fairly standard for an underground release from this time period. The overall sound is rather gritty and dry, largely due to the utilization of a second bass, instead of a guitar. The mix gives more of an organic feeling, though the synth is a bit high, at times. The drum sound is not especially powerful and possesses very little echo or reverb. At least, unlike many of their peers, the managed to recruit a real drummer. The double-bass should have been buried a little, to hide the inadequacies that are present on this recording. Otherwise, everything is rather acceptable, with even the vocals being at about the right level in order to convey a grim sense of morbid evil.

Crossing the Fiery Path is worth listening to, as some may be more open-minded than others and even the most narrow-minded listeners will surely find something of worth. "Unchaining the Wolf (At War...)" is definitely essential for any Necromantia fan. However, in the end, this record is more of a curiosity and gives the impression of being very disorganized or even unfinished. It would not be until 1995's Scarlet Evil Witching Black where the band was finally able to combine the various elements present here in order to create a coherent album.
(4 Jan. 2012)


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.

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.
(7 Jan. 2012)

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