NECROMANCY "Ancient Wrath" CD
Greek soil was among the most fertile for the development of the Second Wave of Black Metal in the 1990s, and it is axiomatic to declare Rotting Christ, Varathron, and Necromantia as the progenitors of the Greek Black Metal scene. Another band that was active during those early years, Necromancy, is often mistakenly thought of merely as a “pre-Necromantia” project due to Morbid/Magus Wampyr Daoloth’s involvement in the band until he left in 1990 to focus on Necromantia. Originally named R.O.T. (Reek of Terror), Necromancy evolved out of the Death Metal scene. The band was originally formed by guitarist Hades (Chris Tsoukalas) and lead guitarist/vocalist Living Dead (Giannis Karasarinis). The subsequent inclusion of Unblessed (Vagelis Vafias) on drums and the aforementioned Morbid on bass rounded out the band’s lineup. It was this assembly of musicians that created Necromancy’s “Visions of Lunacy” demo released in 1989, which captures the band in its primal stage: feral Deathrash, overflowing with evil intent. Although the demo material displayed tremendous potential for the band’s growth, Necromancy’s existence was short-lived. Unknown to many, however, is the fact that Necromancy persisted following Morbid’s departure after which Hades, who previously played rhythm guitar, assumed responsibility for the bass instead. In 1991, Necromancy entered the studio as a three-piece to record a MLP entitled “Ancient Wrath.” Unfortunately, the three songs that comprise the “Ancient Wrath” recording would never see the light of day, nor would the many other songs the band had written but not yet recorded. In the winter of 1992, while serving in the Greek military, Living Dead suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 20. Without Living Dead’s involvement, Hades and Unblessed chose to terminate their mission, and the “Ancient Wrath” MLP remained unreleased and unheard for over two decades. The excavation of these recordings is a monumental event, not only for their historical value in the context of the then-burgeoning Greek Black Metal movement, but because this MLP is a superb display of atmospheric Greek Black Death in its own right. There remain so few stones left unturned in this scene that the discovery of three previously unreleased studio tracks by Necromancy, recorded just as the band began to hone its sound and settle into its stylistic skin, is an extraordinary event. Indeed, Necromancy’s approach on “Ancient Wrath” is somewhat unique, making the release of this material even more remarkable. While the band’s sound is still clearly influenced by the same classic Thrash and Death Metal and first wave Black Metal that guided their earlier work (i.e. Sodom, Kreator, Obituary, Necrodeath, Bathory, Venom, Celtic Frost, etc.), the band’s focus on this MLP turned sharply toward the distinctly regional Black Metal style then taking hold in Greece. The musicianship on this recording is impassioned but rudimentary; there are no gratuitous displays of virtuosity on “Ancient Wrath.” The instrumentation is stripped down and defleshed, distilled to the essence of Hellenic Black Metal. The production, while not inept, is such that each of the constituent sounds is vulnerable, leaving the nervous system of the songs splayed and exposed. There are few, if any, recordings in the great body of Greek Black or Death Metal releases that feature such a compellingly raw display of the Greek spirit. The songs are built upon a foundation of mid-paced, repetitious, and nearly unchanging drumming coupled with dependably precise bass playing. In contrast, the guitars are brittle and sporadic, fading in and out with an ecstatic lack of predictability, delivering riffs that draw their influence from the charged primacy of Deathrash, the then-emerging Norwegian tonality and sensibility, and Greece’s boundless melancholia. Filling in the sonic interstices are layers of keyboards, precisely placed and adding an element of horror to compliment the ghastly rasp of Living Dead’s vocals. Mirthless and steeped in a sinister aura, this MLP exudes the same sorrowful and severe evil that permeates the greatest and most enduring Greek Black and Death Metal recordings.
- J. Campbell