By Jonathan Smith
The word “necronomicon” brings two things to my mind — H.P. Lovecraft and The Evil Dead. Both titles would make (and have made) worthy inspirations for a blackened death metal band. To invoke such a name, however, is to invoke high expectations for the end product. After hearing The Return of the Witch, the third full-length release from Canada’s Necronomicon, and their first with Napalm Records, I’m happy to say that I now have a third association to make with any mention of the famous book of the dead.
The Return of the Witch is a solid piece of work. It’s an album that is upfront about what its intentions are. No time is wasted on opener “Into The Fire” — there’s no throwaway instrumental track, no corny mood-setting effort. The band launches into catchy but crushing chords and a very prominent backbone made up of blast-beats and bass. The climax of “The Time Is Now” is a rhythmic and hypnotic progression that showcases the sheer “oomph” of which the band is capable. This sort of approach — memorable riffs that make up the heart of a track — is repeated on “The Order of the Moon” and the title song, making them both stand-out moments on the album.
Necronomicon are best when they’re playing their material as straight, crushing death metal. The moments when they seem like they’re going for a B-Horror vibe are weaker, and it’s difficult to tell whether these seemingly more tongue-in-cheek moments are intentional or not. Necronomicon have been compared to both Behemoth and Dimmu Borgir. Certainly the mimimalist corpse paint used by the band in promo photos makes the comparisons apt. The rare times that the band goes for a more gothic or atmospheric approach, a la Dimmu Borgir, it doesn’t turn out as well as the rest of the album’s material. “Necropolis” seems almost too light and cheesy when compared to the instrumental heft of the majority of the album (and for a band named Necronomicon, that’s saying something). Instrumental track “Lilith” is bland and breaks up the pace of the album. That said, the moments where Necronomicon stumble don’t hurt the album too much. The Return of the Witch is a catchy, exciting piece of work with a roar that deserves to be heard.