Seattle’s Hoth released Oathbreaker back in 2014 and I was captivated. Extreme metal with a Star Wars angle? Sold. But on that album the concept was veiled and perhaps only people familiar with Star Wars would put the pieces in place. Fast forward to 2018 and the duo have outdone themselves with new album, Astral Necromancy. Clearly they have spent the intervening time taking their abilities to the next level because this is fantastic. It shreds so hard! I’m getting carried away.
This time the concept is even more deceptive. It’s not a linear story like Oathbreaker but the tracks are bound together. From their bandcamp page: “Astral Necromancy is a collection of black magic rituals and unholy spells that weave a tale of forbidden knowledge and spiritual transcendence”, on a cosmic scale. Again there is nothing blatantly Star Wars about it other than the band’s name. However, someone with a deeper knowledge of the extended SW universe could have some fun forcing the tracks into some narrative. (Darth Plagueis perhaps?) But as with Oathbreaker, forget about SW and take it for what it is: a ripping black metal feast for the ears.
It would be no stretch to call this a space opera though. While black metal is the main force (no pun intended) the sub-plots of folk and power metal provide more than enough character to enthrall the listener for the entire runtime. When compared to Oathbreaker the folk and power elements are downplayed quite a bit and the symphonic aspect even more so. This leaves us with more of an epic melodic black metal heavy album. Emphasis on both epic and melodic.
Astral Necromancy is relentless. Hard-driving black metal rhythms cut through you while ripping melodies take you to the skies. The heavens even. It’s a spellbinding sound that’s near impossible not to get behind.
I previously referred to Primordial and Eluveitie when describing Hoth but here I get more of an Amon Amarth level of muscle and scale. It’s a deathlier album to be honest. Also, it is in fact a little more symphonic that I thought at first with many tracks using that kind of atmospheric addition to fill out the sound rather than have the symphonics take the lead. “Ad Inane Precatio” even has some choral chanting and “Journey Into the Eternal Winter” lets a Viking flavour take over the chorus. The acoustics though have taken a step even further into the shadows. The streamlining and hardening of their sound isn’t necessarily a step up or down but the evolution gives Astral Necromancy a more impactful sound in my opinion, making it an overall stronger and much darker album.
Don’t get me wrong. By the cosmic gods those speedy melodies can be downright uplifting. Hoth maintain a good balance between darkness and light. Raging, hyperspeed rhythms and percussion vs. soaring, ascendent melodies and shredding solos all narrated by the kind of ancient and weathered vocals that strike fear into the hearts of men makes quite the effective, and addictive, journey through nebular secrets.
Astral Necromancy is fantastically catchy to boot. Whether it’s the fierce tremolos, dazzling solos, or incisive riffs, some part will live in your head when all is said and done. It sounds polished but feels raw. It will get the blood pumping but will put ice in your veins. It beckons death to breathe life. If your life needs more captivating, calculating, seriously epic metal conjure up some Hoth and have Astral Necromancy‘s magic restore your balance.