Scarlet Evil Witching Black

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Necromantia's second full-length release, Scarlet Evil Witching Black showcases their unusual brand of ritualistic, grandiose, and somewhat experimental black metal in full force. The group's sound, driven by the intentionally sloppy dual bass riffing of Baron Blood and frontman Magus Wampyr Daoloth, is fundamentally raw and crusty, yet also melodic and carefully orchestrated, featuring symphonic keyboards and synthesized string sections, vocal choirs, and, on "The Arcane Light of Hecate," tympanis and saxophones. The album actually opens with a passage from "Auld Lang Syne," played on a music box and backed by sweeping wind sounds -- a puzzling move. The songwriting covers on a wide span of heavy metal history, from an obvious early-'70s era Black Sabbath homage ("Black Mirror") to the classically tinged '80s metal on "Scarlet Witching Dreams," with plenty of dirty Celtic Frost/Darkthrone-type riffs also present. The vocals -- a mix of standard black metal hissing and pomp-laden spoken/incanted passages -- don't contribute anything melody-wise, but the instrumental parts are almost unashamedly tuneful. As a result, the songs tend to be catchy, but after awhile, it can start to feel like too much of a good thing -- kind of like eating too much cheesecake. That said, seasoned black metal listeners who don't mind that aspect of the band or who can handle a little extra bombast (even relative to the genre's standards) will probably be able appreciate this unique effort.

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