Bringing back the glory of metal
When artists form super groups, the tendency is to gear towards the experimental, which isn’t always accessible to audiences. They can be pretty hit-or-miss, but every once in a while a super group comes along and decides to take a step backward in time. Instead of branching out into the experimental, musicians from more modern and progressive bands sometimes come together to do something a bit more traditional. If Bloodbath is the answer to buzzsaw-laden old-school death metal, then Necromancing the Stone is the answer to the operatic epicness of metal’s past.
Featuring current/former members of Arsis, The Absence, The Black Dahlia Murder and Brimstone Coven, Necromancing the Stone is a love letter to the glory days of metal, a sermon to the most devout worshippers of the metal gods. They are the self-professed answer to the breakdown-ridden repetitiveness of today’s mainstream metal (or as they refer to it, “The Great Evil One Himself, Lord Breakdownicus Gratuitous”).
Okay, so this all may sound a bit corny at first glance. Even just looking at the album artwork, it reeks of old-school cheesiness. There’s a Grim-Reaper-looking dude wielding a Gandalf-like staff alongside three busty babes, one with sci-fi headgear, one a moaning zombie crawling across the floor, and the other just generally standing around in scantily-clad attire and giving an Elvira-like ominous stare. It looks straight out of 1981’s Heavy Metal. But maybe a little cheesiness is good for the world right now, considering everything going on in media is wrapped up in so much fear, seriousness, and social-media-fueled rage. The great thing about this era of metal is that it was fun; it wasn’t swamped up in everyone’s fear, anger or politics. It was the antithesis to that, a culture about not concerning yourself with the judgments of the outside world and instead getting lost in the raw energy and power of the music. It was about allowing yourself to be the most basic form of human, and it’s what still attracts people to the genre today, albeit the genre has gone through a few changes since then.
On a cheesiness scale of one-to-Manowar, Necromancing the Stone’s full-length debut Jewel of the Vile sits comfortably at a Judas Priest. It’s got a little bit of camp, but it’s also genuinely well-crafted metal that isn’t ashamed to embrace its history and culture. The music shines thanks to the songwriting prowess of guitarist James Malone, who also serves as the front man of Arsis. Many of the riffs sound like they came from the cutting room floor of their 2010 release Starve for the Devil, which is by no means a bad thing considering how awesome that album was. This is melodic technical riffage written by a competent songwriter who can also shred some killer guitar solos. Even when the songs start to feel a bit mundane and repetitive, the power and energy of the music keeps the flow of the album moving.
The vocal performance from “Big John” Williams of Brimstone Coven is what elevates the music to operatic levels of grandiosity. There’s some modern death-metal growling sprinkled in here and there, but Williams’ falsetto-fueled shrieking takes front and center, taking the listener right back to the ’70s and ’80s where long hair and leather dominated the scene. Williams has strong energy and a tight control of his voice, making himself a major component of the band’s sound.
The album does suffer over time as it can start to feel a bit repetitive. There are a few really stand-out tracks such as “Crusher” and “The Siren’s Call,” but the songs do have a tendency to bleed together. That may be a side-effect of the somewhat gimmicky nature of the band, but it isn’t so bad that it takes away from the album’s overall appeal.
Necromancing the Stone is built on the foundation of some very solid musicians who all bring their A-game, even if it is a bit of a cheesy gimmick. Jewel of the Vile is sure to be a treat for old-school metal fans who need a break from the monotony of modern metal and are just looking for a good time.