Necronautical - Slain in the Spirit (Album Review)

Aug. 19, 2021


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Manchester based black metal band Necronautical has been releasing symphonic and melodic black metal for a little over a decade now, with each album tightening up the performances and seeming to be more epic in scope than the last.  This remains true for this year’s Slain in the Spirit, their fourth overall, which takes the band’s previous sound and pushes it into even more epic territory.  With a little bit of death metal heft behind some of that familiar black metal tonality, Necronautical offers up riffs that sound very 90s influenced but bring them kicking and screaming into the current decade.  It does peak around the halfway point, but this is still a strong showing from a band that continues to understand what makes these variants of black metal so potent.

Stylistically these guys are still pulling from very familiar territory, offering up the type of huge sounding black metal that is driven by muscular riffing and soaring keyboards.  Slain in the Spirit, like some of the band’s previous material, feels like it’s drawing from the pivotal albums from Naglfar, Emperor, and Dimmu Borgir, but more so than in the past it sounds like there’s a bit of death metal’s weight behind the instrumentals.  This helps to make the album feel a bit more distinguishable from so many of the others out there that go for these melodic and symphonic variants of black metal, and I do appreciate how rhythmically the material is pretty varied and doesn’t just go for blasting the entire time.  The title track and “Pure Consciousness Event” are great examples of how Necronautical can balance walls of abrasive riffing and darker melodies over longer track lengths while keeping things interesting and diverse, and they’re able to reach some powerful peaks.  Admittedly after “Pure Consciousness Event” the riffs start to level off a bit and I found the remainder of the album consistent but not quite as memorable as the first five tracks.  The one exception here is the surprise Slayer cover “Disciple” which the group translates into their black metal tonality, and it fits better with the rest of Slain in the Spirit than you might expect.

The vocals are where a lot of the Emperor comparisons are likely to come from, as Necronautical also utilizes raspy shrieks and screams that sound a lot like Ihsahn.  But they don’t stop there like so many others do, as there are also death metal growls and operatic vocals added into the mix on some of the songs that create these deranged sounding peaks on many of the songs.  The combination of screams and growls goes a long way in bridging the gap between black metal and death metal, and the band continually uses it to their advantage throughout Slain in the Spirit.  I do feel with just how dense and layered the instrumentation is, sometimes the higher pitches tend to get swallowed up, but this is isn’t that big of an issue.

Four albums in, you can tell that Necronautical is trying to push beyond simply recapturing the melodic and symphonic black metal movements of the 90s.  Their songs feel more ambitious and there’s a bit more death metal to both the tonality and riff structure, while still retaining that cold black metal chill.  They do still start to fall into some patterns by the end of the album, leaving the first half just a bit stronger overall, but these guys are also starting to justify their song lengths more than in the past and that says a lot.  While this may not quite be a potential genre classic, it’s easily Necronautical’s strongest yet and if they continue along this path they’re likely to reach that level in the near future.  Slain in the Spirit is available from Candlelight Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg

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