My thoughts on “VOIDHYMN”, the third studio album from NECRONOMIDOL.
Release Date: September 29th 2018
3. IN BLACK
7. STRANGE AEONS
8. les tenebres sans visage
10. SKULLS IN THE STARS
The wait is over, the release that NECRONOMIDOL fans have been waiting all year for is finally here. Well almost anyway, we’re still a couple of days away from the official release of “VOIDHYMN” when you’re reading this. However, NECRONOMIDOL were kind enough to send over a press release and a review copy so I could get an early look at the album and share my thoughts with all of you. A very kind gesture that is greatly appreciated but you know me, I’m still going to tell you what I really think no matter how much you bribe me.
“VOIDHYMN” is the darkness-themed Idol group’s third album, comprising of 10 tracks in total. It features both brand new songs as well as new versions of some fan favorites too. They describe the album as “a capstone to 4 years together as a group” as well as being designed to be a good place for new fans to jump on board. Given the group’s relentless push into foreign markets over the past year or so, along with solidifying their member line-up, it makes sense for them to have a release that is easy to recommend to new and curious listeners.
I’m certainly interested to hear what has been done to the older material. “SKULLS IN THE STARS” in particular is a personal favorite that I already thought was pretty darn good as it is so perhaps I’m a little worried about that one. Of course I’m also curious to hear what NECRONOMIDOL has come up with for their new material as well. Some of the live audio I heard sounded pretty promising and with 6 new tracks on offer I’m sure there will be plenty of interesting themes and concepts. I suppose I should get this review started huh?
The album opens with “DAWNSLAYER”, one of the aforementioned new versions of a fan favorite song. It originally saw release as its own single back in August of 2017 (review here). The version included on “VOIDHYMN” sounds instantly different to the original, mostly due to a very slight tonal shift in both the instrumental and vocals. This gives the song a brighter feel and also the impression of being a bit more uptempo, something that takes a bit of getting used to when you’re so familiar with the original. The vocals have also been redone, which is understandable given the other changes. Not only do they fit the new instrumental better than the old vocals would have but there’s also some noticeable tweaks and improvements in the delivery of certain lines, in part due to things being sung at a more natural pitch for members who might have struggled to hit some of the lower notes previously. If you’ve seen “DAWNSLAYER” performed live recently then things should sound very familiar to you here. While it did take a bit of getting used to, the changes made to the song do seem like they’re for the better overall.
We don’t have to wait very long for the first of the new songs to arrive in the form of “thanatogenesis”, although many of you have likely seen live performance footage long before this album dropped. Composed by Necroma band member Kei Toriki, who is also responsible for great songs like “psychopomp” and “END OF DAYS”, the style of this song will likely be very familiar to many NECRONOMIDOL fans. The song’s sombre tone doesn’t seem like it should work with the intense, relentless blast beats thundering along like an express train but as always Kei Toriki makes this style work and work incredibly well. It’s easy at times to overlook the guitar work on this song as it becomes swept up in the murkiness created by the drumming. You’d do well to really listen and pick out some of the more subtle riffs as they are absolutely key in creating the atmosphere of the song. Outside of that and there also several moments where you’re just struck by how immense the guitars feel at times. I haven’t even mentioned the vocals yet either, and what a performance from all of the members of NECRONOMIDOL. They sing of the path to salvation and the desire that tomorrow will shine brightly in their now signature haunting style that perhaps belies the message of the song a little. If you’re into “psychopomp” then you’ll love this one too.
And the award for most terrifying ASMR of 2018 goes to track 3 “IN BLACK”. Seriously though, that opening section with all of the laughing and then the near constant background whispering throughout the rest of the song is absolutely bone chilling stuff. That’s not even to mention the spoken word parts from the members, it really does make you wonder about their pleasant offstage demeanor. That’s not that important though, the real big news with this single is that Darkwave is back on the menu boys and girls! SLF!! returns after having last worked with NECRONOMIDOL all the way back on “SARNATH” and I couldn’t be happier. I like the various genres of Metal and such that NECRONOMIDOL use in their songs but man Synthwave is where it’s at for me and something I always hope for more of. Guess my wishes came true on this one, although there are some vague similarities between this song and “SKULLS IN THE STARS” when it comes to this song’s main melody I must say. Let’s not forget about the chorus in all of the excitement either, I’ve never known lines about forbidden spells and blood oaths to be so catchy but sure enough NECRONOMIDOL find a way to pull it off. I’ll take about a dozen more of these if we’re still taking requests, thanks.
Okay, how many of you really liked “WITCHING HOUR” from NECRONOMIDOL’s “STRANGE AEONS” EP (review here)? Well if you did then you’re going to be pleased to know that the man responsible for that song Zero-2 (POIKKEUS) gets another crack at composing for NECRONOMIDOL on this album too. It’s a bit like a family reunion so far, I wonder who else will show up? That’s besides the point though, as soon as I heard the opening guitar riff on “SAMHAIN” I knew I was going to be in for a good time. It’s super energetic and just makes you want to get up and jump around, and also sounds vaguely similar to some of the riffs on “WITCHING HOUR” now that I think about it. Things do settle down a bit as the song develops but the tempo and energy remain very high for the duration. As do the incredibly fun riffs too as it happens. This song almost seems too upbeat for NECRONOMIDOL but when you read the lyrics and realize they’re singing about Halloween then of course they’re going to be excited for what must be the favorite time of year for all the Dark Idols of the world. The last 30 seconds of this song in particular are just fantastic, both for their lyrical content and the way it is delivered. This song is definitely one of the highlights from “VOIDHYMN” for me. It’s so fun, you guys need to check it out.
“INNSMOUTH” marks the midway point in what has been a very diverse album, there’s seriously been so many different styles and themes so far it’s awesome. Longtime collaborator Hashida Kazuma joins the party, providing the instrumentation for this track and several other Idol groups that you’re probably familiar with too. I really don’t know what I’ve done to deserve another Darkwave track this soon but I’m certainly not complaining that’s for sure. That pulsing synthesizer just sounds so dirty and really gives the song a great sense of foreboding as it slowly builds up and begins to add more elements, like those echoing drumbeats or the sparkly keyboard tones that do just enough to stop things from getting too on the monotonous side of things. The keyboard is actually super fitting because they say “glimmering” or “shining” a ton in the lyrics, although the song as a whole isn’t the most cheerful which should probably come as little surprise. NECRONOMIDOL’s ethereal vocals, coupled with Darkwave instrumentals is always a winning combo in my book. I don’t want or expect it all the time but hearing it a little bit more frequently going forward, like we have here, is something I hope will happen if these songs get a good response from fans.
We get a couple more reworked versions of older material next, the first of which is “psychopomp”. This is another song that was created by Kei Toriki and first appeared on NECRONOMIDOL’s “from chaos born” EP (review here). Another fan favorite song that I’m sure most people are happy to see included here but are also wondering how things have been changed. Well, the original xylophone opening has been replaced by guitar which I don’t really mind that much although I guess it takes the creepiness factor down a little bit. Outside of that though, in my opinion, the instrumental has been upgraded massively. You can pick out the intricacies of the guitar work and the drumming is a lot less muddy while still serving its purpose of creating a heavy atmosphere for the song. Vocally there are also some pretty big improvements, which isn’t really that surprising. We’re 2 years, several line-up changes and a whole bunch of singing experience removed from this song’s original release and it shows. The overall performance is more crisp and Sari and Rei in particular are just fantastic in what they’re able to pull off vocally. If you’re a bit apprehensive about these re-recordings then don’t be, at least in this case it’s nothing but a huge improvement on the original.
Which then brings us on to “STRANGE AEONS”, the song that I guess NECRONOMIDOL are using to promote this album what with it finally getting an MV and all. Composed by Yakkun from Kiba of Akiba, this song raised a few eyebrows when it was originally released due to how different it sounded to much of NECRONOMIDOL’s catalog up until that point. It soon became another fan favorite, however I can see why and also get behind a reworked version of this particular song. The original version of this song sounded quite tinny to me so I was pretty happy to hear that they cranked the bass up for this new version. That alone makes everything sound fuller and they’ve also improved on the synthesizers to make them sound brighter and pack a little more punch as well. This really makes the song feel a lot more uptempo while also keeping the slight ethereal vibe provided by the synth. The vocal side of things hasn’t seen quite such a drastic change, mainly just a better mixed and recorded vocal track with the kind of English pronunciation improvements that you’d expect from a group that has been practicing very hard to be able to better communicate with their legions of English speaking fans. Once again, I think people will be pretty happy with how this one turned out.
Bringing us back on to the brand new material is “les tenebres sans visage” or “Faceless Darkness” if my really shaky grasp on the French language is anything to go by. In any case, occasional NECRONOMIDOL collaborator OKAYAN was on song writing duties for this one and it certainly shows. If you’re a fan of songs like “STARRY WISDOM” or “4.7L” then this is a song that you’ll be wanting to check out. I just knew when I heard the first few guitar chords and the synthesizer melody that this song was going to have a huge aura to it. The 80s Trance influences are there for all to hear and the way they’re paired with the guitars to drive the song is just incredible. Think Sci-Fi movies, intergalactic anime, things of that nature. In fact let’s get this song attached to a project like that and give it a MV too while we’re at it. I’m getting ahead of myself though, I still need to make mention of the vocals. Pretty upbeat by NECRNOMIDOL standards once again I must say but still ethereal and haunting enough to be appropriate when singing a song about gloom, dusk, darkness and what have you. There’s a consensus forming among other people I’ve talked to who got the album early, and it’s that this might be the best song on it. I don’t know if it is for me personally but I think this song could really take NECRONOMIDOL places if they wanted it to. A must listen.
“KADATH”, the album’s penultimate track and also the last new song to feature on the release sees another longtime NECRONOMIDOL collaborator make an appearance. This time it’s Iwanaga Azusa, who we all have to thank for their hand in the creation of great songs such as “ITHAQUA”, “BLOODWINGS” and “KERES THANATOIO” to name just a few. Yet again it’s a fairly upbeat number by NECRONOMIDOL standards, I really liked the symphonic style of synthesizer that they went with for a good portion of the song and oh boy were some of those bass lines tasty. The drumbeat also plays a large part in driving the song, being very easy to bang your head to. Sprinkle in a guitar lick or two and I’m not hearing much that’s not to like with the instrumental at all. Don’t worry though, this is still a NECRONOMIDOL song, with the girls all singing a hymn in praise of the void, Nyarlathotep and other such cheerful things. I definitely wasn’t expecting the Gregorian chanting though, that added a new dimension to things that I never even considered before. I suppose in a way this song feels like a combination of many different sides of NECRONOMIDOL’s sound and it turns out all of those different styles work pretty well together. Who would have thought?
The album ends with a redone version of “SKULLS IN THE STARS”. This was probably the rework that I was most apprehensive about because well, the DAN TERMINUS composed track is one of my favorite NECRONOMIDOL songs ever and well I don’t really see how you can make it much better than it already was. It honestly turned out pretty much how I expected it to, being essentially the version of the song that the group performs when they play with a live band and I would guess even without now going forward. It’s much more guitar driven, with the synthesizers taking on more of a supporting role. This means the song packs a bit more punch which is something I’m sure many people will appreciate if they’re not that big into the more synthesizer oriented stuff. Vocally of course things have been reworked to reflect both the change in style of the song and just to bring it into line with how the group perform it live. It’s still the huge anthem that for a while you got the sense they wished that it wasn’t and this updated version is great. I still personally prefer the original but I think it’s awesome that this song can be performed in different ways. I wonder if any other NECRONOMIDOL songs would work similarly.
NECRONOMIDOL said that they want “VOIDHYMN” to not only be an enjoyable album for existing fans but also an album that potential new fans can pick up and really get a good idea of what the group is all about. I think they’ve achieved that, with all of their main styles of song included by virtue of the fact that they got so many of the people they usually work with to contribute to this release. You got pretty much all of the main composers on here so it’s a great cross-section of NECRONOMIDOL’s sound on display.
It’s going to be a very busy last few months of 2018 for NECRONOMIDOL. In the group’s continued effort to spread unending darkness across the world they will be in Portland this October for the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Cthulu Con and then hitting up the East Coast with Oyasumi Hologram for a run of dates at the beginning of November. Won’t you go see them and witness their unique brand of Idol in person?