Disclaimer: Necronomidol holds a special place in my heart; not only were they one of the first dark idol groups that I came across, they grabbed my attention like few things have since. I’ve been looking forward to the release of NEMESIS ever since before it was announced; a fully fledged Necroma doing big-time studio work.
In terms of how it’s in my hands, a very kind friend sent along a copy. Of the actual CD! It’s very cool and has Sari’s bloody hands on the inside (photography; shipping actual bloody hands is probably illegal).
On to the review!
Necronomidol is compelling. Whereas other idols that do metal opt for either a big, melody-heavy sound (Babymetal, Mugen Regina) or thrashy, boot-to-face headbanging fury (Haloperi Doll, Fruitpochette), Necroma has a place that’s half rooted in Black Sabbath and half in Kraftwerk; at their prettiest and most idol, they’re often at their darkest and most synthetically ethereal.
They often sound like a dance party in hell.
Like, when people would say, “Seriously, dude, this J-pop thing,” I’d throw them the “Vulture” MV that’s been scrubbed from the Internet but needs to be restored even if it’s just on my hard drive because that was some creepy, scary shit. When they graduated from temple maidens’ garb for their current “we’re attendants for the Undertaker” outfits, it was like they’d found their soul.
In truth, I was prepared to not be wowed by this album. On the one hand, it’s loaded with material from their singles (albeit in some cases completely re-done); on the other, when a group is less defined by genre than by atmosphere, attitude and style, there’s a greater risk of swinging and missing. Formulaic isn’t a great thing, but it’s a safe thing, and good formulaic is at least more pleasing to the ear than a sonic whiff.
Fortunately, Necroma made solid contact up and down NEMESIS, with a couple of solid gap doubles, a couple of homers and one full-on grand slam. I really only counted two foul balls, and those are as much up to personal taste as an objective-ish measure of goodness.
Because NEMESIS is primarily re-releases, I’m going to use a different structure than I did with BiSH.
What Worked Less Well
Not every attempt to improve a thing works. I and any number of ruined projects can attest to that. Necronomidol didn’t ruin any of their material by putting it through rewrites, but I found that not all of it worked.
“Atai No Tsumeato,” the opening song on the album, is a good example. This is basically roots music for Necroma, and somebody familiar with its original sound — gritty, raw, lo-fi — might find the updated arrangement and higher-pitched vocals (because members, not because writing) jarring. In retrospect, I also find it an odd choice for a first song, as there are better pace-setters among these tracks.
The other less-success in transitioning from the originals, and I almost can’t believe that I’m saying this, is “Kholat Syakhl,” that is, a tentpole of original Necronomidol. This one I found to be a case of new vs. old; yes, the track might be a little too produced for where it came from, but I also think that the original quartet’s voices (or at least having Aoi working with Kakizaki and Sari) were better for the song.
And that’s history. If you’re familiar with Necroma from the good ol’ days of 2014, you remember their original lead singer, Aoi, who left the group about a year ago and wound up doing some solo idoling. Aoi has a uniquely low vocal tone for an idol, with the bottom of her range well below where most would be comfortable, and that opened up a very wide top-to-bottom expanse for how the members could sing together. Kakizaki has a near-alto voice herself, just not as low as Aoi, and that ultimately limits some of what the group as a whole can do (given their propensity to climb to the highest registers possible, that’s a tough thing to say).
Which isn’t a criticism of Kakizaki or the current members, mind you. There’s ample praise for them below.
Most of Necroma’s re-recordings, though, benefited completely from the process, and if this is the track that they’re on, many souls are going to be happy to be consumed in the future.
“Vulture” was many people’s first encounter with Necronomidol, and it was one of the tracks that I was most nervous about because Aoi had been such a tonal pace-setter for it, but the overall vocal arrangement deals with that. One addition from the original (you can hear it in live recordings going back a while, though) is the chants in the pre and chorus, which layers up the vocals and gives them a lot of depth. For something of a flagship OG Necronomidol song, it got better without losing any of its vibe.
At worst 1b to “Lamina Maledictum” in Necroma’s catalog is “Skulls in the Stars,” and it was the song that made me think that they might be able to catch on outside of idol circles. With that kind of quality to start with, one would think that it’d be hard to screw up, but would also have a long way to fall if it was, but the clarity is greatly improved here, with more more life in the vocals while the synths still make me want to settle into their nigh-kinky embrace.
I miss the old opening to “Azathoth,” but the whole track is just better produced in this case, and only in the chorus do the members’ vocal ranges not work as well; they make up for it by layering whole parts to add depth to the sound. I can’t think of very many idol groups that do that so deliberately; Necroma makes it a success for themselves.
Getting to hear “Nayenezgani” it in its entirety and with a full file rather than the compressed audio in a video file, this might be the most improved track that made it onto NEMESIS. It’s basically a black metal-meets-Dead Kennedys song now. It should be pressed onto 3.5″ disks and sold in paper sleeves outside of squats.
Was “Lamina Maledictum” a re-record? I barely noticed the difference, if any, though one could argue that the original was better-produced in this instance. When the gods decided that idol and metal should meet, songs like this are what they had in mind. In everything that Necroma’s done (a lot in a short time), this might be Kakizaki’s finest work.
“Ankoku Shoujo Sentai” is the most improved song on the album, with better instrumentals and way better production, and one of the instances where the current group outpaces any of its predecessors vocally. Joy Division, for some reason, was the first thing that came to mind despite not being very accurate, but I’m also the person who thought that Massive Attack and Savage Garden were both thrashcore bands until being proven wrong, so … Anyway, this song. This friggin’ song. People should wrap themselves in its bright, loving murderhell. Massive Attack is awesome. Go away.
“Puella Tenebrarum” isn’t terribly different from the “Exitium” version, but the Music Box of the Undead sound to it is fantastic no matter what. Also, this is kind of funny, but I always read it as “Tannenbaum” at first and wonder why Christmas is being ruined by these Japanese girls. Anyway, this song is good in the first place and sounds great here.
I also didn’t notice a huge difference in “Sarnath,” but I like it here more for some reason. I think it’s the drum levels, as they definitely sound like machine guns in the pre-chorus. Maybe the guitars are too understated against the choral high notes, but this song’s so creepy anyway that it doesn’t really matter. Also, who’s that singing in the second verse, because that’s one of Necroma’s all-time best vocal stretches and I want to make sure that the right people get the credit for it. Damn.
The New Stuff
I was familiar with “Astodan” from some live videos, but the studio version — clean, composed, no wota doing their thing — sounds good as hell, particularly the oft-missing bottom of the synths that make the instrumentation make sense. Good full sound.
Necroma’s music is often at its best when it’s straddling a line between 80s night DJed by Trent Reznor and an alcoholic Stryper cover band playing fire hall weddings, like a world that Lady Gaga’s Countess would have inhabited, all coke-fueled and heroin-riddled and “only sailors use condoms” and yeah, the bathroom floor’s filthy, but that ODing bitch just threw up all over the counter and I am NOT fucking on a toilet seat. “ICHOR” sounds exactly like that, a sleazy, kinky Short Bus kind of party scene. This is a cool song that should be remixed endlessly and played at barn parties.
Based on the start of “Warabe Uta”, I was ready for this song to be a miss, but then why would it be the penultimate on the album? It had to have something going f– oh, shit, more NWOBHM! Except, like, really idoled up! It might sound even better without the synths, to be honest. I don’t care. Just keep playing that chorus. This is another one where I need an accounting of who’s singing what. I hope this song gets an MV.
And finally: Knowing Necroma’s previous releases pretty well and being kind of a nerd when it comes to album structure, I didn’t know what to make of a new song as the go-home. And what would it be like? A straight rocker like “Lamina Maledictum?” Something true to the source, creepy and pretty all at once and not out of place in a basement-level rave?
I didn’t expect “‘UMR AT-TAWIL,” in other words, but I think it’s the perfect capstone to a good first album.
I kept screwing with descriptions of this song, looking for the right East-meets-West combination to get it right, and I couldn’t do it. You know what this sounds like? If you’re aware of my other digital personas and have noticed some trends on here, you know that I consider You’ll Melt More!’s You Are the World one of the great accomplishments in alt-idol, an album that channels Wish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd and Deee-Lite and an alternative future Beatles who got into computerized music and never tried to go commercial; this song sounds like it belongs on that album. It sounds like the soundtrack to an elaborate cinematic murder sequence a la American Psycho. That, like “Azathoth,” it’s pulling from Lovecraftian horror at least for its name, just makes it even more perfect. I want to stare longingly at this song while rain falls around me (and, presumably, unspeakable horrors creep up behind me).
I may have been ready to be disappointed, but I wasn’t. NEMESIS is Necronomidol realizing not their potential, but that they have real potential. They’re unique in idol; hell, they’re pretty unique in the world. Their look is none-other and their sound is their own, and that sound cranks out here like it demands that you hear it and pay attention to the idols making it happen.
The metal and metal-like side of idol is filling up fast, but Necroma is staking their claim to the darkest, most twisted side. I’m looking forward to where they go from here.
Added to the Ultimate Homicidol Playlist: The original “Atai No Tsumeato” and “Lamina Maledictum” are already there, but I’m adding “Nayenezgani” because it’s amazing. Necroma, you need more official videos (or more fans who aren’t afraid of angering the copyright gods).