By Calen Henry. Necrophagist’s Epitaph is one of my favourite metal albums and absolutely my favourite tech death album. To me it’s the perfect mix of over-the-top neoclassical solos layered over wonderfully complex and filthy death metal riffs. Like many others I’ve waited over a decade for a follow-upBy Calen Henry.
Necrophagist’s Epitaph is one of my favourite metal albums and absolutely my favourite tech death album. To me it’s the perfect mix of over-the-top neoclassical solos layered over wonderfully complex and filthy death metal riffs. Like many others I’ve waited over a decade for a follow-up and followed Necrophagist alumni’s other projects as well as bands in the long shadow cast by The Great Death Eater. None have really grabbed me until Virvum. I’ve probably listened to Illuminance more than all those albums combined and I’ve had it for less than a month.
Virvum succeeds exactly how many other Necrophagist worshippers fail. They only take a small part of the Necrophagist blueprint and layer other styles over top, in this case my metal tastes circa 2005; Between the Buried and Me style prog-metal and crushing Swissludge akin to Knut and Unhold.
The undeniable elevator pitch is SPACE NECROPHAGIST, but they’re so much more than that. They tap into space and sci-fi themes as well as aurally evoking space. Many tech death bands use sci fi imagery and lyrics, but actually sounding celestial tends to be more in keeping with the burgeoning cosmic black metal scene, apart from Artificial Brain. Virvum sound unquestionably spacey, but their version of space stands in stark contrast to the Brain’s fume-huffing post-Skynet wasteland. Illuminance has lots of chromatic runs and minor sweeped arpeggios, but a lot of the solos and tremolo riffs lean on major and augmented intervals (I think, my music theory is a bit weak) giving a soaring quality to many of the tracks that evokes the vastness of space.
My only complaint is with the mastering. Illuminance is loud to its detriment (DR5). The arrangements are extremely dense and complex and would have benefited from more room to breathe, plus the more dense parts suffer from some clipping. It’s not as noticeable as on Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings or Terminal Redux because there’s so much else going on, but it’s there.
Musically though, Illuminance is utterly fantastic. At this rate it’ll be a decade before something this good comes along again.