GARGOYLE – Hail to the Necrodoom (2021)REVIEW

The horror of describing the traditions of Italy’s cathedralesque and oft psychedelic brand of prog-adjacent doom metal uprising beyond the late 1970’s involves a necessary falsehood in describing this sphere, then and now, as “traditional” when the very essence of this species is avant-garde, over the top and willing to go anywhere needed to reach their ultimate point of darkness. Calabrian miscreants Gargoyle are a neoclassic example of this limit-breaking behavior that still reeks of a tradition of heavy rock gone insane, reaching for first and second wave black metal misanthropy as often as they do the historical bones of heavy/doom metal in the early 1980’s. The Reggio di Calabria based quartet debut their official debut ‘Hail to the Necrodoom‘ as a complete and expertly presented gauntlet of arcane horror and throat-gripping doom reflux, sure to catch the ear of the incurably touched folks who’d happily spill extreme metal influence in heaps upon their most ancient cursed relics. The appeal is broad yet the music itself is still earnestly obscure.

Gargoyle formed circa 2015 with little more intentional direction than to play “obscure doom metal” and their idea of what this entailed was initially akin to the earliest works from Cathedral, a hint of that slow and crushing movement with the lysergic witching attitude and operatic voice of Abysmal Grief applied, think along the lines of their ‘Strange Rites of Evil‘ album. This first demo resultant (‘Reborn in Blasphemy‘, 2016) proved popular on self-release and soon garnered higher notice via a tape version from Shadow Kingdom. It is a fine work to return to with ‘Hail to the Necrodoom’ in mind because the movement inherent to the piece is so different, being largely confined to what I’d consider a mid-80’s doom metal pace. In the interim the band have clearly taken it upon themselves to craft a far more dynamic and performative statement taking cues from the classics of Italian doom and, as previously mentioned, some first and second wave black metal cruelty which is primarily applied to the instrumental aspects of the record though there are some raw/harsh vocals worked into several pieces.

Abysmal Grief still applies here as a general thought but we could stretch in many obscure directions to meet with the finer points of ‘Hail to the Necrodoom’ including a look at Root‘s ‘The Book‘ and their classic early millennium trilogy, some of the darker material from Black Oath, the psychedelic wilderness of Sign of Evil, and the shambling and ancient freakery of everything from The Black and early Paul Chain to Mortuary Drape and Necromantia. Most of these guys are also in death metal band Boia (see: ‘Chivalry of Death‘) though you won’t likely recognize their guitarist C. Conqueror as the vocalist here, arguably one of the most important aspects of their sound coming together and serving both extreme and traditional sub-genre fusion comes from his brilliantly over the top performances, which I’d liken to Big Boss vaguely. Operatic, expressive, doomed yet not entirely self-serious the tone of this album does a fine job of merging extreme metal, occult/horror rock, and Italian traditional doom metal prospects; There couldn’t be a better name for this fusion than necromantic doom or “necrodoom” and I’d say the album artwork from Negative Crypt Artwork does a fine job conveying this multifarious event.

“Lord of the Fog” does a fine enough job of presenting all sides of Gargoyle at once from austere early second wave Scandinavian black metal riffs to distressed and wavering doom/punk tradeoffs yet it is the prior song, “Where Evil Spawns”, that weaves in notable doses of classic Italian doom metal freakery in most expert fashion. The whole of Side A concerns itself with being a best foot forward for this fusion, which may seem geared towards mid-to-fast paced blackened riffing at face value but these pieces vitally ensure the album gives a first impression of irreverence and psychotic psychedelia beyond anything usual or expected. The second half eases into deeper atmospheric tangents, lingering pieces such as the sort of deep-cut centerpiece “The Whisperer in Darkness” which ends up just as defining a statement via is evolved continuity with their first demo. The whole of the experience would feel merely novel if not for the passion infused into each performance — Though the watery psych lead guitar sounds might distract at times, a pedal they’d just as well kicked off half the time, the vocals and general rhythm guitar attack resound as if possessed, performing this haunted rock music through the grip of some deranged daimonian presence. The intermittently placed pure heavy metal leaning jogs are where I’d found my most favorite parts of the record such as album closer “Nosferatu”, a song I can imagine being particularly strong in a live setting, as well as the title track itself.

Gargoyle do a fine enough job making their case for their perpetually dark yet fully animated vision of Italian doom metal, blackened and irreverent while still holding in high regard the valuable resonance of myriad ancient forms. ‘Hail to the Necrodoom’ surely has riffs, plenty of characteristic atmospheric development as well, but it is the unholy personae crafted within its curse that lands as the major value of the listening experience. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (84/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Hail to the Necrodoom
LABEL(S):Sun & Moon Records
RELEASE DATE:May 3rd, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Occult Extreme Doom/Heavy Metal,
First Wave Black/Doom Metal,
Psychedelic Necrodoom

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