Review by Gary Hill
This disc is certainly different from any other progressive rock CD. Indeed the band might not even consider it to be such, and I'm not completely sure it is, but it really feels like prog in many ways. Truly there is little "rock" involved in the disc, but the emphasis on electronic type symphonic arrangements seem to make it feel like prog to this reviewer. Necronomicon is the second release from Nox Arcana, and they say that "this dark symphony, based on H. P. Lovecraft's legendary book of shadows contains pulse-pounding orchestrations, sinister melodies, gothic choirs and ominous chants". That comes pretty close. I would say that this music would be great film soundtrack music, but that really is putting limitations on it. Indeed, the whole album seems to be one creation, building as it goes along. It has a lot of elements of classical music, but certainly would not fit there. It is dark, and obviously the subject matter could place it in the realm of gothic music, but again, that only fits so well. The lyrics for the most part are delivered as spoken words; the only song that has any kind of real vocals does so in the form of a ritual.
Nox Arcana might not be a household name, and their music might be very hard to classify, but in Necronomicon they have produced what might be the most impressive and effective musical interpretation of the writings of H. P. Lovecraft ever. The group is the brainchild of Joseph Vargo, who is perhaps best known as an artist whose work is based on dark gothic imagery. Along with William Piotrowski, though, Vargo formed Nox Arcana and began creating music that might seem to be the sonic equivalent of that artwork.
The musicians have paid very close attention to details from Lovecraft's work, a sure sign of their admiration and reverence for the source material. They use electronic insect sounds, as the language that words like "Cthulhu" were supposed to be derived from is one spoken by an insectoid race. A song like "Temple of the Black Pharaoh" has a decidedly Egyptian tone. "The Haunter of the Dark" ends with the sound of thunder, a nod to the story climaxing with a lightning strike. This is a first-class effort that should be a thrill for fans of the legendary horror writer. One thing is certain, flowing as one unit this disc starts off a bit slowly and continues to grow to a thrilling and satisfying conclusion. While there are both recurrent and newly emerging themes, each song seems to carry the whole album forward. This disc is definitely one of the most interesting of 2004, and one that both fans of creative dark music and fans of Lovecraft should really give a try. It also includes some dramatic examples of Vargo's graphic art, and a very informative booklet.
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.