Necronautical have always been about exploring the darkness. Their very name means ‘To explore death’. It’s fitting, then, that on their fourth album, Slain In The Spirit, the Manchester band are pushing both their sound and their concept to the outer limits.
Since forming in 2010, Necronautical’s name has become well respected among the British black metal underground. Across three albums – 2014’s Black Sea Misanthropy, 2016’s The Endurance At Night and 2019’s Candlelight Records debut Apotheosis – their sound has become one rich in its skill with the dark side of metal. Ambitious and grandiose in its symphonic touches, this velvet glove hides beneath it an aggressive iron fist.
On Slain In The Spirit, this is truer than ever. Everything has been taken to a degree beyond where the band have trodden previously, with the symphonic elements swirling even more dizzyingly above a metallic attack that hits with an almost machine-like ferocity. So much so that the band have transcended black metal altogether.
“I always think that we are known as a typical black band, but there’s always been a lot of deviance from it as well,” says mainman Naut. “We’ve always had an idea about how we wanted the band to be, and we’ve always been a fairly straight-ahead black metal band, visually, but we had a discussion before we made this album and said, ‘Maybe we’ll stop using the typical corpse paint.’”
This fits in with the musical steps taken on Slain In The Spirit. Recorded at Foel Studios in rural North Wales with producer Chris Fielding (Winterfylleth, Primordial, Conan), it shows just how many shades of black there are in Necronautical’s palette, from the sweeping and vast, to the primal, to brilliantly technical.
“What we’re doing now is more of a fusion between black metal and death metal, and progressive and symphonic elements,” says Naut. “We felt that perhaps like we were turning people who might like us off because I think they saw us as just a black metal band. There’s more to us than that.”
This thinking has gone into every element of Slain In The Spirit, from artwork to lyrics to band presentation. It reflects the album’s themes of exploring death from a philosophical point of view, with Naut reasoning that with such a rich well of inspiration to draw from on such a topic, why be limited by rules and conventions set out by others?
“Generally, we like a certain thing in black metal, when it’s very grandiose or dark, like what Emperor would do” says Naut. “The artwork and the presentation, it’s on the mystical or fantastical side of things, rather than this monochrome design. It’s more fantastical, almost psychedelic at points.”
This last word perfectly sums up the lyrical themes of Slain In The Spirit. Dealing with “altered states of consciousness”, Naut draws comparison to religious frenzy, and the rabbit holes of the mind down which infamous occultist and ‘Wickedest Man In The World’ Aleister Crowley would go on his quest for enlightenment, when discussing the record’s examinations of what lays beyond the human realm.
“It’s all about dream-like states, or trance-like states,” he says. “The album title, Slain In The Spirit, comes from the idea of how, in the Evangelical Church system, people would become so overcome by the power of spirituality that they would talk in tongues. It’s the idea of being overcome by something and basically put into a different set of reality.
“Cults and Aleister Crowley were another one of the inspirations, in the way that he would try and induce spiritual experiences in his followers or disciples. Whether that was though atrocious means like drugs or desperate deprivation, it was still ritual magic being done to create altered states of consciousness. We definitely looked at various forms of mysticism in the lyrics.”
The track Necropsychonautics is a prime example of what Slain In The Spirit is all about. Grand in musical scope, it takes on the idea of death causing a psychedelic effect on the brain just before it ceases to function – literally getting high off your own mortality.
“Supposedly, when you’re dying, you experience a hallucination. I believe there’s a release of DMT into your brain,” explains Naut. “So that song is supposed to encapsulate that abstract experience of dying, and reality altering as it happens. It’s asking the question of whether that’s where people’s perception of afterlife, or walking into the light, comes from.”
If Necronautical’s goal was to stand apart from the traditional ideas of black metal on SLAIN IN THE SPIRIT, they have managed it. Naut, for one, is clear about the sound, feel and presentation of the record, allowing the band’s personality and creativity to shine through.“
It’s different to what a lot of people think of when they think of black metal,” says Naut. “I hope people who might not normally like black metal can get it and understand what we’re doing.”Get Slain In The Spirit, and take a trip to the dark side.
01 – Ritual & Recursion
02 – Occult Ecstatic Indoctrination
03 – Slain In The Spirit
04 – Hypnagogia
05 – Pure Consciousness Event
06 – Necropsychonautics
07 – Contorting In Perpetuity
08 – Death Magicking Triumphant
09 – Disciple