Tuesday, 11 June 2019

The Vengeance Of An Idol Wronged - 'scions of the blasted heath' by NECRONOMIDOL (EP Review)

*The following EP was sent for Review purposes. My opinions my own, but my love for NECRONOMIDOL is unwavering. Just so ya know.

**If you see any typos, blips, issues or misspellings seen within this review, please feel free to point them out. I am but a mere mortal, and us mortals make mistakes. Help me to improve this space bit by bit, typo by typo.

With their new EP release - the first to feature the groups 2019 lineup, as well as the debut of the two most recent members - NECRONOMIDOL are set to blacken stages further with scions of the blasted heath, a 5 song EP that will feature songs themed around trauma, entropy and conquest, whilst exploring Lovecraftian influences along the way.

With jacket art drawn by manga artist Jun Hayami, a new collaboration track as well as some returning composers, NECRONOMIDOL's latest in music is sure to intrigue a few new listeners, whilst also bringing the older fans back with even more catchy tunes and invigorating compositions.

Are you ready to delve into the depths of Idol Hell?

(This Review has been cross-posted with Selective Hearing, where you can read a far more condensed version of this post if your eyes cannot handle the sheer amount of letters and mumbo-jumbo)


With the halfway point for 2019 encroaching upon us in swift fashion, it makes sense for NECRONOMIDOL to deliver unto us all some brand-spanking new music. A mid-year release, some fans might find the timing of scions of the blasted heath a little later than usual for a group, however this EP could not have been dropped at a better time, and here's why:

Promotions for the groups latest release will begin just a month shy of NECRONOMIDOL's up-coming July tour, EUROPEAN INQUISITION, which starts in France on July 11th, and will see the group perform in London, Birmingham and Inverness in the United Kingdom, as well as the Netherlands, Germany, Finland and Sweden, with the latter three countries being a first for the group to conquer, performance-wise.

scions of the blasted heath also acts as the official EP debut for newest members Kenbishi Kunogi and Michelle, who both debuted with the group back in January this year.

So whilst the latest NECRONOMIDOL release may be a late edition for some, the timing could not have been better planned, as scions of the blasted heath comes at a point where NECRONOMIDOL will be promoting their European tour a lot more heavily. This EP will also serve as a great starting point for newer fans and listeners who may be attending the up-coming shows for the first time. Likewise, scions of the blasted heath will act as a fuel for the more seasoned listener's excitement, allowing older fans to truly soak in the atmosphere of NECRONOMIDOL right before their tour is set to begin.

Either way, this EP will certainly deliver some much-needed anticipation when it comes to the groups European tour, as well as the overseas stage debut of Kunogi and Michelle.

I feel this group needs little to no more introduction, but if you are curious about the group and what they do, please check out my handy-dandy NECRONOMIDOL Introduction which goes through a bit of their history, as well as the groups releases and music videos. For now though, it's time to take a dive into this EP release and hear exactly what it's all about.

With a little bit of Lovecraft, a dash of trauma and a pinch of light-hearted Idol-ness thrown in there, scions of the blasted heath will drag you into a world of atmospheric beauty. Are you ready to delve into NECRONOMIDOL's intricately-spun web?

It's time to lose ourself in the music.


Release Date: June 12th, 2019
Price: 1,300yen (aprox. £9.43 / $12.01)

Editions: -

Track List:
  1. SALEM
  2. phantasmagoria cosmos
  3. the festival
  4. CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT
  5. LAMENT CONFIGURATION
scions of the blasted heath
- EP Review -

1. SALEM

In true NECRONOMIDOL fashion, scions of the blasted heath opens with an appropriately creepy song, one that is definitely worthy of the 'otherworldly' and 'occult' title the group encompasses well. For the more seasoned listener, this song will come as no surprise in terms of its sound or quality, but for fresher ears to the NECROMA scene, be prepared: this song might not suit your tastes just yet, but definitely give it a chance after your first sit-through.

Though familiar in tone to other songs - psychopomp in the opening, as well as a little bit of thenatogenesis mixed throughout - SALEM certainly makes its mark when it comes to atmosphere and tone. With its erratic drum beats, eerie composition and disorienting pace, SALEM creates a striking image for its listeners, and clearly paints a picture of what NECRONOMIDOL is all about: darkness laced with a hint of beauty, as well as a sense of deceptive calm that Kei Toriki captures well here.

Surprisingly this is the only song of its kind on the track list when it comes to NECRONOMIDOL's 'horror' vibe, but it appropriately puts its listeners on edge thanks to its heart-pounding drum beats and ever-changing pace. It feels witchy, perhaps even a little enchanting in its lyrical tone, but above all it feels lonely and pleading, with the lyrics being the plea - strong at the beginning, quiet and accepting of the situation towards the end - and the instrumental are the feelings that the protagonist is battling throughout the song.

SALEM is emotive, powerful and driven by emotions that slowly simmer down until the protagonist accepts her fate, ending with the final lyric: 'Enveloped in flames. All for you'.

With that final line, the instrumental comes to a quiet lull before dropping completely, leaving the listeners in silence until the last line is sung, completing a truly atmospheric - maybe even a little traumatic - song that leaves you wanting to know about the story behind the song, the emotions and the power.

SALEM is a rather mesmerising piece, even if it is a little tired in sound. Initially I did not like this track, but after reading the lyrics, learning about the themes behind the EP and listening to it more than once, SALEM has undeniably grown on me. Will it be a return song for me, probably not, but I still find it to be rather intriguing, and though I can not think of this song without hearing the opening bars to psychopomp first, I believe that SALEM is a decent song to start this EP off with.

For newer listeners to NECRONOMIDOL's music, SALEM will certainly stand out as one of the most distinct tracks on the EP. Eerie, disorienting and unique against the other four songs, this will definitely throw newer listeners into the deep end.

For the more seasoned listeners and current fans of the group however, the familiarity that SALEM holds will once again win people over and act as an intriguing - if not misleading - opener for those who obtain this EP.

SALEM is interesting and perhaps a bit of a rollercoaster in its sound, but it encompasses the emotions and turmoil of the lyrics perfectly. There could not be a better pairing than this.

In a nutshell: Eerie, dark and erratic, SALEM will most likely look and sound incredible live. It certainly feels like one of the more theatrical songs from the group but beware: older fans may find the composition tired and uncreative, but newer listeners might just lap it up if they give it a chance.

2. phantasmagoria cosmos

The first song to act as a collaboration between NECRONOMIDOL and Kinoco Hotel's Marianne Shinonome, phantasmagoria cosmos is a bit of a trip, sound-wise. Taking a drastically different turn in tone, this song would feel right at home on the DEATHLESS soundtrack thanks to its upbeat tone, cute vocals and space-like vibe - and with a title that includes the word 'cosmos', I really can not be surprised that the song sounds like it has been dropped right out of the 80's or 90's.

Like most of NECRONOMIDOL's music, phantasmagoria cosmos is irresistibly catchy and appealing, which will most likely result in the track becoming a crowd favourite, as well as the initial favourite for newer fans who may hail from a bubblegum idol pop background. With such a high surge of energy coursing throughout this song as well, I can only hope that the choreography will be entertaining to watch, and I pray that cute antics will ensue as well.

With that said, the songs increasing rapture contrasts greatly with the lyrics given. Though there is talk of rainbows, kaleidoscopes and lustrous glows, phantasmagoria cosmos is - at least from my point of view - a song about ignorance and escape from the ugliness and sorrows of the world. Though incredibly different in tone, the instrumental and vocals create this bright and euphoric outlook whilst the lyrics show us the reality of the situation: the protagonist wants to experience only the good of the world, but in order to do so they must travel 'Over the rainbow' away from the dangers of the world they know.

There is this subtle sense of disorientation about the song, with the lyrics shifting between the realms of reality and a dream-like haze whilst the instrumental and vocals create an uplifting and blissful tone. The song as a whole feels reminiscent of dream sequences - which, fun fact, the word 'phantasmagoria' means 'a sequence of real or imaginary images like that seen from a dream' - and after listening to the song more, reading the lyrics and over and learning about the words used, I can not help but feel that this song fits together so perfectly.

From the elated tone of the members' vocals to the euphoric and cosmic feel of the instrumental, phantasmagoria cosmos creates a dream-like sound that allows the listener to escape into a fantasy land away from reality. The song from beginning until end is a dream sequence captured within a 4 minute and 10 second time frame, and very little about the song is real. Yes, there is some awareness from both the listener and the protagonist regarding the world they live in - 'Roiling, resounding. Unceasing voice of madness. Leaving sanity behind. Along with my tears' - but upon the start of this song, both the protagonist and the listener leave that world behind in favour of something that feels more vibrant and seems a lot more entertaining.

And despite its pleasant sound and upbeat nature, the true horror of phantasmagoria cosmos lies in the reality it holds. Much like this song, a dream sequence will eventually come to an end and you will wake up. Reality will hit, responsibilities and the cold truth will still be there, and the world you tried to leave behind materialises right before your very eyes once more.

To conclude this song overview, I want to say that phantasmagoria cosmos is pretty damn interesting. When you look at it in a lot more depth the entire meaning of the song changes completely, and you hear beyond the sound what it is truly about.

This track is an interesting one to look out for, and even if you do not look beyond the surface of the song, I think it will still intrigue a lot of people with its fun sound and catchy tune. But when it comes to phantasmagoria cosmos, I cannot help but feel impressed by the amount of depth I have found within this song.

In a nutshell: Catchy, a little cute and fairly easy on the ears, this song will impress both seasoned and new listeners of NECRONOMIDOL. If you want to research the lyrics a little more though, be prepared to fall into an interesting rabbit hole of investigation and wonder.

3. the festival

Though not as upbeat as phantasmagoria cosmos in sound nor as a creepy as SALEM in terms of atmosphere, I do think that the festival holds its own when it comes to a mysterious, otherworldly nature. It is also - once again - incredibly catchy and a pretty fun listen, with the opening bars hooking you as a listener instantly. With a string of marching drum rolls accompanied by what I can only guess is a wind instrument of some kind (don't quote me on that), the festival sets a rather unsettling tone thanks to it's carnival-esque quality from the get-go, and only gets better with each passing second.

I think that when it comes to opening bars, the festival has to be my favourite from this EP. Any song that reminds me of Goosebumps, creepy carnivals and nightmarish dolls is a winner in my book, though I can understand why some people would find it a little off-putting; it is not going to soothe the soul any time soon, that much is true. That said, the song picks up at the 44 second mark, so if you are not a fan of the creepy Goosebumps meets J-pop vibe, just skip ahead and fall into another world of delightful drum beats, guitar riffs and vocals.

Compared to the other songs, the festival holds a quality that feels almost old-fashioned compared to the other two. With the use of the drum beats, the overlapping vocals, group parts during the chorus and an odd calmness that falls over the members despite the ever-growing elation of the instruments, there comes this feeling of exhilaration I just cannot explain. It is as if I am being lulled into a trance, and after reading the lyrics I can understand why I feel that way.

This song and its lyrics remind me of a cult, at least if it took on the form of an invigorating song.

From the way the vocals are blended for the group parts - as well as how solo lines stand out in an almost otherworldly manner to break that beautiful trance we are placed under - the festival becomes an exhilarating experience in pace and tone. The tone difference in how the girls sing solo or together is interesting, and though this may be the case for the other two songs before this, I could not help but notice a difference in the calmness of the group lines against the raw and loud solo lines.

Even the overlapping vocals here intrigued me. It reminds me of a chant, and I can't help but envision NECRONOMIDOL circling around a fire whilst holding hands as they sing. This whole song is such a mystery thanks to its enchanting sound and misleading beginning, but I find it exhilarating in energy and tone nonetheless.

There is a sense of unity present within the festival as a song, which does not surprise me after reading the lyrics. With depictions of being bewitched by beautiful nightmares, running together hand in hand and dancing straight to the edge of Hell, it makes sense that this song especially would feel even more unified in the members' group parts. There is a sense of connection here, one where they all desire something more than the world they reside in, and in the night they all come together to open up the world below them so that they can escape to the Underworld and continue their festivities forevermore.

Thanks to the genius that is Zero-2, the festival encompasses a quality that feels appropriately mysterious and witch-like, and though it feels similar to SALEM in regards to its tone, this song is a lot more subtle in comparison, and certainly more unified in its sound. Where it was clear that SALEM had a specified protagonist, the festival is about everyone's participation and the dance they want to choreograph down in Hell. So whilst the similarities are certainly there, the festival holds a positive message for those who follow the occult and practice witchcraft, whilst SALEM undeniably punishes it.

A more positive song lyrically, the festival still holds its own dash of the occult thanks to its themes of running down to Hell and sharing an ecstasy that outsiders - those who do not follow the occult - can not even fathom. Paired with the erratic instrumental, the calmness of the vocals here create a sense of security and togetherness, and the lyrics portray a story of young witches escaping the Earth for a better place as they celebrate the Festival Night, chanting together: 'Hand in hand we'll run together. Straight into the depths of Hell', 'Revelling together on the Festival's eve. Dancing straight to the edge of Hell'.

Similar to a few other songs I have heard from NECRONOMIDOL, the festival is an experience. Though it may seem familiar to some, there is a uniqueness about it that allows it to stand out from the rest. Maybe it does share themes of the occult with SALEM and other tracks released by the group, but don't be fooled: the festival is its own entity, and it is just as intoxicating as the rest of the groups discography.

In a nutshell: Incredible opening and a witch-like quality that rivals SALEM. The togetherness of the vocals here is incredibly apparent and the song overall is beautifully bewitching.

4. CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT

So am I the only one who is reminded of the Happy Hardcore song, Children of the Night upon seeing this title? Just me? Okay, then...

Sung completely in English, CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT is most definitely the 'conquest' song of those we have listened to already. Powerful, driven and fairly high in terms of vocal pitch, I can immediately see this song being a head-bang worthy track when performed live. It is energetic, high in energy and fast in pace, which can only be expected - it was written by the genius behind dirge of baldr, Takeru, after all.

Sung as if it's one Hellish choir, NECRONOMIDOL truly deliver a strong performance in CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT vocally. Despite singing in a foreign tongue to their own, their passion and energy is amazing here and how they sound together is absolutely breathtaking. There is glee and mischief laced into their vocals that are only enhanced by the never-ending energy of the instrumental, allowing the song to feel alive, colourful and unique against the others within scions of the blasted heath.

There is a beautiful franticness to this piece as well, a nature that is so frenzied that it feels almost like a blur the more you listen to it. With the use of a church organ, a guitar and some choice moments where we will only hear NECRONOMIDOL's divine harmonising, this song captures the dizzying event in which the songs protagonists begin their journey of terror, their '... will unbending. Everything beloved now cast into the grave' until they are the only ones left standing, finally having avenged themselves after all of the suffering they endured in the past.

Really, this is a very interesting song.

Despite all of the destruction that ensues throughout the lyrics - 'Vengeance taking form. In light abating. Shadows creeping near. Your doom awaiting. All that you hold dear now cast unto the flames. Holding back the night' - this song never ceases in its vigour, and it certainly does not feels violent or vengeful in sound. It is simply an energetic, fun song that many people will love listening to, myself included. Honestly, when I first read the lyrics, I was a little gobsmacked. Something this fun and cheerful is actually about murderous, horrific vengeance?

Then again, this NECRONOMIDOL I am talking about. I really should not be surprised.

CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT is quite possibly my favourite track on scions of the blasted heath, both for its sound and its lyrics, as well as how the song itself further develops the story that has been written for this entire EP. This is something I will explain further along in the review, but I do want to quickly note that it was CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT that made me realise there is some sort of theme running through this entire EP, as well as a very distinct story that has been split in 'chapters' (tracks). Whether this is me looking too far into the EP, I don't know, but I like this idea I have and I am sticking with it.

I am also aware that this 'idea' I have may be quite obvious to more seasoned NECRONOMIDOL fans.

To conclude this part of the review, I want to add that CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT is an incredibly visual song, one that paints a picture of delight, pure destruction and dark beauty that only NECRONOMIDOL could deliver. This is a song that I honestly can not wait to see performed live, but until that day comes I will continue to listen to this track on repeat, and with fervour. It is incredible, one of the best tracks the group has ever created, and I will completely understand why others enjoy it if they peg it as their favourite. It is simply delightful, in the most cheerfully dark way possible.

In a nutshell: An interesting, fervent track, CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT is sung completely in English and feels like NECRONOMIDOL are singing as a choir hell-bent on destruction, mischief and bloodshed. In the darkest way possible, it is a cheerful and fun piece.

5. LAMENT CONFIGURATION

What a way to end the EP, aye?

80's in style, idol in tone and sugary to the nines, LAMENT CONFIGURATION is the undeniable "generic" track on scions of the blasted heath, though it has its moments of atmospheric bliss in both the tracks introduction and at its end. Of all the tracks, this one will probably stand out the most in terms of how vastly different it is to the others, but that's a good thing; NECROMA truly go out with a bang thanks to LAMENT CONFIGURATION.

The first time I heard this song I was perhaps a little bit hooked. It's adorable, there are some twinkling sounds throughout the instrumental, and it reminds me that NECRONOMIDOL - for all their darkness and Lovecraftian themes - are still an idol group who sometimes release pretty, fun idol songs just like this. Sure, it might not fit their aura or image as a group at all (it will fit Imaizumi Rei's image perfectly, however) but it's a fun contrast to their usual cool and witch-like vibe, and I welcome the change with open ears, as well as open arms.

Really though, it should have come as no surprise to any of us that this masterpiece of cuteness was crafted by Okayan, who also happened to write STARRY WISDOM for the Dawnslayer single. Though similarities between the two are pretty slim, the tone and prettiness is definitely there, and I appreciate the uniqueness this song brings to scions of the blasted heath.

Now aside from the cuteness of it all, I want to note that with this contrast in image and sound, there is also a contrast between the tone of the song and the lyrics once more, and yet again I am intrigued, because NECRONOMIDOL further showcase their love for bloodlust and anguish in their grand finale for scions of the blasted heath.

Lyrically, this song feels a little simpler in its message, though a lot more blatant and forward about the end goal: whoever the protagonist is, they want to reap the soul of someone who has followed them into the depths of Hell and teach them the pains and suffering of the after life. 'True anguish begins now. Choke back those tears. Your suffering will go to waste'. With this song, humanity has come to a close, and the girls who gave their souls to the Devil and ravished the world of its humanity in previous songs are now tormenting those who join them beneath the Earth, and from the tone of their vocals and the uplifting sound of the instrumental, it is very clear that these girls are taking great delight in the task they have been given in Hell.

I think the most interesting aspect of the lyrics has to be its coaxing nature, however. It feels like whoever is speaking is either talking to a child, or incredibly patronising as a means to pacify the soul that will be reaped and punished. It is still forceful and violent in how it speaks, however, and the fear of whomever is being spoken to is clearly scared and uncertain of 'A bloodstained future' that is repeatedly promised throughout.

In general, I find it interesting that LAMENT CONFIGURATION seems to be easily viewed from both perspectives; the victim, as well as the one delivering these cruel words of pain and torment.

I think that - of the songs present - LAMENT CONFIGURATION will stand as one of the more popular ones amongst listeners, especially the newer fans. For older and more seasoned listeners, LAMENT CONFIGURATION will definitely stand out as the most distinct track here, but for those who have only recently been inducted into NECRONOMIDOL's fandom, this may be the song that makes them feel more at home, especially if the music they have listened to in the past is mostly cutesy, light-hearted idol pop. Regardless of who is listening to it though, I believe that this song will surprise some older listeners, delight a few people, and become a welcomed ear worm for others.

LAMENT CONFIGURATION is pretty damn great, and it's a wonderful way to round of scions of the blasted heath. I love me a little bit of saccharine, 80's-infused idol pop mixed with painful lyrics, don't you?

In a nutshell: Saccharine, 80's in style and upbeat in tone, LAMENT CONFIGURATION contrasts its sound with its lyrics. I can only hope that NECRONOMIDOL continue to use Okayan in the near future, because damn, their music is amazing.

Conclusion

I truly enjoyed exploring this EP, its songs and the themes that run through it. As someone who has only recently listened to most of the groups music - not all of it, I doubt I can get hold of some of the venue only releases - I feel like this EP is a great starting point for newer listeners to NECRONOMIDOL. With a handful of songs, a variety of styles as well as composers and writers who have already worked with the group, scions of the blasted heath creates a fun, diverse and theme-riddled release that will intrigue the seasoned fan, as well as the newcomers who need a gateway EP to lead them into the world of NECRONOMIDOL.

Encompassing darkness, pain, passion, frenzy and more, scions of the blasted heath is sure to deliver not only good music, but a story you were not anticipating. Typically someone who ignores lyrics, I decided to properly delve into and research scions of the blasted heath as much as I could, and through this came a world of discovery that I hadn't anticipated. Given NECRONOMIDOL's style and theme, I highly doubt this is the first time something like this has happened, but for those like myself who simply listen to NECROMA for the sake enjoying some damn good music, I was taken by just how much thought was put into the story and theme for this release, and how well the music matched to the lyrics after I linked everything together.

And lo-and-behold, there were 'chapters' masquerading as tracks. It's a story of death, escapism, vengeance and conquest, and I absolutely love it.

For older fans, this really won't come as a surprise, but for the story-loving, gimmick-enjoying person that I am, I find this kind of discovery entertaining and absolutely incredible, and it only enhanced my experience of this single even more than I had anticipated. If I had simply listened to the songs themselves I would have had a shorter review, one where I depicted which songs were my favourite, and how I liked some vocals over others, etc. Thanks to the inclusion of lyrics however, I was able to look into scions of the blasted heath properly, and I finally pieced together the stories everyone else has been reading all along.

Sure, it made for a lengthier review, however I wanted to share my excitement, plus I believe that this is a necessary piece of information for newer listeners and readers unaware of NECRONOMIDOL's music style to know. It creates a fuller experience if you know that there is a linear structure for the songs from start to finish, and after reading the lyrics whilst listening to the song they correspond to, you can hear why a certain pace was used, why vocals are done a specific way or why the tone is so different to another song. phantasmagoria cosmos is a good example to use for this because - despite being the second track - the tone and style is a vast switch from that of SALEM, however the style of the song suits the tone of the lyrics perfectly. Regardless of the distinct tonal changes, the story present throughout scions of the blasted heath continues to flow smoothly in both progress and theme.

I honestly believe that this is a fun release, one that includes a lot of varying tones and style in song. Sure, the opening track SALEM may feel a little tired for those who listen to NECRONOMIDOL regularly, but for newer listeners this song will be a great introduction into their darker style of sound. That said, I have to admit it is probably the weakest track on this entire release and I definitely prefer the other four tracks on scions of the blasted heath over it.

Overall I really enjoy what scions of the blasted heath delivers. The music is varied, the tones shift and change in beautiful ways, and each instrumental fits the corresponding lyrics beautifully. Vocally I love it, the blending is gorgeous and the members sound delightful, and in terms of tune and tone I find the songs to each have their own individual charm. Granted, some tracks a catchier than others - CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT, LAMENT CONFIGURATION for example - but the beauty of music is that everyone will be hooked on something different, and we will each find a different reason to fall in love with a song.

scions of the blasted heath is a great EP, one that is certainly worth your listen. I hope that everyone can check it out and become invested in NECRONOMIDOL, regardless of whether you are a fan of them already or not.

This is a winner, but of course how you feel about it is down to your personal preference. I know this EP won't impress everyone, but I hope you give it a chance.

Favourite Songs: the festival, CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT


EP RATING:

"Buy the EP..."

Just listen to the EP, okay? You gotta trust me on this one.

I really like this EP and believe there is a lot to enjoy here, whether you look into the themes and lyrics or not, but obviously everyone goes into their music differently. I just so happened to research it a little more than anticipated, but I have no regrets - it only made me appreciate scions of the blasted heath more.

For those of you who are veteran or older NECRONOMIDOL fans, what do you think about this EP release if you have listened to it, and for those fans who are a little newer, what has drawn you into the world of NECRONOMIDOL? Is it the sound, the style or the aura? Be sure to let me know!

And finally, thank you very much for reading this post. I hope it wasn't too long or bothersome, and of course I hope that you enjoyed reading it. If you managed to get this far as well, congratulations! Hopefully you learned a little something about NECRONOMIDOL, and I truly do appreciate your time. For now however, it is time to bid everyone adieu. Please take care, stay happy and healthy and continue to love your idols.

Until the next one. Au revoir and adios, dear Readers.
Chiima~

You can find NECRONOMIDOL's EP on these platforms:

Bandcamp
Idol Underworld

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