Hells forbid any British institution should be suffering an identity crisis right now, so it’s reassuring that, rather than try to keep pace with an ever-shifting extreme metal landscape, the resurrected Cacophonous Records has kept its ethos unchanged: unapologetically rooted in rock-solid black metal values, but recognising those values are still a breeding ground for expansive and audacious journeys into the unknown.
Hailing from north-west England, latest signing Necronautical exemplify that twin sense of continuity and caution-to-the-wind rapture. Even if you can trace a link back to their label forebears, Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth, The Endurance At Night’s white-knuckle symphonic charge isn’t a throwback so much as a relentless surge forward.
A huge evolution from the route-one black metal of their 2014 debut, Black Sea Misanthropy, it’s opened up a vast new dimension of sweeping grandeur in which to give their themes of spiritual and physical exploration full rein. Between the storm-riding riffs that puncture Pure Moon’s tension-ratcheting intro and the undulating doom-death and closing, fists-aloft emotional catharsis of Theia, Necronautical harness a heart-in-mouth, tempestuous velocity that would threaten to tear itself apart if wasn’t composed with such obvious and engaging finesse. In terms of flamboyant sonic density, Necronautical’s closest contemporary peers are Italy’s Fleshgod Apocalypse, and there’s a similarly antiquated aesthetic here from the the crackly, gramophone-relayed harpsichord introducing Nihilartikel’s harried, howling tour de force, to the thick, choral atmospheres swirling pomp and apocalyptic fervour.
For all their breathless, blasting momentum, these songs are awash with dramatic tension, Oceanus Procellarum dropping into a brief mid-pace before getting drawn up into an operatic act of deliverance and the 10-minute-plus Strom offering a moment of lush, cinematic respite before corralling itself into a windswept fury, birthing lead breaks that get swept up in the symphonic rush and winding down with an exhausted grace. Records this ambitious are rarely beholden to the scenes that spawned them, and The Endurance… is a luminous rallying cry that looks set to pull metal fans across the spectrum into their slipstream.