Voyaging across the black seas of infinity…
One of the groups that seem to have made a strong impression in recent years is occult outfit Necronomidol. Originally founded by Ricky Wilson, an ex-pat American musician who had spent time dabbling as a vocalist for some rock groups in Japan, Necronomidol – or ‘Necroma’ as they’re informally referred to – were the result of Wilson’s interest in the burgeoning underground idol movement.
The 5-strong outfit consists of Kakizaki Risaki, Sari, Yotsuyu Hina, Imaizumi Rei and Tsukishiro Himari. All of them sport a loose uniform of sorts which adopts a striking dark image, yet also managing to adapt their own individual look (such as Sari’s white face paint). Drawing on occult imagery, much of Necronomidol’s material takes influence from the work of HP Lovecraft, the iconic horror writer responsible for the Cthullu mythos. As a result, many of the tracks have names such as ‘Azathoth’, ‘Innsmouth’ and ‘Ithaqua’, all referring to places or dark deities culled from the writer’s stories.
Earlier this year, Necroma made a return visit to the UK as part of the Black Wings Over Albion tour. This ambitious endeavour, conjured up by the Orion Live team, saw the occult group sharing the stage with two other underground idol acts, Screaming 60s and 2& for a multi-date tour of the UK (see J-Pop Go’s review previously).
All this paved the way for their latest studio album Voidhymn, which was released in September this year. As an album, it does everything you would expect from the group, weaving together solid guitar work, synths and an idol pop approach to vocals. There’s a few familiar moments on the album, including opening track ‘Dawnslayer’, which is a popular live number, as well as ‘Skulls In The Stars’ which also appeared on their 2016 debut album Nemesis.
Earlier this year, J-Pop Go managed to spend some time with Necroma’s members to chat about the group’s journey so far. As an underground idol outfit, they’re keen to enjoy more events outside of their native Japan. “There hasn’t been much chance to travel across the world and such” suggests Himari, “The chance to be able to do that, including across to America which we’re about to do, is really great.”.
The topic of underground idols also opens up some revealing commentary on their standing in that particular world. Is there, for instance, any rivalry between Necroma and other idol groups? They laugh at this idea, commenting that their outfit are the strongest and that they have no rivals. Sari sums it up succinctly: “Necronomidol is alone – loneliness!”
Necroma draw a lot from heavy metal, although it would be wrong to file them into that category. They utilise heavy guitar licks where necessary, but there’s more of a hard rock component to their compositions, augmented by a judicious use of synths. It would be easy, for instance, to slot the band in next to the likes of Babymetal or Death Rabbits, bands who employ a similar mash-up concept of idols and heavy rock. But from a sound perspective Necroma have a pretty unique sound profile.
‘Dawnslayer’, which opens Voidhymn, is perhaps one of the best examples of this even split between a heavy rock component and a softer vocal approach. Here, that singing style gains a lot from the use of harmonics, which sometimes gives the vocals a choral aspect. Meanwhile, ‘In Black’ almost has a playful quality to it with its clipped synth melodies and vocals high in the mix.
‘Samhain’ is a more left-field outing which seems to draw on ska rhythms, while ‘Innsmouth’ opts for a theatrical approach with its dramatic percussive fills. ‘Psychopomp’ (another early track which has been re-recorded for this album) pulls in a melancholy guitar as an opener before pushing for a more frenetic rhythm that employs a haunting, evocative vocal element. Throughout, there’s this lurking sinister element which ducks and dives between the more melodic elements on Necronomidol’s material. As with Lovecraft’s writing, there’s always a hidden darker aspect.
Touching on themes of the occult, it seems to make sense to ask the obvious question about which member of Necroma is the most interested in the supernatural. Risaki wastes little time in sticking her hand up: “Probably me because I really love horror films! In particular, Texas Chainsaw Massacre or ones that are very particularly gory!” Pushed to elaborate, Risaki offers up a blunt conclusion: “Basically, seeing all the blood makes me feel relieved!”
As an album Voidhymn certainly has its moments, of which, one of its best moments is the dynamic qualities at play on ‘Strange Aeons’. This is a blistering powerhouse of a track that can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the outfit’s back catalogue. Unsurprisingly, it’s also one of the tunes in the outfit’s live arsenal. Equally, the dramatic licks of ‘Kadath’ with its muscular percussion and its use of a male choral element, which lends some intriguing contrast to the number.
‘Skulls In The Stars’, in any guise, remains one of Necroma’s most powerful songs. Here, the barely contained energy of the composition is bolstered by tight guitars and a dramatic vocal delivery, which almost renders it as Necroma’s anthem.
Talk of the group’s global plans also brings up suggestions for other favoured destinations beyond the UK and America. Apparently the various members have their sights set on countries such as Sweden, Finland, Australia, Germany and Holland as their favourites for potential future shows.
As an outfit, Necronomidol have been evolving since their formation in 2014, with members leaving and joining across the four years the group’s been active. At the time of writing, Sari and Hina will be graduating from Necroma this January. “From a while back I realized that the path I want to follow as an individual and the path NECRONOMIDOL is pursuing as a group have started to diverge” commented Sari on her leaving, “I also feel a gap between idol culture and my own path forward as a performer.”
In the case of Hina, there appears to more of a desire to focus on university studies rather than attempting to split her time with a hectic musical life. “At the moment I don’t know exactly what I will do after I graduate” Hina said in her statement, “I think that after I graduate from university I will take a bit of time and walk on my own two feet for a while.”
So for now, Necronomidol are looking to go through another evolution as 2019 approaches. But meanwhile, Voidhymn offers up a selection of the outfit doing what they do best while they adapt and change. Or as HP Lovecraft might sum it up: “That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.”
Voidhymn is out now.
J-Pop Go expresses its thanks to Necronomidol and the Orion Live team. Special thanks to Karen Kemp for translation duties.