I’m going to start right off and say what my biggest complaint about this compilation is: not enough music.
Hey, there are 70 minutes of music on this CD but that’s not enough? No. Because, you see, there are tracks missing. The original vinyl release of “Orexis of Death” finally saw the light of day in 1999, 26 years after it was meant to be released (a 1991 version appeared under the name of Quicksand Dream apparently), and this vinyl album had 10 tracks. Later when “Orexis…” was released on CD, two tracks were omitted for whatever reason: “Intro” and “I’ve Been Evil”. Next there came “Orexis of Death Plus” which still omitted the two tracks but added “Judy Green Rocket” in demo and live recording versions. Finally the missing tracks became available on “Necrothology” along with some other previously unreleased tracks which were “Curly Sea Slug (live)”, “Orexis of Death (alternative version featuring Tony Iommi)”, and “Nightjar (extended version)”. When Rise Above Relics decided to reissue “Orexis of Death” along with “Live” on a single CD, they gave us this with about 70 minutes of music but just around 29 minutes of studio recordings only. Surely they could have added “I’ve Been Evil”, a song of 6:20 judging by the version on YouTube and possibly “Intro” as well, no? I would have preferred the complete studio catalogue on one disc and if necessary and second disc of all the live recordings, or just some live recordings added to the studio disc to fill it up.
So, that’s my beef: at least one essential album track is missing. Now what about the music?
As the 40-page booklet (one of the good things about this CD) says, Necromandus might well be described as Black Sabbath sing the greatest hits of Yes. Actually, they don’t often follow the really heavy sound of Black Sabbath though lyrically their themes are not cheery like Yes’ often are. Necromandus prefer to play more complex jazz-rock with shifting rhythms and riffs more like Yes (their debut album often comes to mind) but in songs that are not as long. Fans of proto-metal take note: this band doesn’t pound away like Black Sabbath, Iron Claw, or Pentagram. Their music follows a more complex route most of the time. If you listen to “Nightjar” on YouTube you’ll easily get the impression that these guys really rock out on the heavy guitar. But the other songs mostly jump around between some fast and mildly fuzzed guitar and jazz-influenced riffs and slower, more progressive-sounding structures. The vocals remind me of an older brother version of Ozzy Osbourne at times but again don’t lean too heavily on the Black Sabbath side. The guitar playing is very enjoyable and apparently, when they toured with Yes, Steve Howe was really impressed with the speed and dexterity of Barry Dunnery's playing.
Because the studio tracks take up just under 30 minutes, I felt a little disappointed to hear “Mogidisimo” because the dual acoustic guitar faded out so soon when it sounded like something really good was coming together. “Mogidisimo (reprise)” begins in exactly the same way but carries the piece to nearly a minute and a half before fading out. I think they could have just done this as a two-minute acoustic instrumental instead of teasing with track one and including only the first 32 seconds of the composition.
The live album is not so good with respect to recording quality but it’s better than a lot of contemporary recordings I have heard. There’s a bit of talking to the audience too which is always kind of fun to listen to. I like the introduction to “Nightjar” where vocalist Bill Branch tells the audience to feel free and bash their heads on the tables.
Musically speaking, overall this is very good progressive rock with the odd tendency to venture into proto-metal territory. I’d love to have the missing tracks from the studio album but “Necrothology” is not cheap to buy now and nothing is on iTunes either.
I recommend this album to those who enjoy 70’s rock with some jazz, some proto-metal, and lots of prog blended together. The album artwork and the CD booklet are great, too!