Synth Album Review: "Necropolis" by Magnavolt
Dark, brooding, twisted and horrifying are all adjectives that apply to Magnavolt’s dark synth album, Necropolis. It is full of sounds that unsettle, wrack and twist as they move through the music and that atmosphere pervades the various corners of this album and lends it a shadowed, heavy feeling. However, this isn’t the whole story, as there are also melodic moments that are gentle and warming as well as energetic guitar solos that leap out through the tracks to add more colour to the music and provide some variety.
One of the undeniable qualities of Necropolis is the sense of spaciousness around the music. All of the musical elements are surrounded by vaulting spaces that echo and reverberate, giving the album a feel of cavernous darkness from which a multitude of dangers could potentially emerge. It decidedly contributes to the emotional charge that Magnavolt creates on the album. The term sepulchral accurately describes it and that’s fitting with the mood of the EP.
There’s a strong thread of tension that runs through Necropolis. It comes from the dark flow of bass that moves through the album, from tense musical passages of high synth and crunching, gritty sounds and from the empty spaces that I alluded to earlier.
I was also struck by the effective use of guitar on the album. Not every track utilized electric guitar by the ones that did benefitted from its inclusion. It added one more layer of sound and also ratcheted up the energy level where it was necessary. Magnavolt displayed a solid technique and there were some exciting soloistic moments in the music.
Now let’s talk about the tracks on Necropolis which had the strongest impact on me and why they did so.
The first track to talk about is “Soul Eater.” The track is full of space and starts off washed by warm synth chords that are soon joined by a glitchy series of sounds and bass throb. A stuttering beat moves in and then the lead synth melody drifts in, shaded by sadness. As the melody unfolds, it’s warm and reverberant. Synth chords move over a twitching, wiggling bass and a an intricate and singing guitar solo rises over the track. I liked the way the guitar interacted with the other elements of this track and the overall melancholy quality to the lead synth melody.
“Dead Meat” is a track brimming with darkness from the synth crunch and rumble that starts the track out to the unmistakable pipe organ sound that fills it with depth, dark shadows and menace. Tense little clusters of notes further cement the unsettling feel of the track but it really is the sense of foreboding that is created by the organ sound that makes this track work.
The sound of “Castle Ruins” is established by the harpsichord sound that starts in the track and gives it an ancient feeling. A driving beat pulses through the track to add weight to the high, exotic, minor key synth line that leads the track. It feeles dark as it winds its patterns around the continuing beat. The sense of tension in this track is generated by the intertwining and repeating high synth line that’s reinforced by the ever present and relentless beat.
One of the heavier tracks on the album is “Abomination.” It has seriously heavy duty drums and a deep well of bass that swells underneath it. The heaviness of the drums is joined by dark synths that rise and fall under the music. The whole track is full of a lurking threat that comes from all of the ways in which the various synth lines work together and the chant-like synth sounds that move in the background along with the Stygian bass. This track isn’t melodic but it brims with atmosphere.
The final track on the album, “Winds of Sorrow”, provides a nice counterpoint to the darkness. It opens with wind blowing across a desolate sounding landscape along with deep bell-like synths that move through the track as a high synth plays arps that wind their way through the music. The two arps, higher and lower intertwine as now a beat pulsates in, slow in tempo and full of reverb. The beat is like a throbbing heart underneath the drift and flow of the other synths until it all fades to silence.
Necropolis is an album drenched in atmosphere. It’s the reason that the album works so well. In between the cavernous spaces, the rumbling bass and the various sonic moods generated by the synths, this is an album that transports the listener into the dark heart of an ancient necropolis and all of the terrors that lurk inside of it.