Nox Arcana delves headfirst into the darkness with its musical tribute to the Cthulhu mythos. Creating a haunting festival of sounds to this is a challenging feat—every day that passes Cthulhu transforms into more of an icon than a mere concept of Lovecraft’s imagination. Nox Arcana delivers its tribute in a jarring way; this is not a collection that should be idly played in the background, this is a performance that demands your attention.
It is crystal clear to me, as a listener, that this has a different purpose than other instrumentals—the composition of this collection is not meant to be subtle, it is both bold and artistic. Drums are the heavier brush strokes in many of the songs, like “The Stars Align”. Filling in the details is a symphony of strings, a blend of ghostly voices, and the gentle stroke of well-mixed woodwinds. Pacing and timing varies, to outline the faint footsteps of the summoner arrogant enough to raise “The Great Old Ones.”
The music in Necronomicon tells the story of an arrogant sorcerer acting out his evil designs. Accompanying him are disembodied voices both warning and approving, as well as an orchestration of unseen hands playing various instruments. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the occasional gong of death tolling. The music is true to Lovecraft; harmonic melodies seem to be inspired from folk music from all over the world. “Cthulhu Rising” borrows notes from eastern Europe as the thing’s tentacles creep from murky, watery depths; thin strings whine of Arabic deserts and northern Egyptian breezes in “Temple of the Black Pharaoh.” Pieces like “Eldritch Rites” and “Nyarlathotep” are more theatrical than they are musical; a twisted sorcerer breathes life into ancient rituals through powerful chants and Lovecraft’s words. The musical talent put forth comes from a variety of sources—however to my trained ear I couldn’t tell if the elements were entirely synthesized or if they were performed in a studio. Translation? No note was off-key, no mistake was made (that I could tell); the performance was flawless, a occult mosaic planned and executed with rhythmic precision.
One of the unique things about Nox Arcana is the way they tie in an artistic vision to their products. Necronomicon is a shining example of this. The cover is a picture of a bony, wooden face that reaches out to its viewer with swirling tentacles—a subtle play on the concept of “the green man”, perhaps? I took the liberty of picking up some of Monolith Graphics’ other products, like the Dark Realms magazine. The art, created by Joseph Vargo, is gothic in a way that leaves more to the shadowy imagination through its simplicity than any photograph or pen and ink etch. The style is clean, simple and consistent; shades of a color with subtle accents. These are pieces you’d hang on your wall—images that you’d swear were looking at you in the dead of night.
Nox Arcana’s Necronomicon is a masterful blend of dark desires and the Cthulhu mythos. This collection is an impressive tribute; to appreciate the sum of its parts it should be played as a stand-alone piece replete with candles, cobwebs, and musty books.