Necromandus: Heavy Seventies Rock, Lost and Found

Maybe a pact with the devil would have helped. In the spring of 1973, the four members of the British hard-rock quartet Necromandus — guitarist Barry Dunnery, drummer Frank Hall, singer Bill Branch and bassist Dennis McCarthy —  were awaiting the release of Orexis of Death, their first album, by the fabled progressive-rock label Vertigo. The record was produced by Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi — heavy leverage as the Sabs were also on Vertigo. But Necromandus were kept waiting — and waiting. By the fall of '73, the album hadn't even reached the test-pressing stage. Then Dunnery quit in frustration, dooming the band. Except for a limited vinyl edition in 1991, a new two-CD issue titled Orexis of Death and Live (Rise Above Relics), with the addition of a bonus club show from March of '73, is the album's — and Necromandus' — true debut.

The record's title, the group's name and Iommi's patronage suggest a lot of dark magic. But Necromandus had a wide range of dynamics in their Sabbath-like boom. Dunnery was a nimble riffer, with lithe blues inflections in his hammering, and the detailed changes in "Nightjar" and "Gypsy Dancer" are closer to heavy prog — the kind of whirling fury Iron Maiden later took to the bank. Somehow, in eight studio tracks, Necromandus compressed the best of Sabbath's first four albums — the black lava and gothic folk extremes — with prophetic, commercially savvy blasts of the imminent New Wave of British Heavy Metal. In a just world, Necromandus would be in all of the metal history books by now. At least, they're finally on record. (riseaboverecords.com)