"The Necromancer" is an epic progressive rock song by Rush from their 1975 album Caress of Steel and is currently their fourth longest song, behind Cygnus X-1, Book II, 2112, and The Fountain of Lamneth. This was Rush's first attempt at writing an epic piece and, along with its partner "The Fountain of Lamneth", was blamed for the commercial failure of the album.
This is the second Rush song to feature the character Prince By-Tor, the first being "By-Tor & The Snow Dog" on the band's second album, Fly by Night. This song also contains a reference to the town of the band's formation, Willowdale, Toronto. The song has not appeared on any Rush live but it is featured on the compilation album Archives. The song also appears on a Bootleg DVD entitled "Rush, Caught In The Act" Which was recorded live by a 8mm film video recorder on May 15, 1975 at Rochester, New York by an avid fan, and produced on DVD. Progressive metal band Dream Theater covered this song during their "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" tour.
The song is referenced in the final episode of BBC TV Comedy series Saxondale, being responsible in part for the bringing the central characters Tommy (Steve Coogan) and Magz (Ruth Jones) back together again.
The song is subtitled "A Short Story by Rush". The title may have been inspired by Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings in which the Necromancer (more commonly called Sauron), an evil entity who either summons the dead or reduces the living into specter form, is confronted by "three travelers": Sam, Frodo, and Gollum. However the parallel with Tolkien is inexact, as in The Lord of the Rings Sauron is unaware of the trio's approach until it is too late for him to stop them. In the old quests stories, travelers were generally restless and searching for a goal; so were Rush, always on tour. The reference to Willowdale is the name of the suburb in Toronto that the three members of Rush called home.
The song has three parts:
"Into Darkness" "Fording a river" was used by ancients in stories to show a decisive stage in a journey. That was the actual lyric Neil wrote, omitting "dawn" altogether.
"Under the Shadow" "O'er" is an old Gaelic term. Another "bow" reference as in "Bastille Day" with the travelers becoming specters and locked in dungeons.
"Return of the Prince" The incarnation of oppression is later confronted by Prince By-Tor (title comes from Tolkien's The Return of the King). Neil is the voice in the intro. The labyrinth classically represented the quest to find the center (the start, the spirit, the center of time and space in the microcosm of a maze). By-Tor is not evil here (perhaps after his defeat by the Snowdog?) and he battles for freedom.
Song: The Necromancer
Album: Caress of Steel
- Into the Darkness 4:12
- Under the Shadow 4:25
- Return of the Prince 3:52
This song was Rush's first 10 minute+ concept song.
This was their first song to reuse a character (By-Tor, from By-Tor and the Snow Dog)