Sunday, December 27, 2009

Moonblood - The Winter Falls Over the Land (1995)

The Winter Falls Over the Land is the third official demo from Germany's Moonblood, though it is actually their sixth release. Rising from the ashes of Demoniac, Moonblood was a very busy band, releasing many rehearsals and demos, sometimes mere weeks apart. Some will claim that only the two full-lengths and some of the splits are worthy of attention. To believe this would be a serious mistake, as almost every one possesses some level of brilliance. This is not some talentless band that hides its inadequacies behind poor production; there is much to discover by listening to these recordings.

The demo begins with a brief intro that features the sound of the waves crashing against the shore and some eerie keyboard piece that is similar to something in an old horror film. It does well to set the tone.

"Nightly Mass" then starts with a single guitar, followed by a grim scream. The rest of the instruments follow, building tension with mid-paced and memorable riffs that one may not have expected from this sort of music. It's almost reminiscent of Burzum, in some aspect. It's not the typical tremolo riff over blasting drums. The main riff is a simple, down-picked, melody that creates a cold and morbid feeling, coupled with the possessed vocals. The lyrics are absolutely fitting to the overall atmosphere, though one might say the vocals are a little high in the mix. However, it does not pose a problem. Keyboards are used in a very tasteful a minimal manner, accentuating the atmosphere. The freezing darkness envelopes your being and pulls you in the coldest shadows. This is haunting in every sense and, once it creeps into your brain, it shall never leave.

"A new nightmare begins..."

The next song is "The Gates of Eternity", beginning with some clean guitar that is joined by simple power chords. Though the sound is not perfect, it is far better than how some people describe it. I have the luxury of owning an original copy of this, so perhaps the bootlegs have some drop in quality. At any rate, this song bears a similar pace as the previous one, for the most part. The middle section picks up the speed a bit, but nothing too extreme. The feeling is rather epic, much like the last one.

"A Land Where the Sky Is Black" starts with tremolo riffs, blasting drums and possessed screams. Despite the hissing of the tape, the melodies are still quite clear. After about a minute, the tempo slows down and there are some thrashier moments, before returning to the first riff. The placing of this song was very well thought-out, as they used the earlier songs to build and epic atmosphere before unleashing such a furious assault, and building the tension even more.

This is followed by "In the Shadow of Inverted Crucifix". This one begins at full speed and seems to have been recorded at a different time, as the sound is less clear than the previous songs. After a minute or so, the pace slows down and takes on a more ominous tone. The dark feeling then comes over you once more, sending chills up your spine. It speeds back up, though never losing the feeling of dread.

"The Winter Falls Over the Land" is next, starting out with similar down-picking as in the first song. It's rather mid-paced and epic in nature. Things pick up after a minute, and the melody begins creeping into the darkness of your mind. The riffs are very memorable and filled with an old school feeling. This is where the production almost compliments the songwriting, as it gives the sense that it could have been recorded a decade earlier. After a few minutes, the fast drums and tremolo picking dominate the sound, yet the vibe is still maintained.

As if the atmosphere of this demo wasn't epic enough, the outro comes along to underscore this fact. It's a shame that this wasn't recorded and released as a proper L.P. since it is absolutely brilliant and these songs deserve to be hailed alongside the other classics of the era. The Winter Falls Over the Land may be considered some obscure demo by a little-known underground band to some, but I would say that it is quite essential. You can take countless modern Black Metal releases and their combined worth is still hardly comparable to this single demo. Seek it out, in whatever manner you are able.