Monday, October 3, 2011

Moonblood - Nosferatu (1994)

Nosferatu is the second official Moonblood demo tape, released in December 1994 and limited to 100 hand-numbered copies. This recording is somewhat difficult to listen to, as a result of the absolutely horrible sound. However, the material that is contained on this cassette is of such a high quality that one has little choice but to struggle through it anyway. Having once possessed an original copy of this demo, I can say that the aural difficulties were present from the very beginning.

The production, if it can even be called that, is the one main complaint about this release. In fact, it is so bad that it ranks below some of the unofficial rehearsal tapes. The sound is very muffled, as if the band was playing in the next room. To make matters worse, there is a decent amount of hissing and a high-pitched noise that continues throughout the entire demo. This is so atrocious that it makes the early Mütiilation demos sound overproduced. With all that said, the music is worth every bit of the headache that will surely come from attempting to listen to this.

It all begins with an eerie funeral organ intro that hearkens back to the classic horror scores of the 1930s. This creates a dark feeling, as one gets flooded by images of foggy graveyards and bloodthirsty ghouls. Once this gives way to the first proper song, "Nosferatu", the atmosphere becomes more dreary and melancholic than one could have imagined. Though the recording quality is low, an utterly dismal tremolo melody manages to emerge from the chaotic storm. There is some variation in the tempo, with a few other riffs introduced as the track proceeds, but the main theme always returns. The drumming seems to be similar to the later material, in that it maintains a straightforward approach and blasts ahead in an effort to keep time, more than anything else. The vocals are raspy and inhuman, sounding very similar to the tone found on The Winter Falls Over the Land. Despite (or partially due to) the horrid production, there are subtle nuances that serve to dim the overall vibe even more, adding a chilling effect to an already haunting song.

"Listen to Nana" starts out with a wicked intro melody, before slowly building upon a foundation of old school Black Metal. This song is more mid-paced, but no less brilliant than the last. There seems to be a bit of old Bathory influence here, and the vocals are quite possessed. Whether it is simply some trick resulting from the obscure production or something to do with the guitar tone, the fact is that this song offers some truly creepy riffs as well. There is something very morbid and unnerving about this.

A feeling of doom is present from the opening moments of "In the Moonshine". After a couple minutes, the picking of the main melody transitions to a tremolo style and the song speeds up. The atmosphere is sombre, but not overly so, somewhat interrupted by a less interesting riff that arrives near the end.

"Burn Down the Heavenly Garden" features a very old school sound, reminiscent of the First Wave bands like Venom, Hellhammer, Bathory, Sodom, etc. One of the primary elements is a nasty thrash riff that adds a sense of lethality and violence to this morose undertaking. As the song progresses, the atmosphere takes on a mournful tone as a sorrowful bass line joins the woeful guitar riff. Even in such a grim environment, Moonblood displays extreme proficiency in creating an epic feeling despite the primitive style of music being played.

This is followed by "Only a Dream of Dark Kingdom", continuing the evil and melancholic feeling with a brief intro. Beyond this, the track is rather fast and straightforward, consisting of frigid tremolo riffs accompanied by blasting drums and sinister vocals. While much less ambitious than some of the earlier songs, this one still manages to hold its own and adds to the overall effect.

The demo ends with "A Journey through the Darkness of Night", which offers a little more variety than the last song, though the variations in tempo and riffing patterns do not alter the vibe that much, meaning less of an epic sense than the earlier tracks. Nevertheless, this song is a offers a good dose of grim and ugly Black Metal.

Nosferatu is an amazing piece of music that shows a high level of development from a band that had existed for a relatively short amount of time. It is a disappointment only in the sense that it contains material of such brilliance that it is a shame that some of these tracks were never revisited. But as it stands, it is certainly worth the irritation of filtering through the distortion and murkiness in order to bathe in the dark and mournful melodies. Though they may not have even realized it, Gamaalzagoth and Occulta Mors conjured up something special with this recording and offered a glimpse into another world.