Friday, October 28, 2011

Moonblood - s/t (1994)

Rising from the ashes of Demoniac, Occulta Mors and Gamaalzagoth began an extremely productive collaboration under the name of Moonblood, releasing their self-titled debut demo in August 1994. This tape contains an hour of music, and shows a band with unlimited potential. In most cases, bands end up recording albums far too soon, not spending enough time in the demo phase where they would be able to master their craft; however, Moonblood is a band that definitely should have been afforded the opportunity to record their music in a proper studio and to release their work in the form of actual albums, instead of poorly-produced cassettes. These two certainly had a very good idea of what they wanted to achieve and were quite successful in doing so. Moonblood was the only the beginning...

Following a sombre intro, "Hope" soon erupts into a maelstrom of raging flames. That is the feeling conveyed by the hellish guitar melodies, aided by the necro production. This was, obviously, not what they intended and yet it works so well. The main riffs carry a dismal tone, and are some of the most simplistic of the band's existence. It seems more like a jam session, since the drumming is so difficult to hear, and even the vocals are buried under a few feet of dirt.

"In the Forest of Red Water" continues the gloomy feeling, with a slow build. This is the lengthiest song on here, and actually does well to evoke some sort of epic feeling. Already, the Viking-era Bathory influence can be felt; an inspiration that would remain throughout the band's career, and come to full fruition in its successor band, Nachtfalke. After a few minutes, the pace picks up and races forth at a blinding speed. There is a sense of sorrow that can be felt, mourning the loss of something significant. As the track experiences its final death throes, one gets the image of a valiant warrior being stricken down on the battlefield, one shot after another failing to break his will, until his body finally succumbs and he falls to the ground and fades from this world in a pool of his own blood.

The next song, "Graves From the Stone Under Cemeterymoon", slowly emerges from the darkness, like a sorrowful death march. The riffs bear an epic quality, before giving way to a lone tremolo riff that is soon joined by blasting drums and demonic vocals. As the song progresses, some of the fast tremolo melodies hearken back to the introductory riffs, and maintain a similar feeling. Things can get a bit blurry, if you are not paying attention, due to the poor sound quality. The track ends with everything slowing down to a crawl, finally letting out one last tortuous wail.

"Moonblood" is somewhat more upbeat, for the first half of the song. By the middle, it goes into a slower section that echoes Chopin's funeral march and thus creating a gloomy atmosphere of lifelessness and despair. The subsequent riffs contradict this aura, displaying the indomitable spirit of a true warrior, defying even death itself.

This is followed by "In A Bloody Night of Fullmoon", which is far more primitive than the version on Blut und Krieg, which actually works well. There is a nice effect from the method by which the melody is played, and this is more haunting than the synth that carries this melody in the later version. There are places where the song does not sound as connected, but that is to be expected at this stage. For the most part, it sounds very similar to the L.P. version. though it does not flow as well. Either way, it is interesting to hear.

"Eternal Satanic Winter" features another brilliant mixture of grim Second Wave Black Metal sounds mixed in with Viking-era Bathory influences. The result is epic and yet raw as hell, at the same time. The transition from the mid-paced battle riffs to the tremolo melody is very well done. A chaotic guitar solo is also thrown in, for good measure. The faster riffs are among the most memorable on the demo, making it seem strange that this song did not appear on either of the band's full-length efforts. The rough production kills some of the effect, later on, but one can easily feel the potential that this track had.

The guitar tone on "Songs of Fullmoon" sounds a little sharper, at times. Overall, this track is another good mixture of Viking Metal and raw Black Metal in the northern style. The transitions are seamless, rather than being awkward like many other bands would do at this point in their career. Listening to this, one cannot help but think about the sheer number of quality Moonblood tracks that were never revisited. It is a shame, as the band could easily come together to re-record old material and never have to write anything new.

"Sign of Evil" is a fairly straightforward song, mostly sticking to the formula Darkthrone utilized on Transilvanian Hunger, though with brief interruptions. The riffs are not as thought-out as on the previous tracks, though the pitiful production could be concealing their true quality.

The final song is "Demoniacs", starting out with ominous riffs that help to create a dark and evil feeling. While interspersed with some cold tremolo melodies, the doom riffs dominate this track and give rise to imagery of barbarian hordes crushing the weak and trampling their skulls into the dirt, terrorizing and destroying all in their path.

"In the Forest" is a keyboard outro, probably inspired by Burzum, though not quite to the same level. Still, it is a nice touch and adds a little more character to the demo.

Moonblood is an excellent beginning for a band that would go on to be considered the true elite of German Black Metal. None of their peers ever came close to what they achieved. As for this demo tape, the only thing holding it back is the horrible production. Some necro recordings are enjoyable, but this is actually so bad that it makes it difficult to hear what is going on and causes some of the songs to have a weaker effect than they would have, otherwise. Despite this, once you can train your ears to really focus on what is going on, there is a lot to appreciate. This comes highly recommended and should be a rewarding experience for those willing to give the time and effort to truly immerse themselves in it.