Saturday, November 12, 2011

Moonblood - Rehearsal 11: Worshippers of the Grim Sepulchral Moon (1997)

Of all the Moonblood rehearsal tapes that are available, Worshippers of the Grim Sepulchral Moon is among the best. Recorded in December 1997, the material here spawned forth around the same time as that found on the splits with Katharsis and Deathspell Omega, though those were released a few years later. Strangely, only one of these tracks managed to make it to the band's second full-length album, Taste Our German Steel. As with most of Moonblood's demos and rehearsals, one has to question why so few of these songs were given a proper recording. Then again, it is the obscurity of these tunes that makes it worth the effort to find these cassettes (or the music that they contain).

It begins with "...To Be Immortal", which wastes little time in establishing an epic feeling. The vocals are quite similar in sound to what was heard on The Winter Falls Over the Land, though the music does not feature the same level of clarity. The production is kind of muffled and distant, but not so much that you cannot make out what is going on, with ease. The quality is surprisingly good, allowing the sinister tremolo melodies to hover toward you, with diabolical intentions. For the most part, this track is rather straightforward, with the same chilling guitar riff returning to plague your mind, several times, throughout.

The next few songs are not all that impressive, though still solid enough. "Don't Fear the Dark" begins with a somewhat gloomy feeling, soon transitioning to a galloping riff. This is not terribly evocative, but the tremolo melody that follows is a bit more effective. "Path to Thy Funeral Light (Part I)" does not possess the dark atmosphere that the title would suggest and, though the guitar riffs are a little sharper and tear through the muddy production, the medieval vibe does not help it. "Entering the New Kingdom" rips ahead at full speed with more dismal tremolo melodies and blasting drums, though it sounds as if Occulta Mors was pounding away on a rock, rather than an actual drum kit.

"Procreated though the Sperm of Astaroth" is a lengthy track, clocking in around nine minutes. The guitar melodies are repetitive, yet this serves a purpose and the hypnotic effect adds to the overall sense of hopelessness and doom. One riff, in particular, is dreary enough to lure one toward the gates of death. Such morose sounds are not for the weak-willed. The song ends with a brief clean guitar passage, reiterating the main theme.

The following song, "The Temptation of the Night Empress", includes an old school rhythm that is reminiscent of Hellhammer, though the wretched drum sound returns, sounding really awful and having a detrimental effect on the presentation. Some of the riffs sound like something from Emperor's Wrath of the Tyrants.

"Then Came the Silence" opens with a mournful guitar melody that reaches into your chest and tears into your heart. You can feel the misery bleeding forth and washing over you. Each new riff serves to build upon the previous one, taking the gloomy atmosphere deeper into the depths of darkness. The method by which the main riff is played gives rise to an eerie feeling, something that remains with you for some time. Thankfully, Moonblood recorded a proper version on the Taste Our German Steel L.P.

"Cathedral of Restless Souls" carries this haunting feeling even further, with some thanks going to the guitar tone that is utilized. The song is pretty straightforward, maintaining a steady pace throughout, moving along at high speed. The drums sound more natural here and the tremolo riffs put you in a trance, as the dark and morbid melodies weave in and out of your mind. There is really no good reason for why this song did not appear on a later release.

The same level of quality is also present on "Nocturnal Shades in the Moonlight", another song that follows the Transilvanian Hunger model as it relates to technique, though it really has its own atmosphere and sounds even more obscure than Darkthrone. This one features some excellent riffs and it is a shame that it was no re-recorded down the line. The epic nature of several of the melodies is something that really set this band apart from most of their peers.

"A Shadow is Born in Hell" begins with a creepy guitar melody, before speeding up to the same intense pace as the previous track. Unfortunately, the following riffs do not demonstrate any sense of continuity. The atmosphere is not very dark, due to the odd melodies. In fact, it borders on optimistic, at times. This is definitely a case of false advertising, based on the title.

The demo concludes with the fifteen-minute long track, "Worshippers of the Grim Sepulchral Moon". While the riffs are decent, there is really no reason for this song to go on for such a length of time. There is no real variation in tempo or mood; at no point does it appear that the song is going to expand and go beyond what you hear during the course of the first three minutes. There is no build, no climax and no tension. To hear how an epic Black Metal song should be constructed, refer to Burzum's "Det Som En Gang Var", on Hvis Lyset Tar Oss.

Worshippers of the Grim Sepulchral Moon is one of the better Moonblood rehearsal tapes, in terms of sound and quality. As with most of the others, there are hidden gems among the more standard songs. Tracks like "Then Came the Silence", "Cathedral of Restless Souls" and "Nocturnal Shades in the Moonlight" are all essential listening, while the rest of the songs are still solid enough in a supporting role. While some of the band's rehearsals are very difficult to get into, this one is not. Fans of Moonblood are encouraged to obtain this, one way or another.