Monday, February 20, 2012

Vlad Tepes - The Return of the Unweeping Moon (1994)

Released in early 1994, The Return of the Unweeping Moon is the third demo tape from Vlad Tepes. One of the most notable members of the French Black Legions, alongside bands like Mütiilation and Torgeist, Vlad Tepes plays a rather unique style of raw Black Metal that shows a strong sense of songwriting and a firm connection to the band's old school roots. While the best example of their sound can be heard on the March to the Black Holocaust split with Belketre, the other various recordings are worth hearing, for hardcore fans of this band / style.

Three of the songs on this demo are present, in a much more presentable form, on the aforementioned split L.P. This enables the listener to really get a sense of how the material developed, as well as how the musicianship of the different members improved. While a lot of underground releases, around this time, were busy ripping off the bands from Norway, Vlad Tepes really had their own thing going on. This is raw, unpolished Black Metal that is severely under-produced, not because the band was attempting to create a necro feeling, but because of the equipment available to them. One can detect hints of thrash, here and there, along with some guitar melodies that add depth and verge on epic. "In Holocaust to the Natural Darkness", in particular, features riffs and a lead solo that owe something to early Bathory and would not have sounded out of place in the early-to-mid '80s. Only one track fits the typical Second Wave sound, consisting of tremolo melodies and straightforward drumming, which is "Massacre Song from the Devastated Lands"; however, even this song shows a great deal of development and skill in songwriting. This is the sort of song that takes the listener on a journey through ruined castles and darkened forests, in the dead of night. Though the sound quality is very poor, it has nothing to do with sloppy execution. Wlad, Vorlok and Niflheim were all in time and functioning as a cohesive unit, during the recording of this demo.

Not necessarily essential, The Return of the Unweeping Moon is still of interest to fans of Vlad Tepes. Though the material is present on other recordings, it is sometimes nice to hear different interpretations, and one can really appreciate the quality of the later versions. It is a shame that the band was not able to properly record all of their songs and release a few full-lengths, as they were capable of brilliance, at times.