Thursday, April 25, 2013

Moonblood - Rehearsal 3: Frozen Tears of a Vampire (1995)

March 1995 saw the recording of yet another Moonblood rehearsal tape. Frozen Tears of a Vampire came right after Nosferatu and The Winter Falls Over the Land. Oddly, the latter had a sound that was rather unique within the band's vast catalogue of recordings, one that was not utilized again. Here, on their third rehearsal demo, the band went back to the thinner and harsher sound that characterized their previous outings.

After a rather laid back and somewhat less-inspired opening track, "A Soul of Shining Steel" grips the listener with its icy cold claws of death. It is strange, looking back, how the strongest tracks from each demo and rehearsal were left to dwell in obscurity, while lesser songs were later used for the band's proper full-lengths. The aforementioned song features the same kind of eerie and distant guitar melodies that remove you from the present age and take you back in time, to a place more barbaric and cruel, yet more in tune with the way that things should be. These riffs speak in a way that words could never hope to, reconnecting you to what once existed long ago, before the false ones shaped this civilization to suit their corrupt needs. As with most of their releases, the songwriting is dynamic and not at all one dimensional, unlike many other so-called Black Metal bands of the era. While the song structures feature various tempos throughout the cassette, the ethereal tremolo melodies are where Occulta Mors really shines. The mid-paced sections add to the epic feeling, but this is already well established even with the faster riffs. The two are combined within the title track, as the slower riffs are accompanied by a tremolo-picked melody that adds a sombre effect. The vocals, as always, are purely hateful and inhuman. Gaamalzagoth's raspy voice is somewhat grating and certainly lends an increased sense of grimness. The band even pulls off the addition of acoustic passages and memorable solos, somewhat merging different periods of Bathory influences to create something steeped in dark majesty. While the Darkthrone influence cannot be denied, Moonblood possessed a very unique sense of melody that no one else ever came close to. Even during the more minimal parts, where the band takes on a very straightforward and fast-paced approach in the vein of Transilvanian Hunger, their riffs are purely their own and it is nearly impossible to confuse them with another band. The ominous and dreadful feeling conveyed by the guitars in songs like "The Message of Evil" and "Lightnings Over the Burning Church" conjures the sort of darkness that most were unable or unwilling to get near. Most Black Metal bands of today would cower in fear if ever confronted by the shadowy forces that inspired such an abysmal and unsettling song as "The Black Emperor", which may be the highlight of this tape. It is too bad that they were never able to get this kind of tone for any of their splits or full-lengths.

Overall, the sound may be even more lousy than on the previous rehearsal, possessing the same kind of high-pitched noise throughout that plagued my copy of Nosferatu. This is rather irritating, but it can be ignored after a while. However, with this and the loud hissing, as well as the raw and necro recording job, it is certainly accurate to say that this is a very lo-fi affair. The instruments sound quite distant, most of the time. The drumming is kind of difficult to pick up on, at times, though the guitars have more success in cutting through the dismal fog and often lull you into a trancelike state. Despite the limitations in production quality, the material is powerful enough to draw you in and keep your attention.

Frozen Tears of a Vampire is cold and hateful and somewhat mournful as well. The sound is nearly as lo-fi as you can get while still being listenable. With that said, this is definitely an essential release and just one more piece of evidence for why Moonblood deserves more recognition than they have gotten over the years. This is not necessarily the ideal starting point for someone new to the band; the official releases would be better suited for that. However, once you have cut your teeth on those, there is still a wealth of important material to discover from this band. This rehearsal tape is certainly included. Not only was Moonblood the most elite band to ever come from Germany, they were markedly unique within the history of Black Metal as a whole.