Sunday, May 26, 2013

Moonblood - Rehearsal 12 (1998)

Taking form from the dark nothingness, in March 1998, Rehearsal 12 is the final such tape from Germany's Moonblood. After only four years, the band seemed to be winding down. Certainly, the creativity would not remain at the same level as before, with less and less output as time went on. For their final rehearsal recording, Gaamalzagoth and Occulta Mors delivered an hour and a half of quality music that is certainly worth the time of any Black Metal fan.

The sound quality is surprisingly good, compared to some of the other recordings. It could be that my copy of this is simply better than what I have of the others, but there is no way to really know. The sound is very raw and underground, of course, but there is a certain clarity that was often missing from some of the previous rehearsals. The vocals are not disproportionately high in the mix and the guitars are easily discerned from the rest. The riffs come across well and there are no moments where one is struggling to follow along, as would happen before. The drumming sounds a little odd, almost like a drum machine. Still, it is not enough to really affect the atmosphere.

Musically, the songs remain true to the style that Moonblood is best known for. There is no senseless experimentation or wandering beyond the established boundaries of their usual approach. The songwriting is still rather dynamic, something this band rarely got enough credit for. A track like "Endless Chaos" displays a skillful mixture of the faster tremolo melodies that dominate much of the band's output with memorable mid-paced riffs that are never dull. Songs like "Domain of Hell" and "A Walk in the Woods" are a little more straightforward, characterized by sombre and somehow epic guitar riffs that permeate the darkest depths of your mind. The latter is the only track on here to make it onto the band's second full-length, Taste Our German Steel. In this case, it was a very good selection. One must also keep in mind that this was written and recorded during a time when many bands of this style had gone soft or experimental, and those that would pick up the torch were not fully prepared to do so yet, in most cases. Moonblood was absolutely keeping the black flame burning and, for the hundredth time, these guys should have recorded a half a dozen full-length albums, at least. There are traces of an old school '80s approach, here and there, blended into the band's typical dark and eerie riffs. This is evident when listening to "The Quest After the Doctrines of Might & Wisdom" and "Into Frozen Forests". The former is a rather lengthy song, yet possesses a minimalist feel as it consists of relatively few riffs and maintains the same pace throughout. It could probably have been a few minutes shorter, but the extra length is no real detriment. There are songs that last even longer, such as "These Graves and Wooden Coffins are My Realm". The same can be said of this one, more or less, as there is no real necessity in going well over eleven minutes. The song is good, and there is no problem with any part of it, but it could have had the same impact at half the length. Another long one is "In the Moors", though it stands out for a different reason. It may seem like a typical Moonblood song upon first listen, but the actual harmonies are somewhat strange and uncommon for them. The feeling created is still cold and dreadful, so it certainly accomplishes something. Still, one would almost expect to find these riffs on an LLN recording, instead. Another song that feels a little out of place is"When the Moonlight Takes the Sky". The riffs are not quite dark enough, despite seeming the other songs, on the surface. The length does not help matters, as this is another that is stretched beyond what it should have been. The last two tracks, "Troglodytin" and "As a Soul in the Blazing Banner of Darkness", make up for any strangeness and end the tape on a better note.

Rehearsal 12 is fairly solid, with more quality Black Metal from the elite of the German scene. Some of the songs are longer than they need to be and there are some odd riffs, but there is nothing on this recording that one would consider to be bad. With that said, the Witchfinder General cover is completely out of place and does not belong on here. However, since this is not an actual album, things of this nature really should not count against them, too much. Even though several of the songs needed to be worked on a little, there are still enough good ideas on this tape to prove that Moonblood was capable of much more than 99% of their so-called peers, during 1998. This is certainly worth hearing for any fan of the band and of raw Black Metal in general.