Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Moonblood - Of Lunar Passion and Sombre Blood (1998)

Of Lunar Passion and Sombre Blood is an L.P. of Moonblood material recorded in August 1998, yet never properly released. That is, until 2013, with the From Hell boxed set from Iron Bonehead Records. Prior to this, some of these tracks were available only on various splits or bootlegs, and not always offered at the optimal quality. Thankfully, over a decade after the dissolution of this once mighty band, these valuable gems have now been unearthed. In a sense, this can be looked at as the third Moonblood album.

Any true fan of Moonblood should be familiar with all of the songs on this record. However, the way in which it is presented makes much of this material practically new again. While some were previously available with poor sound quality or a different mix, others were only heard before on barely audible rehearsal tapes. Though some of the songs were included on the Fullmoon Witchery bootleg, even those versions sound inferior compared to the ones here. Finally, the absolute brilliance of these tracks has been captured, for the first time. For those that often claimed that Moonblood was overrated or only hyped as a cult band because of the incredibly necro demo tapes and rehearsals (the true battle cry of an idiot that has no business listening to Black Metal to begin with), Of Lunar Passion and Sombre Blood shall silence their hollow criticisms.

The songwriting is pure genius, from the gloomy intro to the epic and mournful tremolo melodies of songs such as "A Soul in the Blazing Banner of Darkness". Gamaalzagoth's hateful vocals come across better than ever, rivaling that of Blut & Krieg. The frigid guitar melodies carve through your flesh and penetrate your very soul. The song structures are very well thought-out, showing that these guys were more than just some of the most grim and evil figures in the underground; they were also skilled musicians that honed their craft with constant rehearsing and recording and writing and knew precisely how to create the sort of atmosphere that they were going for. The riffs are easily identifiable as belonging to Moonblood, despite the Darkthrone influence that exists in the style itself, and are quite memorable. This material is characterized by the kind of eerie melodies that the band utilized from their earliest days, exemplified by the main riff of "The Quest for the Doctrines of Might and Wisdom". For the most part, the songs keep up a fast pace, centering on tremolo riffs and rather primitive and straightforward blasting on the drum kit. As for the latter, enough is done to keep the song moving, but there is no abundance of unnecessary fills or double-bass nonsense. Regarding the riffs, themselves, one need only listen to the cold and haunting melodies found in "Under the Goatmoon", to feel the true essence of Black Metal in its most undiluted form. This may be the best song on here, filled with hideously hateful vocals and grim, sepulchral riffs. There is a dark and evil feeling that is conjured up, something that permeates your mind and overtakes your being. This is the power of true Black Metal, something Moonblood wielded all too briefly, as their career ended prematurely. Somehow, within the confines of traditional songwriting, bereft of outside elements or styles or experimentation, Gaamalzagoth and Occulta Mors were able to create truly epic compositions, as clearly evidenced by "These Graves and Wooden Coffins are My Realm". It is amazing how some bands try to mimic the aesthetic an general style of something, while being completely unable to come anywhere close to creating the same type of masterpieces as those that truly understand what it is supposed to be about. Songs like this are like a journey through the frozen wastelands of desolation and sorrow, before descending into the hopelessness and pitch black suffering of purest hell.

The only track that stands out from the rest, in the sense of not really fitting the theme and style of the others, is "Burning in Hell". However, anyone familiar with the members of Moonblood know that they were massive fans of Quorthon's work, and that the various eras of Bathory had a strong influence on Moonblood (and later Nachtfalke). This is pure '80s-style Black Metal, sounding like something from Bathory's debut L.P. or even Venom's seminal record, Black Metal. In that respect, it is great to see this, just as a nod to the roots of evilness. The thrashy riffs and hellish lead solo, along with the ugly vocals, does well to capture the spirit of the Old Ones.

The production is very clear... for Moonblood. That said, this is nowhere near a modern, clean sound and suits the music very well. It is raw and ugly, yet lacks the tape hissing and feedback and other unpleasant distortions that often hid the band's brilliance on various cassette recordings. The guitar tone is not quite as sharp as on the previous full-lengths, lacking a bit of rawness in favour of the more ghastly sound that was found on some of their offerings. The sound may have benefited from adding treble to the guitars and lowering the drums just a bit, but these are minor complaints that are more a matter of personal preference.

If anyone listens to this and still attempts to deny the utter genius and genuinely special qualities possessed by Moonblood, they should just get as far away from Black Metal as possible, for such scum has absolutely no understanding of this dark cult. This is clearly not for such imbeciles and a release like this comes just in time to, perhaps, remind people what true Black Metal should be and to cleanse the scene of the legions of worthless bands currently littering the scene. For too long have pretenders and usurpers occupied the throne of that which they never really understood nor ever belonged to. Of Lunar Passion and Sombre Blood showcases classic Moonblood at the height of their creativity and is an essential album not just for fans of Gamaalzagoth and Occulta Mors, but for anyone that has even a passing interest in Black Metal. From the material to the presentation, everything here is just right and massive hails go to Iron Bonehead and Moonblood for making this release happen.