Distributor/label: Nuclear War Now! Productions
Buy Album: https://nuclearwarnowproductions.bandcamp.com/album/ancient-spells-of-darkness
Band Website: N/A
2. Into The Black Mist
3. Oath Of Malignancy
4. Pandemonial Curse
5. Ancient Spells Of Darkness
7. Obscured By Lunar Rites
“What were you expecting?” One question that always springs to mind when watching horror films, etc. when the occultist reads aloud from a grimoire and brings about Satan’s entire buggery squad. Were they hoping that they’d be spared? Made king? Chief buggerer? Doesn’t matter if you’re the one crying for it, shouting “humanity must die” (or similar) still includes you, mate. Up next to try bring forth the looming dark is MOENEN OF XEZBETH – let’s see how they fare.
Say one thing about the band’s latest opus “Ancient Spells Of Darkness…”, and it has to be that they have the aesthetic down pat. Every minute sounds like a warped occult procession; reciting the most unholy spells known to man to bring about the darkness, Cthulhu or some evil fluffy bitey thing – who knows? It’s not a wholly morose affair either, with many moments sounding, somewhat ironically for the genre, full of life. Let’s face it, if you summon some cosmic deity of doom to lay waste to humanity, there’s bound to be a little life in the chaos it brings. It’s no Monday morning commute, is it?
While the aesthetic is top-drawer, the musical aspect, sadly, doesn’t quite stretch to those heights. The seven-minute sprawler that is “Oath Of Malignancy”, for instance, should come across as an epic, with changing colours and such, yet feels very contained. What proceeds is something of a plodding rumble; the aforementioned bringer of doom from realms unknown clearly hasn’t shaken off the grip of eternal slumber just yet, so just lethargically swipes at humanity like an annoying insect. Even the title track carries this Sunday morning pre-coffee haze about it that no tempo change and tremolo riffs can shake off. Disappointingly, it’s a trait that only the deliciously creepy “Interlude” can shake off – largely due to its instrumental nature – so not losing oneself through the mists requires concentration. Not quite why we listen to music, right?
The recording and production of it all has a certain intriguing quality to it that pricks the ears up, though. Very much an old-school setup, MOENEN OF XEZBETH seem to opt for an on-the-floor approach, with all instruments being recorded at once as a band. A nice touch in the era of overdubs, it sits just the right side of raw without becoming an unholy mess that offends the ears (even if the kick and snare of the drums sound incredibly similar and low down in the mix). One other plus point is the keys. Often overused, these keys offer a heartening, sweeping relief to proceedings, bringing a tiny uplift to a dirty black metal furore that can become a little bogged down in its dozy stride. Their moderate use actually offers an increased impact and sweetens the aural assault, somewhat – other bands should take note.
Whilst “Ancient Spells Of Darkness…” may very well attempt to summon destruction by the hands of Satan or an Old One, what MOENEN OF XEZBETH get is, at best, a sleepy B Team member. It’ll satisfy the cravings for those who are gagging for a slower take on raw black metal, but when there’s a lot of it, it can be a little hard to swallow. It is refreshing to hear an album of black metal that isn’t all blood and thunder, crumbling-corpse production and gimmicks, though. That stuff is largely bread-and-butter these days, but this could do with a shot of caffeine and a decent breakfast to get things going.