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A trip down the Hellenic memory lane
I will never be able to abandon the Greek metal scene. Of course there have been varying degrees of interest from my part, as it is common in all of music to become tired of something once in a while but hell, if those mystical, warm Mediterranean sounds aren’t always going to win me back at one point…
Since the Greeks do exactly that, Empire of the Moon have lured me into the Hellenic metal world once again, throwing classic heavy metal riffs, simple, yet hauntingly beautiful clean guitar and bass parts at me like the great ones did in the early to mid 90s.
Things weren’t as easy as they seemed, though. Έκλειψις (Eclipse) is actually off to a rather average start, as the initial songs aren’t quite up to par with what’s coming up later on the record. While it’s great that the opener after the moody introduction closely resembles Rotting Christ‘s “Sign of Evil Existence” albeit with a slightly thrashier guitar tone, it focuses on its main-riff a little too much and only starts to see changes after hitting its two minute mark with a subsequent riff that’s a little too basic for what I’d have liked it to be and yet the following guitar solo does push the song into a more forgiving position overall.
It’s not until song four (“Per Aspera Ad Lunae – II. Two Queens Appear”) that I’m finally on board again. This one sounds as if Kawir‘s demo days had a baby with Rotting Christ‘s 1994 masterpiece Non Serviam but without ever reaching the originator’s qualities, especially not in the vocal department. Said performance does remain a bit of a blemish on this album, since the rather croaky, Gollum-like delivery feels slightly monotonous and not quite as gripping and intense as I’d want it in my Hellenic cocktail. By no means do I want to be misunderstood as just meanly ripping on the vocalists chords here – he’s definitely not an amateur – but I just prefer deeper, more commanding vocals in this southern variant of black metal. The choral additions at the end of “III. Descending” turn out a lot smoother and add a lot to the stomping power-chords that feel so traditional here, as does the single-note tremolo-picking atop the openly played base chords, both of which appear frequently over the record. Deeply rooted in forms of old, there’s only hints of more modern ingredients in the excellent closer “Per Aspera Ad Lunae – IV. Son of Fire”, as the calmer moments feature some less cavernous, almost uplifting and brighter acoustic guitar lingerings which pushes the song into a more epic scope, absolutely justifying its whopping length of almost 10 minutes. Again, amazing male choirs in here!
Έκλειψις could only be considered recent in terms of production values, which are quite great for the style and sound positively “dated” in terms of rawness, but without the budget constraints that came naturally in a time when high quality recording equipment for extreme metal was either unheard of or simply far too expensive for Greek underground bands in the 1990s. This record is a very nice offering for people like me, who tend to live in the glorious past of this specific scene, in a time when the old guard delivered masterpiece after masterpiece within a rather short time frame.
You want to hear what a follow-up to Rotting Christ‘s Passage to Arcturo could have sounded like in an alternate reality but with proper recording equipment?
Check this one out.
Highlights: Per Aspera Ad Lunae – Parts II and IV
Release date: December 10th, 2019
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