LUNAR SPELLS – Demise of Heaven (2022)REVIEW

Looking within to see only formless emptiness, a basin drained of mysticism below and a sky void of light beyond flickering-dead stars above. Staring at the shadows of the cold deserted ruins of ye olde early twentieth century envisioned Hell I saw and I listened and no “one” spoke out from the darkness, only the chittering mating rituals of the vile insects trapped within the freezing blanket of unending night willingly lent a hollow warbling exchange. Until my eyes were bloodied from the arid, acrid air I’d stared through their crusting-up entirely at peace, gratefully emptied of eternity. Freedom from the notion of the afterlife produces a gaping void to start, a world doused of the coloration provided by self-preserving lies offers the sensation of at least one missing “sense”, the shielding delusion of the imagination and its chemically charged dependencies will eventually wean away; Generation after generation the wars of faith recede in importance as the species rests conquered. The complacent, listless purposelessness of mankind enlists the best of us unto the new intelligence of nihil and this is where we find the functional romanticist prose of Athens, Greece-based melodic black metal trio Lunar Spells as a surprisingly personalized pastime inspirationally devoted to emotionally driven, dramatist works. Their third release and second full-length, ‘Demise of Heaven‘, presents the cessation of the Abrahamic afterlife delusion as if it were orgiastic, mythological mayhem fated to be gored from the cosmos by hordes rather than a single spectre, a fatality-rich ending deserved by the chittering insectoid hive of devolved humanity.

Having formed during the initial pandemic year MMXX between two folks with a fair deal of solo, bedroom black metal and performance capable experience under their collective bullet belts, Lunar Spells would arrive with a professional yet self-curated and crafted mLP outright (‘Medieval Shadows from an Ancient Netherworld‘, 2020) which’d proven popular enough for vinyl release and garnered quite a lot of praise from the niche melodic black metal circles I haunt. Apart from roughing up their production values to a slightly more raw temperament and adding a dedicated vocalist on their follow-up LP (‘Where Silence Whispers‘, 2021) little would change beyond stylized iteration as the project pressed forth, proving some intense capability in extracting the best of roughly thirty years of melodic black metal history. Little about their discography prior to this second full-length suggests they are visionaries of the craft but that their musical ability is well-honed and tuned to the yearning, existentialist side of black metal romanticism wherein they’ve identified Satanic Warmaster, Drowning the Light, and Mgla as their familial demographic. I’d have to disagree by one or two degrees of separation, but appreciate those points of reference.

Practically speaking these Piraeus-adjacent fellowes play a fourth generation revisionist example of melodic black metal on this third album, a refraction of the early 90’s innovations in southern Sweden through a second generation Norwegian rarified reform, each of which’d inspired a Finnish wave in the late 90’s which has been vitalized in the last decade and repurposed with more keyboards, saccharine melodicism and a normative tuneful austerity through the globalization of underground black metal. With this in mind I could certainly pine over unoriginal melodies a few decades removed from the intense study of groups like Sacramentum, Taake, and Sargeist in beauteous elaboration, wherein it behooves me to identify Lunar Spells as derivative yet entertaining spectacle at a high taste level. A tirade set upon the difference between meeting the standards of someone else’s work versus setting your own grotesque bar beyond imagination (very much the spirit of black metal, from my point of view) is in order, yet instead of doing so I’d rather acknowledge that these are intimate yet superior judgements made from a defensive point of emotional attachment. No doubt I’ve some strong feelings about ‘Demise of Heaven‘ because it speaks a language I know well and enjoys the things I likewise enjoy, yet each of the highest-born points of interest found on the full listen generally amount to imitation. The listening experience, blissful and somewhat upbeat in its slashing-away, nonetheless shows a consistent level of progress made towards a most admirable goal and bolsters the already high entertainment value of each of their three major releases thus far with a bit of keyboard assisted pomp.

Blissful, joyous darkness? Well, from the perspective of thee sardonic nihilist these exaggerative resonances translate closer to a brain-caressing appreciation for consonant, harmoniously folded melodic phrases writ for two guitars and accompanied by late 90’s black metal keyboard camp. “Ejaculate the Masses of Holiness” and “Nocturnal Flames Above the Sacred Trinity” are the main offenders in this sense, developing almost too familiar melodic arcs from easily recognized inspiration. Of course I’ve been unfair in suggesting these complex-woven works are ‘unoriginal’ but it is necessary to see the note-for-note analysis wills us to see the sections of each song, or entire songs, in the style of formative or important melodic black metal groups. It all arrives with an ownership Lunar Spells deserve all of the credit for, though. The opening track is especially convincing and deeply layered, though I will admit I could live without the keyboards on this record entirely they do add some extra interest beyond the tunnel-scourging vision of their previous release. That said, landing upon “Drowning in Sulphurous Blood” next finds us within a piece which is too referential and the internal dilemma of I, the listener, becomes whether or not I should consider this album a finely crafted sub-genre entry which naturally entertains or, a bit of a salad of various band’s peaks of melodic interest.

“Aversion to Theurgy” would be the piece to nail me in place and simply enjoy the proceedings, the simple whorl of their melodic focus dizzying enough that I’d inescapably have a good time. The chord waggling modulations of “Damnation of the Heavenly Sun” and its masterful spearing of a rise-and-fall melodic traipse hit me with yet another ear-worming moment too cloyingly memorable to deny and I’d eventually succumb to the graces of this irreverent record within just a few listens. Despite speaking the usual droll phrases of melodic black metal into the cycling drainage of my mind I was yet entertained with every listen, too much of a fan of this style to reasonably corrupt myself away from the blustering nightside rails they ride upon. I’ll have to resign to call it ‘pleasure listening’, give a thumbs up, and fuck off. A moderately high recommendation.

A moderately high recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Demise of Heaven
LABEL(S):Northern Silence Productions
RELEASE DATE:September 9th, 2022

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.