MOONLIGHT SORCERY – Nightwind-The Conqueror From the Stars (2022)REVIEW

Tampere, Finland based melodic black metal troupe Moonlight Sorcery formed as a duo back in 2018. Sporting a history of both heavy metal and black metal under bullet belt(s) their work would eventually reveal circa early 2022 as nostalgic, heroic misanthropy per their debut mLP, ‘Piercing Through the Frozen Eternity‘, which I’d given a short but entirely positive review of upon release, likewise including it among the Best of list for February. Noting their strong aesthetic and inspired shredding form of melodic black metal the real triumph of that first bout was that it’d been a memorable impetus in development of its own melodic voice, a tough thing to do in the Finnish black/melodic metal landscape when leaning far more heavy metal than your typical late 90’s/early 2000’s spirited band today. From my point of view ‘Nightwind: The Conqueror From the Stars‘ is a meaningful detour which is likely both related and yet unworthy of their inevitable debut full-length. In this sense we get a handful of steeling pieces which reinforce the still honing voice of the project without too directly suggesting what bigger, better mountain kicking fare they’ve in store next.

The ragged old conversation about what is actually fundamentally neoclassical and what is just, well, shred guitar runs in a certain style rears its head again today and in this case we are once again getting the shred guitar side of things feathered into each piece with gusto. From Windir to Windham Hell the neoclassical shred application to extreme metal is only novel in the sense that it hasn’t been done well without a bit of heavy-handed plagiarism since the late 2000’s. As such, we shouldn’t dive into unqualified statements of “best black metal solos ever” just yet since precedence is thickly lain in the past. The better point to make up front is that Moonlight Sorcery sell this familiar style of music with strong power/heavy metal upswing and plenty of raw charisma. As such you’ll find a lot of references made to Finland’s post-millennium exhaustion of the melodic death/power metal dynamic per Kalmah and Wintersun, especially as their brief yet satisfying pair of mLP releases continue to garner more notice from mainstream melodic metal fandom. While these observations are unequivocally more correct than comparisons to, say, Emperor (at all) the reality for the seasoned black metal listener is something closer to the first Arthemesia record with a bit more bounce in its step a la mid-2000’s Moonsorrow. This is especially true as we clip into the real head-boppers like “Yötuulten kutsu” which allow this group their own voice, still very much consistent with their first mLP.

Beyond even more prominent use of shred to accentuate their regal, commanding melodic guile we find the band’s sound now revealing itself beyond the frostborne caverns of their beginnings wherein comparisons to bands like Stormkeep no longer hold up. Up front, the major difference between this new mLP and the prior is the drum sound, which lacks the reverb washed dredge of the drum kit used on ‘Piercing Through the Frozen Eternity‘, session work performed by the fellowe from Spell of Torment. The somewhat digital feeling strike of the double-bass drum here comparatively detracts from the finesse of the material yet admittedly lends some authentically early 2000’s feeling to the material. This will be unbearable thud for some and heighten enjoyment for others, in my case it’d felt nostalgic in a bad way. I can’t imagine what folks are experiencing without an entirely flat (or nixed) EQ within extended listening sessions. None of this should truly strike the listener until the gorgeously framed “Constellations” hits its stride within the ~7 minute instrumental regalia afforded. There we find Moonlight Sorcery‘s knack for pairing elaborate and inspiring guitar runs with various keyboard layers which play well to the majesty of neoclassical shred and a certain era of melodic metal intertwining yet the chilled drum patternation reveals its bulbous, interruptive state quickly. This is less of an issue on the other three pieces and perhaps only manages to be glaring because the vocals aren’t there to fill the cold, dead air of the instrumental.

While “Ancient Sword of Hate” and “Yötuulten kutsu” offer the major substance worthy of repeat listening herein the Agatus cover included is absolutely brilliant. “Black Moon’s Blood” is a short mid-album pieces from the legendary Greek band’s debut full-length ‘Dawn of Martyrdom‘ and here Moonlight Sorcery extend the keyboard driven element of the song, meet the commanding brutality of the ’96 era piece while adding their own ice-elemental keyboard sounds to the hammering of the song, speeding it up but also stretching its march a bit. Of course the deserve fealty for this strike upon one of my personal favorite (among many) Greek black metal albums and their own modus translates fittingly to an slightly updated and decidedly Finnish take on late 90’s melodic/keyboard driven black metal. While the keen eared among us will find some notable differences in the overall render/execution alongside the uptick in melodious shred-heavy attack which distinguishes this mLP there is little risk of these songs offending anyone who’d loved ‘Piercing Through the Frozen Eternity‘ and wanted something even a bit more memorable. It is an easy recommendation, and a high one.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Nightwind – The Conqueror From the Stars [mLP]
Avantgarde Music
RELEASE DATE:December 3rd, 2022

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

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