The id in exegesis. — The mouth drops, all fangs rattle loose and in deathlike gape this ordo ophídion wriggles forth in irregularly spouting flow, belching their callous froth in direct aim of the absolute dark. Though it won’t entirely suffice to suggest that Finnish black metal trio Moon Oracle‘s whole ordeal merely receives a general upgrade within their second full-length there is the clear enough indication that they’ve taken the time to create a notable next stage, a step taken by the band without caution in active pursuit of the unknown. ‘Ophidian Glare‘ claims more territory within its grasp, both in terms of imagined sub-genre constructs being blurred and by way of a heightened friction between its three moving parts as they hit a bit harder and ring out a bit clearer with ill intent.
Moon Oracle formed some time before 2021 between Sûrya-Ishtara (Blood Red Fog, Sammas’ Equinox, et al.) and drummer/synthesizer adept U. who collaborate in the songwriting process as a whole, bringing their own pieces to suit the core ideation shared. Harald Mentor (Ride For Revenge, Bestial Burst, et al.) would complete the trio on vocals and this’d all lined up quite well for the style they’d create together, a bass guitar heavy form of surreal black metal which spoke to the ancient avant-garde and occult-spiritual darkness of Necromantia and Barathrum in its own way. retaining the deep-set heavy metal traits of those bands. Their debut full-length (‘Muse of the Nightside‘, 2021) which I’d premiered alongside a short interview with the band upon release, was entirely concerned with damp, cryptic yet evocative mysteries conjured by feel and instinct. Unnatural in the public ear but entirely intuitive per their own otherworldly notions combined it was a clattering event felt deep underground, a form of black and doom metal influenced pyre that’d been tuneful, physical in its demonstrative movement but only familiar within their oeuvre for the soil of its production values. That cold and ancient brittleness received a raw and nuclear entry within a split EP with Sombre Figures later that year, completing a truly unholy introduction with an even more scathing piece. A band neither for the faint of heart nor the production priss.
The doomed, bass-forward primitivist black metal approach of yesterday is still very much intact for the sake of this group intentionally reflecting each artist’s innate presence as a point of purpose, though the sound design now reflects a honed space which yet retains an analog feeling render. This specifically applies to the layers of guitars used still flying a bit low but having a bit more guts to grind, the placement of keyboards being set even lower in the general mix, and of course the capture of the drums which gives some equitable functional readability to the full performance (or, kit) which is generally more varied and active this time around. Notions of arcane black metal rooted in heavy metal naturally adapt to different aspects of character and inspiration herein, of course the specifics of inspiration are always a matter of perception.
Album opener “The Numinous Gate Opens” begins with an early Hellenic black metal tilted trample to its advance, somewhere near Rotting Christ (or adjacent) circa ’93 before we land upon the more slowed speed metallic ringing of 80’s black metal, a la ‘Zjevení‘ or early Mortuary Drape taken back to the garage burnt tape level. Persistently humming synths spiral underfoot for the first few pieces, awaiting the next available gap in the aggression to ring through as they create a strangely underpinned tension on the outro to the opener as well as the rousing, bluntly lain “A Vision in the Mansion”. In this sense this album hasn’t shifted us away from doomed black metal of the Greek and Finnish variety at its most pure state when it comes to simple methods of atmospheric generation and a bit of on-the-fly ingenuity when making it all happen. They definitely need to be quick on their feet, though, as this record once again hits at just about a half hour and that comes with an extended break in the middle of its ~11 minute closer.
When we hit “Nethereal Axe” on the running order the tone of ‘Ophidian Glare‘ begins to shift toward meaner, more riff focused pieces which allow the bass and rhythm guitars to play off of each other a bit more. This leads to a bit of demented movement bottlenecking in an uncomfortable way early on in “Serpent’s Word”, a slight preamble for the record going off the rails for a bit in an (arguably) good way. Comparisons to Hail Conjurer never made sense for this group but I guess I’d concede a bit of the members muscle memory for Ride For Revenge creeping into the songcraft, or, riffcraft here and there at that point; Without intending any sort of track-by-track run here I’d at least wanted to suggest “Weddersinnes – Against the Current” as one of the stronger pieces on the full listen as I’d loved how the song ended before bleeding into the final song. “Abysmal Crimson Desert” is both the best and the worst part of the experience and at over one third of it it’ll be a bit of a divisive moment for many, certainly not for its first half, which leans into a traditional doom metal riff, but moreso the wandering and noisome jammed out dissolution of the song for the next six minutes after that.
Insane, noxious, and menacing in the face of an entirely absurd reality a record like ‘Ophidian Glare‘ has just as much potential to thrill with its deeply obscure feats as it does to offend the prim and pretentious black metal world sphere and… from my point of view this is a fantastic result on both counts. The ancient and grotesquely surreal kicking of their work isn’t necessarily profound in composition but there is yet precedence enough for such a full press upon the left hand path that Moon Oracle will find the right audience far, far from the blandness of the status quo. As such, my recommendation to the general public cannot match up with my own enthusiasm. A moderately high recommendation.
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