Moonlight Haze – Animus (2022) – Review

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Public Service Announcement: You’re about to step into the slippery realm of molten cheese and sugary power. A land where bright colors and shampooed beings of light happily coexist. So, fearless one, enter at your own peril, RMR will not be responsible for any rise in cholesterol levels or accidents on slippery metal surfaces. You have been warned.

Since Chiara Tricarico left Temperance, her new outfit Moonlight Haze kinda hovered out there in a far orbit around the RMR planetary system. Just out of sight but always still audible, like that damned radio barking away in the next room. And you can’t find the friggin’ key to get into the door and smash the thing to pieces.

And truly so, Animus‘ predecessor, the 2020 album Lunaris, never quite made the cut. The production was unfortunately all over the place. From hot to cold, fast and slow, and back to lukewarm again. In other words, it never quite convinced us.

So, what a neat surprise to find this new record soaring forward on a refreshing monster wave of newfound oomph and refreshing vibes that made us forget all that came before. Now fast and furious, Tricarico truly sent shockwaves down our earphones with her new varied style. But don’t get me wrong, this is not compensation of quality by speed. Instead, we perceive an increase in quality with added speed and renewed energy. A small, but important difference. So, it truly looks like Moonlight Haze took the sometimes harsh criticism to heart and themselves to work during these times of endless pandemic.

It goes of course without saying that in this oversaturated genre of the metal multiverse, bands will always kinda sound alike. It’s just in the nature of things of this fearsome foursome of Power, Symphonic, Gothic, and Melodic Metal. Need examples? Well, Epica truly shines on Kintsugi. The Thief and the Moon sounds somewhat like an offshoot of Tuomas Holopainen, the solo artist. It’s Insane borrowed some of those refreshing airs from early Delain. And everything around it possesses the vibes of Morten Veland’s Sirenia, or any other of the ‘-nia outfits of that guy’s very own cosmos. Not to forget that Ms.Tricarico sometimes sounds like the next batch of female vocalists at Nightwish. I can hear the Floor fans howling already.1) And I mean that as a true compliment.

Okay, stawp, deep breath!

This was indeed some insane bout of horrifying name-dropping right there. But, I guess, you get my drift. Animus sports some serious independent soul, though. And whilst there indeed are similarities, this is by no means a copycat. Boy, they even avoided the Pop Metal trap this time. In other words, the Amaranthe-esque shenanigans of Lunaris are out the door and we now got some distinct band personality without too much cheese and sugary terrors.2)

Now, the undeniably increased qualities of the vocalist apart, we found that the bass now has a voice and the guitarist suddenly dazzles us with a pretty snazzy solo here and there. Only that the chugging often kinda gets lost in the mix in favor of the synth sounds and the almighty keyboard. And that is a pity but also and sadly a typical occurrence in this type of record. I guess we’ll all remember the latest piece of Within Temptation where they matter of factly lost the guitars in their production for long stretches. Not so on Animus, though. So, it’s pretty much a minor issue.

Now, Moonlight Haze‘s new record indeed turned into the Surprise o’ the Month. The RMR crew here fully expected a fondue pot full of cheese but found instead a slightly symphonic Power Metal piece that can hold its water. Of course, the die-hard hairy beasts of the metalhead community won’t find a lot to love here. But fans of the aforementioned bands and – indeed – adepts of outfits like Unleash The Archers will relish the increased speed and quality of delivery.

Animus truly is the best offering Moonlight Haze released to date, created by a band that pushed itself to its very limits to get there. And that’s the spirit, folks.

Ed’s note: Need more cool Italian Power Metal? Try Trick or Treat.

Record Rating: 7/10 | LabelScarlet Records | Web: Official Band Site
Release Date: 18 March 2022


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