We did it yet again. It was time to just go ahead, reach into the boggy depths of the RMR review pipe, and pull a random record out of the muck. This practice already netted us a score or so of exciting new pieces that – otherwise – would not have appeared here.
AND – drumroll – the lucky winner of the RMR Global Pipe Prize Of The Moment is Moonshade. A Portuguese Death Metal outfit from the beautiful port city of Oporto.
An insane fool’s errand or simply a winner of the RMR Metal Music Lottery? All bets are off, results coming up.
The RMR crew admittedly never heard of the band, yet they have been around the block for some 12 years already. And interestingly, Moonshade here only produced two full-length records so far with As We Set The Skies Ablaze as their sophomore album. So there, RMR here is exonerated from guilt, right? That of course also means that you’ll get an opinion straight from the horse, untainted by what may have come before.
Epitaph – the first track – starts with a thunderclap that truly doesn’t hide its influences. Skies Ablaze serves you with a brand of Melodic Death Metal emanating straight from the waters Insomnium or – again – Omnium Gatherum like to navigate in. And all of that gets delivered with gusto and a youthful streak of boundless energy. In other words, the record will hook its steely claws directly into your flesh and won’t let you go until the last note peters out. And that’s exactly how it should be.
Energy apart, this is one elaborated piece. And it’s not only the well-paced tracks on this record that took us by storm. Ricardo‘s varied and proficient vocals will probably make many a metal singer rock back on his or her heels. He’s truly at home in typical DM growls, high-pitched blackened rasps, or – again – clear voice. And there’s an intensity to it that won’t wane one iota throughout the album. Now, Moonshade here chose to inject some female vocals here and there for contrast. Most notably provided by Sandra Oliveira whose outfit Blame Zeus already made an appearance on this ‘zine. And this sets them apart from other melodeath bands that often inject all their hopes into male clears with limited success.
As good Melodeath records must, Skies Ablaze also excels in pristine guitar work. From soaring riffs, to melodies, and outstanding licks and solos, you get it all. To the point that it nears the level of mastery of Aephanemer. And more often than not, the strings positively surf on some dreamy tremolo picking for long stretches. Yet, at times, the bass loses itself somewhat in the mix. But this is – yet again – understandable with the mass of elements injected into the piece.
Mood and groove are two more astonishing facets of this record. At times, things kinda sail along smoothly on an unctuous flow (groove), but before you start daydreaming too much, suddenly the mood switches, as Moonshade changes tack. The funkiest quirk of Skies Ablaze probably is this rough-hewn group chanting that suddenly erupts out of nowhere (Artemis). Not as melodic as the samples Incursed served us with earlier, but the playbook just sounds about right. All of that in Moonshade style, of course.
Sometimes however, As We Set The Skies Ablaze seems to aim at creating a ton of sensory overload. Too many elements compete with each other on a sticky platter already full of metal objects. And this – again – often doesn’t leave enough room to breathe for all instruments. Luckily, the mostly stellar production here just about manages to contain the onslaught. And this leads to a level of intensity that is a great asset for the success of the album. But it can very well turn into a negative as well, like wine into vinegar.
Ultimately though, Skies Ablaze indeed turned out to be one of the surprises of 2022. The record contains Melodic Death Metal of the first order. A red-hot, high-powered version of the good ol’ Scandinavian brand that will – for all its 44 minutes of airtime – never bore you. You might want to allow for a few listening sessions, though. There’s so much going on, you’d most likely miss about half the fun with only one run. But we’re sure you’ll find that a rewarding experience and you’ll be back for seconds.
Record Rating: 9/10 | Label: Self-Released | Web: Official Band Site
Release Date: 22 July 2022