MOSS OF MOONLIGHT - Seed (Cascadian Alliance - CD 2012)
Folk metal… uughhhhhh… usually I would say NO to something like this. What this kind of music reminds me are all those happy / humpa humpa bands from Finland singing about drinking ale and trolls, which I just cannot stand and thus the term folk metal became a synonym for shit metal. But to be honest there are bands, which take influence from folk and mix it with metal, which I really, really like… starting with some old Norwegian releases, from bands like Storm, Isengard, Wongraven and even early Satyricon through bands such as Falkenbach, Forefather, Sleipnir and finishing off with US masters from Agalloch – these are just few examples for bands, which use folk in their music in good way, making sure that their music is still majestic, epic and harsh, as well as has something truly intriguing and exceptional. Recently I have received a couple of recordings from American folk metal band called Moss of Moonlight and I must say that the music of this duo did give me a small headache, as I was troubled whether I should criticise this band for too joyful and infantile melodies or praise for interesting concept and some really great passages. And that’s because some parts of their debut album “Seed” are really good and some are just indigestible for me. But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
I think that I should first present you Moss of Moonlight, tell what this band is all about… This duo (with Jenn Grunigen on vocals and drums and her husband Cavan Wagner doing vocals, playing guitars, bass and some other instruments) hails from USA, from Cascadia. And that place of origin is very important here, as the band sings about Cascadia, presents whole concept, which is dedicated to this region of USA (they called it Cascadian folk metal), as well as to heathenism. As the description says: their music is made of mountain, tree and ocean. OK, now half of the readers of this zine will skip this review, as I mostly write about bands from completely different musical territories. But I am sure that there are also some individuals, who like more metal styles than just old school death metal or classic black metal… and I am one of them. I like many different sounds and styles of metal; not all of them, as I also truly hate few, but I can tolerate quite many. And I guess if I wasn’t so open minded for some other than just extreme metal styles then the music of Moss of Moonlight would be very difficult to listen to and I would probably vomit after first couple of songs. Luckily I didn’t; even if it was close at few moments hehe.
Right, now about the music… With such pagan concept it is easy to conclude that the band will take a lot of influence from folk music and black metal… Well, I definitely wouldn’t exaggerate so much about the black metal, as honestly I cannot hear too much of this style on “Seed”. Moss of Moonlight obviously has some harsh vocals, some more aggressive riffs and epic parts, but not necessarily they’re black metal (of corpse it depends what you’ll call black metal… but what black metal is to me is surely not present on “Seed”). So, I think that Moss of Moonlight just combines folk music with harsh metal sound… and do they do it well? Hmm, some parts of the album are really good and I like them a lot, but since the music is very varied then I am afraid that there are also some, which I have troubles with, as they’re just too infantile, too melodic, too cheerful and just too damn happy. I like, when the music has certain dark feeling, majestic and epic, but still very dark and let’s say eerie atmosphere. “Seed” is very diverse album, so it has both: dark and light, melodic tunes. I am for instance not especially happy about hearing so many female vocals on the album. They alone are not a problem, but if they come together with some cheesy, sugary sweet melodies played on keyboards or some other joyful parts then the whole music becomes indigestible. Just listen to “The Grand Parcel” – come on; this is just a little bit over the edge for me. There are some other fragments, which aren’t that good in my opinion, but all in all they are very few in number and luckily I have listened “Seed” to with interest; the album is 65 minutes long, so you can imagine that Moss of Moonlight has something more to offer and so there’re plenty of different songs and emotions captured in all its ten songs. So, starting with really nice tribal intro “Faran” (is this some sort of American Indian influence there?) we have such songs like “Existent No More”, “Together, United” (one of the best songs for sure)… then we have “Zen”, which may be more melodic, but I somehow like the atmosphere of this song and especially all the folk passages in it, played on some weird instruments. Another nice, folky song is “Follow the Owl”… They are really good songs, only I think that the both male and female clean vocals need some improvement; and I am afraid that every song has some moments, which I didn’t like so much. Finally I must mention “Internal Epilogue” for its epic, almost bombastic riffing; for sure this is the heaviest song from the whole album, but the best has been saved for the end and here I mean the finest song “The Trail Beyond the Dying Sun”, as this is about 15 minutes long anthem and is like a conglomeration of everything what Moss of Moonlight is all about. Sometimes you can just close your eyes and actually imagine being somewhere in the wild, especially when you hear owls or some other sounds… Definitely there’s a great atmosphere in this song.
There are some nice folk elements, some more epic metal riffs… this music isn’t really heavy, aggressive or extreme; it is rather calm and peaceful in some ways. I’ve read some comparisons to Agalloch and Wolves In the Throne Room… for the first band I would agree only partially, while the latter I don’t know at all, so I cannot comment this comparison. Anyway, as I already stated before I find “Seed” as an interesting and involving album; one, which I can listen to from time to time, if I go to the woods for a walk or something, then listening to it on the headphones is something cool… but again, I don’t like everything about “Seed” and thus I cannot give it a more perfect score rather than 69 out of 100. For sure this duo proves to be a talented couple, with plenty of musical ideas, it is only the matter how will they use these skills and what music they’ll compose… I actually would probably prefer if Moos of Moonlight went deeper into the folk music rather than into the sweetened cheesy metal.
Standout tracks: “Together, United”, “Zen”, “Follow the Owl”, “Internal Epilogue”, “The Trail Beyond the Dying Sun
Final rate: 69/100