MOSS OF MOONLIGHT - Winterwheel (Cascadian Alliance - CD 2013)
Along with the debut album “Seed” from Moss of Moonlight I also received their second release, which is “Winterwheel”, a recently released digipack EP… although 40 minutes of music would probably be enough to call it a second album, anyway if the band wants it to be EP then EP it is. OK, my review of “Seed” was certainly positive, I quite liked the band’s brand of melodic pagan folk metal or whatever you’ll call it (Cascadian folk metal), but I also noticed that not everything about the music of Moss of Moonlight is what I would really like. Anyway I started to listen to “Winterwheel” with great interest and I truly must say that this EP is far better than the debut album and I like it much more.
There’s only one year gap between both recordings, but I definitely can say that the music of Moss of Moonlight has matured, is just better written, better composed, has some more interesting folk passages spread through the whole material and also is better performed and recorded. So, the words: maturity, progression, development are key words here. I think I can say that all four songs, which are on “Winterwheel” are just superb and each has something great and unique to offer, so I was listening to this EP with great interest and really enjoyed it a lot. Already the first song “Gǣt” provided some great emotions, as this almost 12 minutes long anthem has some truly incredibly catchy and memorable melodies and I also must say that I like the way Moss of Moonlight has arranged this track; its structure is very interesting and I can say that already this one song showed a great progression, which Moss of Moonlight has made ever since the recording of “Seed” album. At least this is what I think, as none of the songs from “Seed” were that long and had such unique structure and such awesome harmonies and arrangements; “Gǣt” has them all plus it has great long instrumental passages, great vocals (both harsh growls and clean male and female vocals, choral parts…)… everything about this song is excellent. Then we have “Ēole” and who knows if it isn’t my favourite track from the whole EP? The way it begins – with an awesome neofolk motif and with such memorable vocal lines such as “for we are all Pagan, children of cinder/eaters of seed, walkers of wheels” it is instantly memorable and catchy tune. Again I like how the music develops within one song – starting with an acoustic neofolk tune similar to Death In June and such, then becoming more aggressive, with harsh vocals and distorted guitars and with some more special, unique moments within the song. I guess you simply must hear it to know what I mean, but I must especially point out that the folk element in Moss of Moonlight music has become much more interesting on “Winterwheel” than it was on “Seed”. Definitely the band has had more interesting ideas and what they composed is just awesome; “Ēole” is a song, which I can listen to for the whole day long.
Then we have “Catte”, which is like a conglomeration of both previous songs, maybe with les folky moments, but instead you’ll even find there quite fast, almost black metal parts and again it is very long, 13 minutes long, track and again a lot is happening there (some more female vocals for instance, what luckily doesn’t bother me so much, as the performance is better and not so dull)… “Hræfne” is the final song and it is pure neofolk; I must say that I am not big expert in this sort of music, although I did listen to some artists in the past, whose most of the names I probably don’t even remember anymore (I did love Blood Axis, Ordo Rosarius Equilibrium, Death In June or Von Thronstahl for instance and certainly there are some similarities to these bands here)… anyway “Hræfne” sounds really well and such moments as this one are for me the essence of what folk metal should be about… surely not about joyful melodies and singing about ale and trolls… This song has great, mystic, almost shamanic atmosphere, it intrigues and when in my previous review of Moss of Moonlight I wrote that I would like the band to develop their folk side more then I definitely meant something in the vein of “Hræfne”. I wouldn’t mind to hear some more such songs on the future Moss of Moonlight releases.
So, I guess I need to resume the whole review now… Well, I guess you can see that I really have enjoyed “Winterwheel” a lot, especially its neofolk side, but the metal side of Moss of Moonlight is also something what you need to pay attention to. Generally I definitely like this EP more than “Seed” and again I must underline the maturity and progression in the band’s music which happened between these two recordings. I must say that “Winterwheel” is one of those releases, which are totally infectious and once you play it then you simply press “repeat” button and spend more and more time with this music, so awesome it is. I kind of am disappointed as I’m in the middle of the Summer now and it is damn hot outside and I’m in the middle of huge city, so the environment is not perfect for such kind of album, especially one, which has such concept, but for sure once the winter will come with freezing temperatures and snow covering the landscape I will probably – as I do every year – take many trips to the woods, so then I am sure that this album will accompany me and will be a perfect soundtrack. In my review I have not discussed the concept of “Winterwheel” too much, I guess the band will be able to say more about it, I will just give you a small description which I have found on the website: “It’s a cyclic study of our past, of Anglo Saxon Paganism, and an attempt to give it meaning in a modern context…”. The song titles translations are: “Goat”, “Elk”, “Cat” and “Raven”.
“… for we are all Pagan… hear us!”.
Standout tracks: “Hræfne”, “Ēole”
Final rate: 90/100