Empire of the Moon – Εκλειψις Review

Another year has passed us by. As 2019 drifts to memory, I contemplate all the love the AMG community has shown me, a now somewhat less maligned contributor to a respected forum of metal journalism. Feeling the love, feeling the camaraderie, feeling the–oh shit, there’s a review due this week? Just like the new year and my first review of 2020, Greek black metal trio Empire of the Moon snuck up on me. There’s a lot riding on their sophomore effort Εκλειψις for me, with it being the first of the new decade, so will it convince me that there is some good in the years to come or will it force me to abandon my resolutions in favor of hopeless couch lounging?1

Following up their promising debut Πανσέληνος (“full moon”), Εκλειψις (“eclipse”) is an exercise in Hellenic black metal, featuring folk-tinged tremolo melodies, furious drumming,2 bass grooves, varying vocals, and symphonic overtones. It embodies the style wonderfully, feeling remarkably warm in its production and occult in its execution, but hefting a distinctly darker mood than its predecessor. It also adds a few tricks of its own, such as the retro keyboard melodies of Evilfeast, the doomy ritualistic atmosphere of fellow countrymen Nocternity, and moments of desolate beauty in its multi-instrumental attack. Ultimately, while Εκλειψις may have glaring flaws that keep it from truly distinguishing itself, it remains a fun listen for the new year.

Εκλειψις features exercises in the balance of mood and shred. True opening track “Imperium Tridentis” is a great example of this, building a claustrophobic atmosphere of dread with Evilfeast-esque keyboards and patient Nocternity-style pacing, and balancing it out with tastefully crunchy riffs. This is all emphasized by digestible track length and humble ambition. The tracks within the “Per Aspera Ad Lunae” quartet continue this trend in dark atmosphere, complete with simple but effective riffs providing the backbone to the occult atmosphere’s keyboards and open strums, uniquely meditative compared to the impatience that let down Πανσέληνος. Tracks like “Two Queens Appear” and “Devi Maha Devi” feature memorably melodic shredding riffs and frantically effective solos, providing climax to their ominous sonic palette. Final track “Son of Fire” features an almost post-black dynamic portion in which bass and drums shine alongside ominous guitar plucking.

As solid as the album is, there are certainly missteps, especially in its inconsistencies in tone across tracks. Right from the get-go, opener “Arrival” makes no sense, because “Imperium Tridentis” is already a fantastic introduction to the album’s atmosphere. “Devi Maha Devi,” while easily being the “trvest” of the batch in its samples, tremolo, and drumming, feels too much like Coven-era Cultes des Ghoules in frantic atmosphere and fiery focus. Consequently, it’s extremely jarring to the meditative “Per Aspera Ad Lunae” tracks before it, thanks to its lack of transition. Closing track and fourth “Per Aspera Ad Lunae” number “Son of Fire,” in spite of its highlights, feels like a last-ditch effort to tie “Devi Maha Devi” into the quartet, feeling a bit forced in its union of Summoning-esque folky melancholy and Cultes des Ghoules-y furious riffs. While the guitar tone works well in balancing heft and sharpness, it becomes too overwhelming in the mix oftentimes, dismantling the buildups and feeling too cacophonous. In terms of nitpicking, “The Resonance Within” relies on a riff that has no business being repeated that many times, while “Descending” feels slightly off in its frantic riffing.

Εκλειψις is the tale of two halves. “Imperium Tridentis” and three parts of the “Per Aspera Ad Lunae” quartet are exercises in omen and meditation, reveling in occult atmosphere; “Devi Maha Devi” and “Per Aspera Ad Lunae – IV. Son of Fire” are riff-heavy frantic and “trve” black metal flings. Because of their lack of transition or dynamics, the two tones are extremely jarring, but considered individually, promisingly competent and only marred by slightly too loud guitar and some mildly questionable songwriting choices. Empire of the Moon certainly knows what they’re doing, and Εκλειψις is a clear improvement over its predecessor in methodical songwriting and focus on occult atmosphere. It’s an incredibly digestible album at 39 minutes, and provides an effectively simple listening experience to black metal fans, even if it may not stand out. Like any eclipse, Εκλειψις snuck up on me, and, you know what? In spite of its flaws, I had a pretty good time. I think I’ll split my time between productivity and existential dread couch lounging in the new decade.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Websites: empireofthemoon.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/empireofthemoonofficial
Releases Worldwide: January 10, 2019

Show 2 footnotes

  1. The Couch of Contemplation in the Skull Iit lounge is for closers. – Steel
  2. From the drum machine, which apparently is a huge element in Hellenic black metal.
« »