Hunters Moon – The Great Pandemonium Review

Australia is trying to kill you. 21 of the 25 most venomous snakes in the world are found there. It features cone snails that shoot literal poisonous harpoons at your feet; stone fish covered in hundreds of perfectly camouflaged needles, just waiting for a tender limb to sink into; enormous box jellyfish; satanic, giant centipedes; cassowaries; malignant kangaroos; and some of the funkiest infectious diseases known to man. No wonder the metal from Oz is so goddamn righteous. Entering the fray, like a snake coiling around a Christmas tree (which happened this week), is black metal band, Hunters Moon. Formed way back in 2006, The Great Pandemonium is, somewhat startlingly, the band’s first full-length (an EP released in 2009, The Serpents Lust, confirms the band’s callous disregard for both deadlines and apostrophes). Billing itself as a black and thrash metal crossover, it was created by experienced musicians Lust and J. Eradicator from Denouncement Pyre and Nocturnal Graves, with drummer D.M. a more recent addition. The excellent cover art and lyrical themes based on Paradise Lost, promise apocalyptic destruction. Which feels appropriate given Hunters Moon’s origins. But like the island they’re from, this collection is a lot more than just scary animals and scorching deserts.

For the most part, The Great Pandemonium works extremely well. It’s old-school black metal in the vein of Bathory, peppered with a generous helping of thrash and garnered with little hints of hard rock. The spritely compositions succeed as well as they do because they harness the strengths of each of these genres while avoiding most of their weaknesses. This could have been helter-skelter, directionless noise. Instead, The Great Pandemonium features a diverse set of songs that are a lot more nuanced than I expected. The thrash provides impetus and direction when the black metal threatens to enter meandering atmospheric territory, while the hard rock lends stability when the chaos starts to overwhelm. Tracks like opener, “Torn by Talons,” and “Bridge Over Chaos,” highlight this deft combination, nimbly jumping between the genres to eke out maximum impact. Hunters Moon bring the riffs to the party as well, which makes the material catchy and interesting. Almost every song has a segment with at least one blistering section, and at 43 minutes, it’s all extremely tight, with minimal bloat.

There aren’t too many downsides to The Great Pandemonium, but the major one would be its lack of originality. The Shark Man himself wondered on his Green Lung review if innovation was essential to an album being considered great. Hunters Moon are deftly building interesting creations, but this is material that plays in a well-established sandpit. While the tracks are well-constructed, some of them fail to land that intangible, final killer blow that unites the material that has come before, and elevates it from “very good” to “great.” The tracks that do manage it (“Hearse for a Barren Earth,” Pilgrims Exile”) highlight the rest that fall occasionally short.

Performances are solid across the board. Although Lust’s vocals are energetic, they stay within a similar range, and the material may have benefitted if he pushed himself a little more. D.M.’s drumming brings impetus and confidence to the tracks, with closer “Hearse for a Barren Earth,” illustrating this. Interestingly, his segments were recorded in a 19th Century church. Whether this adds anything, I shall leave the listener to decide. The production is expansive and relatively clean, which suits the material. These are complex and elaborate songs that require a breathing room, which the master mercifully provides.

The Great Pandemonium is a surprisingly enjoyable collection of black metal tracks from a band about whom I had very little expectation. While breaking no new boundaries, the surprising variability and depth to the tracks, coupled with a lean, no-nonsense approach, results in one of the better black metal albums of recent months.  For a debut album, even one 15 years in the making, that’s an impressive feat. There’s more to Australia than scary animals, deserts and Russell Crowe, and there’s more to The Great Pandemonium than just recycled blackened thrash. You should visit both.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Releases Worldwide: November 26th, 2021

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