Moon Reaper – Descent Review

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a genre stickler at heart. I find a lot of comfort knowing where to fit every release that comes across my doorstep, so when acts swoop in to challenge that, I’m simultaneously uneasy and intrigued. There are plenty of folks that fall into this category but perhaps the most intriguing has been the UK act Conjurer. I’ve seen these lads described as everything from Swallow the Sun-esque death/doom, Cult of Luna-worshiping post-metal/sludge, to the blackened doom of Thou. 2018’s Mire is a landmark in its own right, and as we anxiously await its followup,1 we find newcomers Moon Reaper, definitely fans of Conjurer.

Descent is one of those releases that finds itself in the purgatory between EP and “mini-album” in its twenty-five minute runtime. This can be damning, as its brevity allows a mere appetizer when I want a full course meal. It’s good, then, that Bristol natives Moon Reaper brought everything and the kitchen sink. Described as “blackened doom metal” with both subterranean lurching and kvlt fury making appearances, as well as that distinct Conjurer post-metally quality, you can also expect doses of groove, sludge, and even deathcore to make appearances. Ultimately, while Moon Reaper still has years ahead to hone its craft and pick a lane, Descent offers a brief listen packed to the brim of promise.

Descent is truly all over the place, and it’s refreshing to see its many hats fitting the head well. From the Fit for an Autopsy-esque harmonic sweeps over Akercocke riffs and closing Kraken Duumvirate riffs of “Time Warper,” the Pantera groove, Type O Negative Gothic cleans, and mid-2000s Chelsea Grin closing breakdown of “Spiralism,” there is myriad to digest – and that’s just the first two songs. The atmospheric closers “Godeater” and “Necromancy” balance doom weight with menace and beauty respectively, and showcase the most consistency and variety therein across Descent’s twenty-five minutes. Vocalist Morgan Cradick offers a consistently powerful performance throughout the EP, offering blackened shrieks and commanding bellows, as well as pig squeals and Peter Steele-esque baritone cleans. The juxtaposition of -core tricks and The Ruins of Beverast blackened doom is a unique one, and while its success admittedly depends on listeners,2 I feel it’s a fresh take that combines modern tropes and -core nostalgia.

As Descent offers so many flavors in the kitchen, there are simply some that have no business in the bowl. Perhaps the most guilty is “Clockwork,” which pairs repetitive plucking with a galloping breakdown straight outta Parkway Drive’s Deep Blue. While it reflects the apathy of a ticking clock with a nearly bored tone, it feels like it pumps the brakes on the energy, as its predecessors were downright vicious in their attack. Perhaps most frustratingly, however, is that Moon Reaper has so much going for it that it’s difficult to take Descent as a whole. While “Godeater” and “Necromancy” are perhaps the most successfully consistent in blackened adherence with tremolo and dark sludge plodding, other tracks feel more like a string of interesting ideas smartly strung together. While a great time to see the variety smattered across these five tracks in such a short span, it makes little impact as a whole and it’s difficult to say what defines Moon Reaper. If they fuse the breakneck energy of “Time Warper” and “Spiralism” with the melodic intelligence of “Godeater” and “Necromancy,” we could see a lot of challenging tunes from these lads.

It’s nearly impossible to get a read on Moon Reaper from the variety they’ve packed into Descent. It’s overwhelming and difficult to say definitively what style works best for them, because there’s a little something for everybody here. You like your The Ruins of Beverast? Check out “Godeater.” You like your Fit for an Autopsy? Check out “Time Warper.” The name drops could go on. While the Conjurer influence is there, Descent simply does not have the consistency to contend with Mire. While doom and black show up regularly, everything else is fair game, and while this could only possibly showcase Moon Reaper’s potential, I gotta say: it’s pretty fucking high.3

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Releases Worldwide: July 30th, 2021

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Aside from the collaboration with Pijn and the split with Palm Reader.
  2. Read: if you were like me and were a deathcore bitch in the mid-2000s.
  3. Just get a Bandcamp, guys. We want to support you.
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