I guess I brought this on myself. All that trash I’ve been talking at the office about power metal has finally come full circle, and here I am laying out the carpet for a power metal band. The debate rages on: does power metal belong among the ranks of true metal or is it too melodic? I suppose, since the beginning, one of metal music’s core tenets has always been a focus on the excess. Whether it be slamming death metal’s absurdly violent lyrics or black metal’s corpsepaint, power metal’s dramatic focus on the operatic and epic certainly fits. Moonlight Haze is an Italian five-piece power metal group, consisting of members from bands of similar ilk, such as Temperance, Elvenking, Sound Storm, Teodasia, and Overtures. Their debut album De Rerum Natura1 on Scarlet Records is a symphonic and operatic take on the genre,2 and feels right at home with female vocal led groups such as Epica, Sirenia, and Nightwish.
Moonlight Haze wastes no time kicking open the gates with thrash-inspired riffs with symphonic flourishes and energetic drumming. Vocalist Chiara Tricarico utilizes her very powerful alto range extremely well, varying between operatic trills and pop-laden hooks. Choirs add flavor to certain vocal passages, while guest vocals keep listeners guessing. Shredding riffs and solos, punchy drums abound, orchestral overlays and piano trills, a folky swagger, and even some tasteful experimental tricks thrown in here and there add flourishes to a fun albeit derivative affair.
Opener “To the Moon and Back” feels instrumentally much like Wintersun‘s “Beyond the Cold Sun,” operating on a backbone of speedy thrash riffs with folky flourishes, while Tricarico’s vocals soar above the pummeling rhythm section. Singles “Ad Astra” and “The Butterfly Effect” are absurdly catchy, operating on extremely effective earworms for choruses, while the punchy “Time” and “Deceiver” let the riffs commence with hellish ferocity. Experimental track “Dark Corners of Myself” features a jazzy flamenco passage that works surprisingly well with vocals trilling in the background above them. “A Restless Mind” sports a neat little Gothenburg-esque melodeath riff, while “Time” features a growled vocal spot courtesy of Mark Jansen from Epica. Overall, Moonlight Haze is at their best when fiddling with other sounds: experimental touches soar, while influences like speedy Dragonforce, folky Elvenking, and melodeath Wintersun elevate the standard sonic palette.
This does beg the question, however: does Moonlight Haze do anything that sounds uniquely theirs? And unfortunately, the answer is no. Each song sounds very much like something one would hear on an Epica or Frozen Crown album, and whether that’s a fault of the band’s songwriting or simply a product of its youth, only time will tell. Other than the experimental tracks, much of the content here falls into the shallow “catchier than thou” game.3 Tracks like “The Butterfly Effect” succeed while others, such as the painfully repetitive “Odi et Amo,” do not. Songs fall into forgettable territory the longer the album goes and the more the band tries to do, such as arena rock-inspired and far too long “A Shelter from the Storm” and the closing no-holds-barred attempt “Goddess.” While songs such as the gargantuan “Dark Corners of Myself” sound nowhere near it’s over nine-minute runtime, these tracks feel overly excessive at barely four minutes.
Overall, I had a good time with Moonlight Haze, and I’m thankful that the power metal gods have been forgiving with my blasphemy. De Rerum Natura is a fun and exciting album, although it’s held back by inconsistency and mimicry of influences, much like every young act. The band is clearly skilled, with a very talented vocalist, an energetic and shred-happy foundation to build on, and an experimental edge that shows competence and thought. While these Italians certainly have the makings to ascend the echelon of female vocalist-led power metal groups, De Rerum Natura hits a lot of right notes but misses others. It feels a bit long at fifty minutes’ runtime, which affects the final act, and the songwriting needs to tighten up the loose ends while still experimenting on the ideas merely hinted here. De Rerum Natura certainly contains the dramatic flair you’d expect from symphonic power metal, but ultimately, Moonlight Haze needs to establish their own identity. And does it ooze metallic excess? Hell yes.