Moonlight Haze – Lunaris Review

Angry Metal Guy‘s latest n00b interrupts your regularly scheduled black metal to bring the ultimate question: is power metal metal? “It has the word metal in it, so of course it is, you babbling bumbling baboon,” you say.1 I get it, and it’s been proven again and again, but while various facets of the metalverse have to justify why they’re not rock, power metal is one of the only styles that must justify why it’s not pop. While certainly the fantasy-forward flavors of Blind Guardian, Sonata Arctica, and Helloween carry no question, their sonorous exercises in excess fitting neatly within metal ranks. However, the female-fronted power metal must tread lightly, lest they become the latest pop diva to use heavier riffs and symphonic flourishes (lookin’ at you, Lunatica). While collectives like Sirenia, Epica, Frozen Crown, and the almighty Nightwish are respectively settled into their Hittown or Missville condos (I’ll let you decide who goes where), Italy’s Moonlight Haze balances in tedium between pop and power metal. While debut De Rerum Natura was a mixed bag, will second effort Lunaris set itself apart, or will it land in sophomore slump territory?

A collective composed of various power metal groups throughout Italy such as Temperance, Elvenking, Sound Storm, Teodasia, and Overtures, Moonlight Haze is a fairly new addition to the power metal scene, founded in 2018 by drummer Giulio Capone and vocalist Chiara Tricarico. While its 2019 debut did little to set the group apart from the powerly masses, its “everything and the kitchen sink” approach gave it some fresh energy: breakneck pace, thrashy riffs, epic symphonic flourishes, and Tricarico’s formidable vocals. While sophomore effort Lunaris tightens up the songwriting and adds folkier melodies, it downplays the thrash that made De Rerum… distinct, opting more for power-flavored pop metal that takes one step forward but two steps back.

Once again, Moonlight Haze’s best is found in their no-holds-barred approach, in which Dragonforce-esque thrashy rhythms, chaotic drumming, and symphonic flavors dominate in a trifecta of energy, allowing vocals to morph between theatrical operatic soprano and accessible and poppier alto earworms. Tracks like “Enigma,” “Wish Upon a Scar,” “The Dangerous Art of Overthinking,” and closer “The Nameless City” are epic tracks full of soaring vocals, thrashy energy, and solid songwriting, offering stylish flourishes like harsh vocals,2 choral samples, rip-roaring solos, flamenco passages, piano trills, and blistering double bass to add a jolt of energy to an otherwise stale sound. The easily dismissed and stripped down “Of Birth and Death” is also noteworthy, as it relies entirely on acoustic guitar and violin to get its point across. Well-written to the point where its key change serves as the track’s climax, it’s a nice change in pace from its thrash-dominated tracks.

Unfortunately, if you made an EP or mini-album with its pinnacle tracks, you’d be getting the best of Lunaris. While these highlights are indeed thrilling, it’s difficult to justify any of Moonlight Haze’s other statements. While “Without You” appears a solid track at face value, it’s because the first four tracks are tragically absent of thrash influence. While Elvenking-esque folkier influence dominates, these opening acts offer little else but Carrie Underwood’s greatest hits with bland All That Remains arena rock passages. “Till the End” and the title track are radio-friendly tracks utilizing poppier vocals and simple riffs, while “The Rabbit of the Moon” and “Under Your Spell” are lethargic snoozers with little to offer but Tricarico’s solid vocals. Finally, the inclusion of the English version of “Enigma” is perplexing, as the original benefits from the natural inflections of the Italian language, and thus feels unnecessary to the album at large.

Ultimately, Moonlight Haze’s latest album is split. It’s either epic thrashy power metal goodness or it’s pop-metal uneventfulness, the latter taking precedent too often. While haphazardly is understandable for a young act, what’s more damning is that these Italians do little to distinguish themselves from the masses. They certainly have the chops to stand among the upper echelon of female-fronted power metal greats, but their material is too hit-or-miss. Lunaris takes a step forward with folkier melodies and harsh vocals, but takes two steps back in pushing thrash back in favor of poppy leanings. This makes the latest Halestorm, er, Lunatica, er, Sirenia, er, Moonlight Haze difficult to get behind.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Scarlet Records
Releases Worldwide: June 12th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. S/O to Professor McGonagall!
  2. Making “The Dangerous Art of Overthinking” a bit like “The March of Mephisto” by Kamelot.
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