The Moon and the Nightspirit – Aether Review

I love receiving distinctly non-metal promos. I mean, it’s the name of the site, right? Angry ‘Metal’ Guy. Receiving folk, neo-folk, ambient, and similar musical styles feels like a statement from their artists: “no, it isn’t literally metal, but it’s metal in enough ways for you, ‘Guy.’” And I’m not complaining; from Winterfylleth’s The Hallowing of Heirdom to October Falls’s Kaarna to Forndom’s Faþir, some of my favorite musical discoveries have been metal “in all the right ways but one,” and all featured on this site. Since 2005, The Moon and the Nightspirit, a Hungarian duo featuring multi-instrumentalists Ágnes Tóth and Mihály Szabó, have been making traditional folk music; Aether is their seventh full-length album, and it feels like it belongs in all three of the above fields. Ambience, neofolk, and regular folk come together to deliver a somber journey into shamanistic, pagan stories and beliefs. Is it “metal?” No. But is it metal?

The sound of The Moon and the Nightspirit is actually a bit difficult to describe, because there’s a lot going on in Aether. Between them, Tóth and Szabó play violins, dulcimers, harps, keyboards, percussions, kalimbas, and acoustic guitars (including basses) – they also both contribute vocals, with harsh chants and singing in the band’s native Hungarian. The mystical influence is everywhere – imagine the aesthetic of Enshine meets the aesthetic of Vesperith meets folk music in the style of Forndom, and you have a pretty good idea of how much trouble I’m having describing this sound what we’re working with here. Aether is, for the most part, a somber, mystical experience.

So there are a lot of moving pieces here, but when it all comes together, the result is powerful. The tremolos and strings in “A Mindenség Hívása,” the haunting keys and synths in the title track, and the choruses that decorate “Kaputlan Kapukon Át” are some of the best parts of Aether. The Moon and the Nightspirit absolutely know how to send climactic, creeping vibes through the skull of the listener, and when it all comes together, you’ve got some really strong folk music that eschews catchiness and joyousness for somber, ethereal halls of ancient beliefs and powers. The title track might be one of the best examples of the craft, a melody relentlessly building on itself, layered with ethereal chants, emotive vocals, and, seemingly, the band’s full arsenal of traditional instrumentation. “A Szárny” is another great example, with narrative touches and an addictive, trance-like melody that lasts long after the song itself does.

There are moments throughout Aether that lean a little too heavily into the dreamier, less-corporeal side of The Moon and the Nightspirit’s sound. “Logos,” for example, follows “A Szárny” but does not resemble it very strongly; instead, it is hazy and meandering, relying heavily on drawn-out singing and elusive chords. Compared with its surrounding songs, it is about as formless as Aether gets. I don’t mean to say that it is a bad song, but the way tracks like “Aether” build to create peaks and valleys, forming a sense of genuine excitement leaves “Logos” out in the cold as a forgettable tune. This feels like an unfortunate by-product of the Aether sound – when The Moon and the Nightspirit create dreamy soundscapes, sometimes the band itself feels lost in the haze. In longer songs like “Égi Messzeségek” it’s easier to overlook these moments, but there is a definite sense of drag to the album that goes a bit beyond the dream-like aesthetic that Aether reaches for.

Still, sometimes, you just need music to get lost in. The Moon and the Nightspirit take their listener on a journey, and it’s an enjoyable one. In a style that is so easy to get away from the artist, Aether is remarkably grounded, and manages to convey all of the mysticism and subtle power of its artists’ influences. It is a solid entry in the band’s already-extensive back catalog, a good album to get lost in, and an impressive display of the duo’s multi-instrumentalism and skill.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prophecy Productions
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: June 19th, 2020

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