The point of Things You Might Have Missed is to point out great records we didn’t cover in time, which wasn’t exactly the case with Tenacious D, but definitely is the case with Aeternam‘s 2012 offering Moongod. We never received promo of this record ahead of time – but it appears to have been released in October. Ostensibly, we didn’t receive this because these guys aren’t on Metal Blade anymore, instead being released on Galy Records. Fortunately one of the members of the band reached out to me with promo because I had enjoyed the band’s debut Disciples of the Unseen pretty fiercely when it was released. Moongod is really not a continuation of Disciples of the Unseen having developed in maturity and sound (also cover art), as well as having grown into a new context: “Oriental Metal”.
Say what you will, but Orphaned Land changed everything. They have become the new standard for what is awesome in the scene and have done a good job of pulling others in their direction. But between similar influences (melodic and progressive metal), Aeternam is far more of a melodic death metal band than a progressive band in the veins of Orphaned Land. In a sense, they remind me of Myrath – but with balls. This is mainly because neither band has embraced traditional instrumentation, folk music and orchestration in the same way as their Israeli counterparts, instead fitting their oriental influences to their metal – adding subtle variations on themes that show up across the board in heavy metal [It’s worth noting, however, that both Myrath and Aeternam are using more traditional instrumentation on their latest releases; IMO a nod to Orphaned Land‘s success – see tracks: “Cosmogony” and “Iram of the Pillars” for a confirmation – AMG]. Opening track “Moongod” is a great example of this, ripping out the door with an At The Gates riff that is simply shaded “Arabic” with note choices; this is much more in line with what we’ve been used to in the metal scene.
And because Aeternam isn’t breaking against the mold too hard, Moongod is an easily digestible piece of oriental melodic death metal. The sounds are often epic, such as the opening strains of the album, or closing track “Hubal, Profaner of Light,” but it doesn’t take long for the band to find its way to a brutal blast that sounds more like Melechesh than Myrath. It should satisfy your desire for blasts, your desire for speed and epicness while still invoking the melodic side, such as with excellent clean vocals that punctuate songs like “Descent of Gods” and “Invading Jerusalem” or my favorite “Cosmogony.” These moments when the band drops back into melodic choruses or vocal parts are some of the highlights for me, reminiscent of Dimmu Borgir in the early 2000s with Simen’s vocals often carrying a lot more water than we maybe realized at the time.
What’s cool about Aeternam is how they weave it all together and make it cohesive, unique and familiar all at the same time. One can invoke Melechesh, Orphaned Land, Myrath and Dimmu without breaking a sweat, but never feel like the band is too reliant on any one element or that they’re derivative. This makes for a record that’s easy to fall into and enjoy out of the case, but also a record that’s interesting enough to appreciate in the long run, which gives it staying power. A must have. Mea culpa that we didn’t get to it earlier.
Tracks to Check Out: “Cosmogony,” “Descent of Gods,” and “Rise of Arabia”.