Moonreich – Amer (Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions)

Wednesday, 24th May 2023
Rating: 8.5 / 10

The nation of France has given us a plethora of varied metal black acts to enjoy over the years. Blut Aus Nord immediately comes to mind as one of the best both historically and currently, along with a varied number of acts including The Great Old Ones, Svart Crown, Celeste,, Oranssi Pazuzu, Otargos, Viande, Decline of the I, and we could continue for a few more paragraphs. Hell, an album we just reviewed by Hasard is another recent mind-blowing discovery. There are many that certainly have also evaded our eardrums to some degree, which leads to the subject of Moonreich. Hailing from Paris, some of their past work such as Terribilis Est Locus Iste – a solid entry, to be sure – has briefly brushed by our spectrum a few times. Until now, we haven’t paid nearly the attention that has been deserved; a mistake that won’t repeat.

Moonreich have grown considerably in the years leading into their latest full-length Amer, adding new influences and dimensions to progress closer to an avant-garde territory. Amongst cutting guitar work and pummeling blast beats akin to the better black metal projects in the ether, there are various out of left field pieces amongst a number of tempo changes that intricately shape the mood throughout the album. The result is a robust, striking black metal entry that harmonizes creative songwriting with considerable bite within its five songs.

Opener “Of Swine and Ecstasy” emits horror vibes fitting of a 1930s classic Universal monster film, before viscerally exploding into a collision of blast beats and mid-paced guitar licks amongst numerous quickfire tempo changes. Quickfire tempo changes approach the middle of the track, slipping into a bit of a jam band-ish funk section that oddly makes sense, then proceeding to twist all over with tension building leads that lead to a crunchy finish. A black metal volcano of riffs meld together with a slow smooth jazz section on the title track that works more than expected, while “Where We Sink” contains a post metal feel with a liberal usage of clean guitars layered within distorted riffage.

If technical guitars are what you seek, “Astral Jaws” scratches that itch with impressive fretboard dance numbers covered by a sharpened tonality that moves in many directions. The lengthy and varied “The Cave of Superstition” is the last chapter of Amer, perpetuating more directional changes than an unpaved backwoods road. Highlights consist of well executed tribal drums and vocalizations, lead guitars that at times emit an indie rock feel in the tremolo work, and more riffs than one could shake an inverted cross at. The album overall possesses a clarity in the production that allows each instrument to shine, helping unique sections properly stand out. Don’t fret, as nothing is too clean, with the album employing a considerable weight providing necessary balance to keep the music punchy and impactful.

Moonreich’s latest full-length contains many striking contrasts, all of which are integrated carefully with their crisp black metal base, resulting in a considerably different experience than one’s typical blackened fare. Without a doubt being the band’s most complete and innovative work, Amer is a fine entry into the diverse lexicon of French black metal. There’s a lot of fire and caring for the little details taken in their music, yielding a collection of finely crafted songs from a group that hit the listener hard while having a few unexpected tricks up their sleeve. Who knows what path is taken next, as they have yet to hit the peak of what’s possible. As great as Amer is, we think their next step may ascend to even greater peaks.

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