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s/t (1994)
 

Rising from the ashes of Demoniac, Occulta Mors and Gamaalzagoth began an extremely productive collaboration under the name of Moonblood, releasing their self-titled debut demo in August 1994. This tape contains an hour of music, and shows a band with unlimited potential. In most cases, bands end up recording albums far too soon, not spending enough time in the demo phase where they would be able to master their craft; however, Moonblood is a band that definitely should have been afforded the opportunity to record their music in a proper studio and to release their work in the form of actual albums, instead of poorly-produced cassettes. These two certainly had a very good idea of what they wanted to achieve and were quite successful in doing so. Moonblood was the only the beginning...

Following a sombre intro, "Hope" soon erupts into a maelstrom of raging flames. That is the feeling conveyed by the hellish guitar melodies, aided by the necro production. This was, obviously, not what they intended and yet it works so well. The main riffs carry a dismal tone, and are some of the most simplistic of the band's existence. It seems more like a jam session, since the drumming is so difficult to hear, and even the vocals are buried under a few feet of dirt.

"In the Forest of Red Water" continues the gloomy feeling, with a slow build. This is the lengthiest song on here, and actually does well to evoke some sort of epic feeling. Already, the Viking-era Bathory influence can be felt; an inspiration that would remain throughout the band's career, and come to full fruition in its successor band, Nachtfalke. After a few minutes, the pace picks up and races forth at a blinding speed. There is a sense of sorrow that can be felt, mourning the loss of something significant. As the track experiences its final death throes, one gets the image of a valiant warrior being stricken down on the battlefield, one shot after another failing to break his will, until his body finally succumbs and he falls to the ground and fades from this world in a pool of his own blood.

The next song, "Graves From the Stone Under Cemeterymoon", slowly emerges from the darkness, like a sorrowful death march. The riffs bear an epic quality, before giving way to a lone tremolo riff that is soon joined by blasting drums and demonic vocals. As the song progresses, some of the fast tremolo melodies hearken back to the introductory riffs, and maintain a similar feeling. Things can get a bit blurry, if you are not paying attention, due to the poor sound quality. The track ends with everything slowing down to a crawl, finally letting out one last tortuous wail.

"Moonblood" is somewhat more upbeat, for the first half of the song. By the middle, it goes into a slower section that echoes Chopin's funeral march and thus creating a gloomy atmosphere of lifelessness and despair. The subsequent riffs contradict this aura, displaying the indomitable spirit of a true warrior, defying even death itself.

This is followed by "In A Bloody Night of Fullmoon", which is far more primitive than the version on Blut und Krieg, which actually works well. There is a nice effect from the method by which the melody is played, and this is more haunting than the synth that carries this melody in the later version. There are places where the song does not sound as connected, but that is to be expected at this stage. For the most part, it sounds very similar to the L.P. version. though it does not flow as well. Either way, it is interesting to hear.

"Eternal Satanic Winter" features another brilliant mixture of grim Second Wave Black Metal sounds mixed in with Viking-era Bathory influences. The result is epic and yet raw as hell, at the same time. The transition from the mid-paced battle riffs to the tremolo melody is very well done. A chaotic guitar solo is also thrown in, for good measure. The faster riffs are among the most memorable on the demo, making it seem strange that this song did not appear on either of the band's full-length efforts. The rough production kills some of the effect, later on, but one can easily feel the potential that this track had.

The guitar tone on "Songs of Fullmoon" sounds a little sharper, at times. Overall, this track is another good mixture of Viking Metal and raw Black Metal in the northern style. The transitions are seamless, rather than being awkward like many other bands would do at this point in their career. Listening to this, one cannot help but think about the sheer number of quality Moonblood tracks that were never revisited. It is a shame, as the band could easily come together to re-record old material and never have to write anything new.

"Sign of Evil" is a fairly straightforward song, mostly sticking to the formula Darkthrone utilized on Transilvanian Hunger, though with brief interruptions. The riffs are not as thought-out as on the previous tracks, though the pitiful production could be concealing their true quality.

The final song is "Demoniacs", starting out with ominous riffs that help to create a dark and evil feeling. While interspersed with some cold tremolo melodies, the doom riffs dominate this track and give rise to imagery of barbarian hordes crushing the weak and trampling their skulls into the dirt, terrorizing and destroying all in their path.

"In the Forest" is a keyboard outro, probably inspired by Burzum, though not quite to the same level. Still, it is a nice touch and adds a little more character to the demo.

Moonblood is an excellent beginning for a band that would go on to be considered the true elite of German Black Metal. None of their peers ever came close to what they achieved. As for this demo tape, the only thing holding it back is the horrible production. Some necro recordings are enjoyable, but this is actually so bad that it makes it difficult to hear what is going on and causes some of the songs to have a weaker effect than they would have, otherwise. Despite this, once you can train your ears to really focus on what is going on, there is a lot to appreciate. This comes highly recommended and should be a rewarding experience for those willing to give the time and effort to truly immerse themselves in it.
 
(28 Oct. 2011)

 
 
 
Upon first listen, someone unacquainted with Moonblood might mistake them for some run-of-the-mill Black Metal band, that pumped out a large number of demos and rehearsals and split albums in relative obscurity because they were not special of noteworthy. Taking something such as Rehearsal 1 - My Evil Soul, they may only make it through a few seconds of the hissing and raw sound before giving up and writing the band off. This would be a monumental mistake for anyone that truly wishes to experience something meaningful and memorable within the realm of music. While countless bands were springing up and merely going through the motions to rip-off their heroes, Moonblood were at work in the depths of the German underground, creating something unique and powerful.

The quality of this recording is not very good, to say the least. There is a lot of static and the music sounds as if it was being played in a garage while the tape recorder was placed outside, somewhere. At times, the guitars seem to resemble ocean waves more than recognizable riffs. It is apparent that there is a lot more going on with the drumming than one might initially think, judging by the moments when things get a bit clearer. The one constant is that the vocals manage to cut through the wall of sound, with a very raspy sound. After a little time, it is possible to focus in on what is happening and to train your ear to follow along. However, this can be a little tiring, on occasion. This is the type of thing that one must really concentrate on, rather than to casually listen as background music. I rarely advocate passive listening anyway, but such a thing is nearly impossible here.

It is sometimes shocking to think about Moonblood's musical output, considering how many songs they wrote during their all-too-brief career versus how many actually made it onto proper recordings. Even if one counts the demos as official releases, there are still a great number of songs that were left behind, so to say. In the case of Rehearsal 1 - My Evil Soul, the band offers up nearly an hour of material, with only one of these songs making it onto their first full-length album, Blut & Krieg. This is a real shame, in some cases. There is a sense of inconsistency with the songwriting, here and there, but then songs such as the title track and "The Awakening of the Serpent" are much more solid than a lot of the music that their contemporaries were releasing on so-called classic albums of the period. From the eerie tremolo riffs to the majestic and sparse solos and even the subtle keyboards, everything came together in just the right way. As well, the unsettling riff in the latter half of "Under the White Cold Snow" is similar to "Nosferatu", possessing a really otherworldly feeling. Moonblood was always a band capable of unleashing very haunting and memorable guitar melodies, as if it just came very easily for them. Despite the grim and necro character that many ascribe to them, this band was absolutely not one-dimensional or exceptionally primitive. The compositions were more dynamic and complex than most give them credit for, with use of acoustic passages and a mixture of fast tremolo riffs with more epic, mid-paced sections reminiscent of Bathory. Most importantly, there is a lot of atmosphere to be found on this recording. Perhaps, some of their peers used a shoddy sound and limited releases to hide their lack of skill, but this was not the case with Moonblood. While a lot of recordings from this era sound similar and possess sort of the same vibe, what Occulta Mors and Gaamalzagoth created here really takes the listener back in time, across the centuries. Not just because of the cold and barbaric sound, but the atmosphere of the various riffs and vocal patterns, this almost seems like something that should have existed a millennium earlier. It is this ability to remove the listener from the present day and to completely transcend this filthy modern age that demonstrates just how talented these guys were.

My Evil Soul is certainly worth listening to, and it is hard to figure out why so much of this material was forgotten and never used later. Had this band been able to get a better record label behind them and to get into the studio once a year, they would surely have been responsible for countless classic Black Metal albums and their name would be spoken in all circles whenever the most elite and talented bands were mentioned. The material on this rehearsal is dark and epic, capturing the true essence of Black Metal in a way that so few ever have. One way or another, seek this recording out and give it the time and attention that it deserves. The name of Moonblood is sacred for a reason, and herein lies the proof.
 
(21 Feb. 2013)

 
 
 
Rehearsal 2 - The Evil Rules is another Moonblood recording from 1994, recorded around the same period as My Evil Soul and Nosferatu. As with most of their rehearsals, this tape contains nearly an hour of material, most of it simple forgotten and unused for later recordings. So, for that reason alone, this is essential for fans of this band, since this music is unavailable in other forms. A couple of the riffs are clearly used later on but, for the most part, these songs are unique to this cassette.

One of the most important things to consider when approaching a Moonblood tape is the overall listenability. This time around, things are even muddier and more difficult to follow than on the preceding rehearsal. In particular, the percussion is too loud and becomes an indecipherable rumbling during the faster parts. The guitars possess a good tone that allows the melodies to sort of cut their way through the thunderous drums and to pierce your spirit deeply. Of course, as always, the grim and raspy vocals stand out from the rest as well. So, while this may require a little more attention than even the last recording, this can still be appreciated by those who will put forth the effort and concentration to do so.

For those that are not turned away by the raw and primitive sound, there are countless guitar melodies that will utterly haunt you until your final days, encircling you within the purest darkness and cold. Though the medieval intro (no doubt taken from a movie or something) may seem a little out of place, the actual compositions are brilliant. The eerie nature of the guitars is unquestionable and somewhat disturbing. From the otherworldly melodies to the truly black and unsettling tone, these riffs embody the true essence of Black Metal; i.e. something that is dark and somewhat frightening, yet still somehow attractive. This type of music should not be fun or easily accepted and treated as simple entertainment. Moonblood understood this and there is still the primal and dangerous feeling attached to their music that so few managed to maintain. There is an epic nature to the main riffs in songs like "The Evil Rules" as well as "And Then I Died", which is not limited to slower or more mid-paced sections. One need not sacrifice speed in order to create something epic and memorable, so long as the songwriting talent is there. Some of the songs are reminiscent of the likes of Mayhem or Darkthrone, yet with their own identity and feeling. This is how one properly takes inspiration from another; to operate within a similar style and framework, while still doing something rather unique and worthwhile. Just listening to the opening moments of "Infernal Screams in a Dark Night", one is exposed to soul-chilling tremolo riffs and hateful vocals that threaten to pull you into into a world of nightmarish suffering. As you march closer and closer toward the realm of death, a bitter coldness comes over you, yet you are compeled to move forward, drawn on to your own doom. This is the power of the music on The Evil Rules.

While a lot of bands of this time period were merely taking their cues from the Norwegian bands, Moonblood clearly had roots that went much deeper and one can hear the old Bathory influence in many places, as well as bits and pieces of the German band Poison. In the days when some things are placed on a pedestal for the simple fact of being obscure and rare and nothing more, it is easy to forget that some bands of this ilk were actually special, regardless of the high prices that their releases go for these days. For once, there is an actual reason for the respect shown to such musicians. For those younger fans that have not been exposed to the true darkness that is Moonblood, put away your toys; i.e. worthless releases from the likes of Nargaroth, Shining, Satanic Warmaster and other trendy poser bands. This is the genuine article. Push yourself to experience the difference.
 
(24 Apr. 2013)

 
 

Nosferatu is the second official Moonblood demo tape, released in December 1994 and limited to 100 hand-numbered copies. This recording is somewhat difficult to listen to, as a result of the absolutely horrible sound. However, the material that is contained on this cassette is of such a high quality that one has little choice but to struggle through it anyway. Having once possessed an original copy of this demo, I can say that the aural difficulties were present from the very beginning.

The production, if it can even be called that, is the one main complaint about this release. In fact, it is so bad that it ranks below some of the unofficial rehearsal tapes. The sound is very muffled, as if the band was playing in the next room. To make matters worse, there is a decent amount of hissing and a high-pitched noise that continues throughout the entire demo. This is so atrocious that it makes the early Mütiilation demos sound overproduced. With all that said, the music is worth every bit of the headache that will surely come from attempting to listen to this.

It all begins with an eerie funeral organ intro that hearkens back to the classic horror scores of the 1930s. This creates a dark feeling, as one gets flooded by images of foggy graveyards and bloodthirsty ghouls. Once this gives way to the first proper song, "Nosferatu", the atmosphere becomes more dreary and melancholic than one could have imagined. Though the recording quality is low, an utterly dismal tremolo melody manages to emerge from the chaotic storm. There is some variation in the tempo, with a few other riffs introduced as the track proceeds, but the main theme always returns. The drumming seems to be similar to the later material, in that it maintains a straightforward approach and blasts ahead in an effort to keep time, more than anything else. The vocals are raspy and inhuman, sounding very similar to the tone found on The Winter Falls Over the Land. Despite (or partially due to) the horrid production, there are subtle nuances that serve to dim the overall vibe even more, adding a chilling effect to an already haunting song.

"Listen to Nana" starts out with a wicked intro melody, before slowly building upon a foundation of old school Black Metal. This song is more mid-paced, but no less brilliant than the last. There seems to be a bit of old Bathory influence here, and the vocals are quite possessed. Whether it is simply some trick resulting from the obscure production or something to do with the guitar tone, the fact is that this song offers some truly creepy riffs as well. There is something very morbid and unnerving about this.

A feeling of doom is present from the opening moments of "In the Moonshine". After a couple minutes, the picking of the main melody transitions to a tremolo style and the song speeds up. The atmosphere is sombre, but not overly so, somewhat interrupted by a less interesting riff that arrives near the end.

"Burn Down the Heavenly Garden" features a very old school sound, reminiscent of the First Wave bands like Venom, Hellhammer, Bathory, Sodom, etc. One of the primary elements is a nasty thrash riff that adds a sense of lethality and violence to this morose undertaking. As the song progresses, the atmosphere takes on a mournful tone as a sorrowful bass line joins the woeful guitar riff. Even in such a grim environment, Moonblood displays extreme proficiency in creating an epic feeling despite the primitive style of music being played.

This is followed by "Only a Dream of Dark Kingdom", continuing the evil and melancholic feeling with a brief intro. Beyond this, the track is rather fast and straightforward, consisting of frigid tremolo riffs accompanied by blasting drums and sinister vocals. While much less ambitious than some of the earlier songs, this one still manages to hold its own and adds to the overall effect.

The demo ends with "A Journey through the Darkness of Night", which offers a little more variety than the last song, though the variations in tempo and riffing patterns do not alter the vibe that much, meaning less of an epic sense than the earlier tracks. Nevertheless, this song is a offers a good dose of grim and ugly Black Metal.

Nosferatu is an amazing piece of music that shows a high level of development from a band that had existed for a relatively short amount of time. It is a disappointment only in the sense that it contains material of such brilliance that it is a shame that some of these tracks were never revisited. But as it stands, it is certainly worth the irritation of filtering through the distortion and murkiness in order to bathe in the dark and mournful melodies. Though they may not have even realized it, Gamaalzagoth and Occulta Mors conjured up something special with this recording and offered a glimpse into another world.
 
(3 Oct. 2011)

 
 

The Winter Falls Over the Land is the third official demo from Germany's Moonblood, though it is actually their sixth release. Rising from the ashes of Demoniac, Moonblood was a very busy band, releasing many rehearsals and demos, sometimes mere weeks apart. Some will claim that only the two full-lengths and some of the splits are worthy of attention. To believe this would be a serious mistake, as almost every one possesses some level of brilliance. This is not some talentless band that hides its inadequacies behind poor production; there is much to discover by listening to these recordings.

The demo begins with a brief intro that features the sound of the waves crashing against the shore and some eerie keyboard piece that is similar to something in an old horror film. It does well to set the tone.

"Nightly Mass" then starts with a single guitar, followed by a grim scream. The rest of the instruments follow, building tension with mid-paced and memorable riffs that one may not have expected from this sort of music. It's almost reminiscent of Burzum, in some aspect. It's not the typical tremolo riff over blasting drums. The main riff is a simple, down-picked, melody that creates a cold and morbid feeling, coupled with the possessed vocals. The lyrics are absolutely fitting to the overall atmosphere, though one might say the vocals are a little high in the mix. However, it does not pose a problem. Keyboards are used in a very tasteful a minimal manner, accentuating the atmosphere. The freezing darkness envelopes your being and pulls you in the coldest shadows. This is haunting in every sense and, once it creeps into your brain, it shall never leave.


"A new nightmare begins..."

The next song is "The Gates of Eternity", beginning with some clean guitar that is joined by simple power chords. Though the sound is not perfect, it is far better than how some people describe it. I have the luxury of owning an original copy of this, so perhaps the bootlegs have some drop in quality. At any rate, this song bears a similar pace as the previous one, for the most part. The middle section picks up the speed a bit, but nothing too extreme. The feeling is rather epic, much like the last one.

"A Land Where the Sky Is Black" starts with tremolo riffs, blasting drums and possessed screams. Despite the hissing of the tape, the melodies are still quite clear. After about a minute, the tempo slows down and there are some thrashier moments, before returning to the first riff. The placing of this song was very well thought-out, as they used the earlier songs to build and epic atmosphere before unleashing such a furious assault, and building the tension even more.

This is followed by "In the Shadow of Inverted Crucifix". This one begins at full speed and seems to have been recorded at a different time, as the sound is less clear than the previous songs. After a minute or so, the pace slows down and takes on a more ominous tone. The dark feeling then comes over you once more, sending chills up your spine. It speeds back up, though never losing the feeling of dread.

"The Winter Falls Over the Land" is next, starting out with similar down-picking as in the first song. It's rather mid-paced and epic in nature. Things pick up after a minute, and the melody begins creeping into the darkness of your mind. The riffs are very memorable and filled with an old school feeling. This is where the production almost compliments the songwriting, as it gives the sense that it could have been recorded a decade earlier. After a few minutes, the fast drums and tremolo picking dominate the sound, yet the vibe is still maintained.

As if the atmosphere of this demo wasn't epic enough, the outro comes along to underscore this fact. It's a shame that this wasn't recorded and released as a proper L.P. since it is absolutely brilliant and these songs deserve to be hailed alongside the other classics of the era. The Winter Falls Over the Land may be considered some obscure demo by a little-known underground band to some, but I would say that it is quite essential. You can take countless modern Black Metal releases and their combined worth is still hardly comparable to this single demo. Seek it out, in whatever manner you are able.
 
(27 Dec. 2009)

 
 

March 1995 saw the recording of yet another Moonblood rehearsal tape. Frozen Tears of a Vampire came right after Nosferatu and The Winter Falls Over the Land. Oddly, the latter had a sound that was rather unique within the band's vast catalogue of recordings, one that was not utilized again. Here, on their third rehearsal demo, the band went back to the thinner and harsher sound that characterized their previous outings.

After a rather laid back and somewhat less-inspired opening track, "A Soul of Shining Steel" grips the listener with its icy cold claws of death. It is strange, looking back, how the strongest tracks from each demo and rehearsal were left to dwell in obscurity, while lesser songs were later used for the band's proper full-lengths. The aforementioned song features the same kind of eerie and distant guitar melodies that remove you from the present age and take you back in time, to a place more barbaric and cruel, yet more in tune with the way that things should be. These riffs speak in a way that words could never hope to, reconnecting you to what once existed long ago, before the false ones shaped this civilization to suit their corrupt needs. As with most of their releases, the songwriting is dynamic and not at all one dimensional, unlike many other so-called Black Metal bands of the era. While the song structures feature various tempos throughout the cassette, the ethereal tremolo melodies are where Occulta Mors really shines. The mid-paced sections add to the epic feeling, but this is already well established even with the faster riffs. The two are combined within the title track, as the slower riffs are accompanied by a tremolo-picked melody that adds a sombre effect. The vocals, as always, are purely hateful and inhuman. Gaamalzagoth's raspy voice is somewhat grating and certainly lends an increased sense of grimness. The band even pulls off the addition of acoustic passages and memorable solos, somewhat merging different periods of Bathory influences to create something steeped in dark majesty. While the Darkthrone influence cannot be denied, Moonblood possessed a very unique sense of melody that no one else ever came close to. Even during the more minimal parts, where the band takes on a very straightforward and fast-paced approach in the vein of Transilvanian Hunger, their riffs are purely their own and it is nearly impossible to confuse them with another band. The ominous and dreadful feeling conveyed by the guitars in songs like "The Message of Evil" and "Lightnings Over the Burning Church" conjures the sort of darkness that most were unable or unwilling to get near. Most Black Metal bands of today would cower in fear if ever confronted by the shadowy forces that inspired such an abysmal and unsettling song as "The Black Emperor", which may be the highlight of this tape. It is too bad that they were never able to get this kind of tone for any of their splits or full-lengths.

Overall, the sound may be even more lousy than on the previous rehearsal, possessing the same kind of high-pitched noise throughout that plagued my copy of Nosferatu. This is rather irritating, but it can be ignored after a while. However, with this and the loud hissing, as well as the raw and necro recording job, it is certainly accurate to say that this is a very lo-fi affair. The instruments sound quite distant, most of the time. The drumming is kind of difficult to pick up on, at times, though the guitars have more success in cutting through the dismal fog and often lull you into a trancelike state. Despite the limitations in production quality, the material is powerful enough to draw you in and keep your attention.

Frozen Tears of a Vampire is cold and hateful and somewhat mournful as well. The sound is nearly as lo-fi as you can get while still being listenable. With that said, this is definitely an essential release and just one more piece of evidence for why Moonblood deserves more recognition than they have gotten over the years. This is not necessarily the ideal starting point for someone new to the band; the official releases would be better suited for that. However, once you have cut your teeth on those, there is still a wealth of important material to discover from this band. This rehearsal tape is certainly included. Not only was Moonblood the most elite band to ever come from Germany, they were markedly unique within the history of Black Metal as a whole.
 
(25 Apr. 2013)

 
 

In August 1995, Moonblood unleashed yet another collection of grim and archaic Black Metal songs. Rehearsal 4 holds the distinction of being one of the more difficult recordings to come across, at least in its entirely. It is also somewhat unique in that at least a few of these tracks ended up being recorded in the studio for various official releases, rather than all of them being forgotten.

The sound quality seems to vary a little, throughout the rehearsal. This may come down to being a matter of style, as certain types of riffs have a better potential for allowing the guitar to be heard in more of a clear manner. The more high-pitched tremolo melodies are the only ones to really rise up from the murkiness of the overall sound. As well, the vocals are very audible. The other elements are not terribly buried, but the sound is still pretty rough and underproduced. Of course, this kind of raw approach suits the music well. Over all, Rehearsal 4 has one of the better sounds of the early tapes and should not be difficult to listen to and to absorb.

Musically, this recording is filled with many great and memorable riffs. There is a decent amount of faster material on here, with many haunting and obscure tremolo melodies that bring on a very cold and dark feeling, as the vocals spew pure hatred and an extremely inhuman sound. Perhaps, Gaamalzagoth was human once, but by this point his humanity has left him long ago. As with much of Moonblood's work, there is a strong connection with death, emphasized by the sombre riffs and even the lyrics of "The Raven", as the final lines implore this symbol of death, "take me with you". However, it is not eternal rest that is being sought, but the immortality of the world beyond and the final transcendence of this mundane world. The frozen and melancholic melodies of "Hordes of Hate" are even more poignant here than on the later version that appeared on the split with Asakku. The more raw and cold sound allows for this to permeate your soul in a more severe way, carving into the very depths of your essence. Herein lies one of the main differences between the material on this rehearsal and some of the others; there is a shift in the mood and tone as a mournful atmosphere replaces the more eerie and unnerving feeling that was often present before.

As has been said before, one need not ignore this band's demos and rehearsals, assuming that they are merely filled with throwaway songs that deserve no attention. The fact that only a few of these tracks were later recorded in a proper manner should not reflect on the quality of the rest. One might take this to mean that those songs were somehow superior to the rest, but this is not necessarily true. The brilliant riffs found on "The Raven" and "The Eyes of the Forest" is proof that Moonblood's songwriting skills were top notch when preparing this material. It is very regretful that they did not have the desire or opportunity to enter the studio and to record all of these to full-length albums over the years. Regardless, as with all other Moonblood releases, this is essential and should be heard. Instead of spending all of your money on countless CD and vinyl variants of lame Satanic Warmaster albums, invest a little time into listening to true and pure Black Metal.
 
(26 Apr. 2013)

 
 

Recorded in the murky depths of Saxony, Rehearsal 5 - Under the Cold Fullmoon was released in August 1995. As with most of Moonblood's rehearsal tapes, the majority of these songs do not exist anywhere else, meaning that this material exists only in this rare and harsh-sounding form. This is not one of the more impressive offerings from this band, as the songwriting is not consistent and includes ideas that would have been better unrecorded. Nevertheless, this demo contains some really good material, too, and is worth listening to.

There is no way to really know if it is a limitation of the source recording or if the sound quality seems low because of my copy possibly being a thirteenth generation dub. However, with no reference point to prove otherwise, it would seem that the sound is worse than the previous tapes. The volume drops, from time to time, and there are also times when one channel or the other disappears for a few seconds. Otherwise, one can still find the same raw and primitive soundscape that Moonblood is known for. The percussion is audible and just loud enough to contribute without interfering with the more important elements. Gaamalzagoth's vocals are rather high, as usual, spewing venom and hissing blasphemies. The guitars have a cold, yet distant, sound. One can almost get a sense of the melodies being emitted from a dark and unknown forest, obscured by fog and ancient trees.

As for the music, the material is not quite as strong as some of the other rehearsals. The title track is somewhat similar to the version that appears on Blut & Krieg, yet the atmosphere is different enough that this is certainly worth hearing. It feels a little less structured and more spontaneous, as if it was still a work in progress at the time. Some of the other songs feature more simplistic rhythms, being somewhat rock-based. These moments are contrasted with the full-on necro assault of blasting drums, fast-picked tremolo melodies and hateful vocals that make your skin crawl. "A Hiker in the Darkness" is a good example of a song that could have been stripped of the mid-paced parts in order to create something more intense and meaningful. It is not bad, but it comes off as rather disjointed, with the eerie and cold tremolo riffs having little or nothing in common with the rest. "Blood on the Moon" is similar, beginning with quite pedestrian ideas before transitioning to faster, hypnotic melodies. Unfortunately, the boring part returns and kills the enjoyment of this. This continues on throughout the recording. Good, solid riffs are paired with uninspired ideas, resulting in songs that fail to be completely enjoyable. When the listener is skipping ahead to get back to the good riff, the musician has failed as a songwriter. "A Good Day to Die" manages to avoid the problems that plague some of the other tracks, though it is not at the same level as some of their previous efforts. Nonetheless, by comparison, it sounds pretty good. "On Cold Wings" is one of the better songs on here, carried forward by frigid and woeful guitar melodies that possess a very sombre feeling. In some ways, the riffs sound like bitter cold winds, wailing through the limbs of bare trees in the middle of a dark winter night. The cover of Bathory's "Raise the Dead" is fairly true to the original, though still sounds a bit odd. This would be the first of many Quorthon compositions that Occulta Mors would record, over the years. "Night" wouldn't be so bad, if not for the oddly Middle Eastern-sounding intro/outro. That is terribly off-putting and hardly fits. "Sin is Here" salvages things, mixing slow doom riffs with the typical tremolo melodies and creating something really mournful and foreboding. This is the sort of epic brilliance that Moonblood is known for, something that was severely lacking with most of the material on this tape. With the closing song, the listener is drawn into pitch-black darkness of a world lost and forgotten, slowly eaten alive by the misery and pain of existing in this present age where all is wrong and contaminated. These riffs seep into your subconscious and take root, sure to remain for months or even years after the initial listen.

Under the Cold Fullmoon is somewhat of a disappointing collection of songs. One can find a couple good songs and some decent riffs all throughout, but the low points really drag the whole thing down. There is a feeling of experimentation present here, as Occulta Mors seemed to be trying out some different ideas within the established framework of Moonblood's sound. In this case, it did not succeed. If not for "On Cold Wings" and "Sin is Here", this rehearsal might have been doomed to remain in obscurity. However, at least for these two songs, it is still relevant and essential to seek out.
 
(27 Apr. 2013)

 
 

Siegfried (Die Sage vom Helden) is the fourth official demo release from Germany's Moonblood, coming just seven months after The Winter Falls Over the Land, in October 1995. The word "official" is in there, simply for the fact that countless rehearsal tapes are floating around, though it has been said that these were never meant for public consumption. This demo shows even more development, as the band had taken the influences from the likes of Bathory and Darkthrone and created their own brand of raw and hateful Black Metal.

The songwriting is still rather primitive, with somewhat simplistic structures, yet the melodies are powerful and very epic, at times. Within the minimalist bounds that they were well known for, Occulta Mors and Gaamalzagoth crafted songs that have still not been matched, in many respects, as the material is far stronger than one might initially suspect. The music covers a wide range, including thrash and epic Bathory-inspired riffs as well as the standard playing style that largely defined the Second Wave Black Metal sound. Even better, there are some old school galloping riffs that show how far back the roots of this band go.

The production quality is below that of The Winter Falls Over the Land, which is a little surprising. One just does not expect a band to regress in such a way, but it is still coherent enough for the musical ideas to be appreciated. It shares much more in common with the Blut und Krieg L.P. rather than the demo that preceded it. However, it is still much clearer than any of the other demos or rehearsals. There is an added sense of wickedness to the vocals, since all of the lyrics are in German and this just, naturally, sounds more harsh. No one element really seems to dominate the sound, which can be good and bad. Good in the sense that there is no way for the wrong thing to be excessively high in the mix, yet also bad in that the guitars blend into the rest, to an extent.

Another thing worth noting is the length. Moonblood was notorious for creating lengthy songs (and a lot of them), that largely went unheard. Siegfried contains enough material for a full record, clocking in at just under 40 minutes. Many of the rehearsals were even twice as long, which makes one wonder why the band never attempted to properly record the bulk of this music and make proper albums out of them.

Siegfried is a solid release for any Moonblood fan, though not particularly essential when compared to some of their other works. It is definitely worth a listen and, once your ears are trained to comprehend the raw sound, you will find many surprises that are well worth your time. This demo is but another reason to explain why this band has been so highly revered in the underground.
 
(8 Sept. 2011)

 
Rehearsal 6 (1996)
 

In the bitter cold nights of January 1996, Moonblood entered their most grim and unholy rehearsal place to record another collection of songs, this one simply known as Rehearsal 6. Captured on tape between Siegfried (Die Sage vom Helden) and Blut & Krieg, this demo possesses a surprisingly poor sound and the material is very inconsistent.

The overall quality of the production, for lack of a better word, is rather lousy. This is not only a drop from the last demo, but it makes the previous rehearsal tape, Under the Cold Fullmoon, sound like it was recorded in a decent studio. There is even more hissing and it sounds as if the band was playing in the basement, while the tape recorder was placed on the roof. In particular, "Under the Banner of Hate" and "Nosferatu" are of such terrible quality that they are not even worth listening to. This is a shame, as the latter is one of my favourite songs by this band and it would have been nice to hear something clearer than the original, which was already difficult to make out at times. In fact, this is even worse. Everything just kind of runs together, at times, leaving you to strain your ears to hear anything beneath the rumbling of the drums and the vocals. Occasionally, a guitar melody rises from the darkness, but not for long. To ruin the sound even more, it sounds like the mic cuts out during one of the songs, resulting in the vocals being almost entirely imperceptible.

Regarding the songwriting, it would appear that some of the flaws of Under the Cold Fullmoon were corrected this time around. Still they did retain the tendency to add intro riffs that don't add all that much to the atmosphere of the song, rather than just sticking to a more straightforward approach. It must be said that Gaamalzagoth's vocals are much more tormented on this tape, featuring a lot of horrible shrieks and inhuman screams. However, the muddiness of the recording make it really difficult to fully immerse yourself in this material. Being well acquainted with the brilliant songwriting of Occulta Mors, once can be sure that there are some genius ideas floating around, but it is nearly impossible to appreciate this since the rehearsal is so inaudible. Songs like "Once There Was Darkness" and "Night of Crimson Fire Storms" possess brief moments where the tremolo melodies penetrate the fog and all seems clear for a few moments. Unfortunately, this is ephemeral. The latter seems to feature some very morose riffs that work well to create a very gloomy feeling. Mixed in with the eerie tremolo melodies are riffs that are somewhat reminiscent of the old Mütiilation demos, solidifying this as the best song on here. The cover of Bathory's "Enter the Eternal Fire" isn't bad, and the mid-paced riffs offer a little more clarity in sound, though the overall effect is inferior to the original. That is often a problem when covering songs from a legendary band such as Bathory. As for "Warriors of Metal", this definitely sounds like a cover song as well, but I have no idea who the artist might be, if this is the case. The songwriting is purely in the '80s Metal style and judging by the absolutely atrocious vocals, it would make sense if the original utilized clean vocals. This sounds completely unnatural and bloody awful to be recorded by a band like Moonblood. If it is one of their songs, then they really dropped the ball with this horrendous attempt at making an old school tune. This may be the single worst thing that I have ever heard from this band.

Rehearsal 6 may be the first Moonblood recording that is not really essential in any manner. "Night of Crimson Fire Storms" and "The Hordes from the North Side" are worth hearing, despite the poor sound, but the rest is rather forgettable or too hindered by the terrible quality. This is a rather despicable tape and one that would not be worth sitting through in its entirety, even out of curiosity. 
 
(1 May 2013)

 
 

Originally released in cassette format via Majestic Union, in March 1996, Blut und Krieg is the first full-length album from Moonblood. This German Black Metal band had recorded countless demos and rehearsals during the first couple years of their existence, yet took an astonishing amount of time to release a proper L.P., especially considering how much material they had written. The band displayed just how dedicated they were to the old school mentality by releasing their material on cassette and vinyl, exclusively, and this album was no exception. There is something respectable about that, even if it hindered their ability to reach a broader audience. Just the very fact that they did not care about limiting their fan following told something of the members.

Getting into the band through a handful of demo cassettes that I had received from a friend in Germany, it took a little time before I was able to come by a copy of this album. When I did, it came in the form of a burned CD with a xeroxed insert. Obviously, this was a copy of a bootleg to begin with, which just goes to show how far some people had to go to acquire Moonblood releases. Sometimes, people show great enthusiasm for certain cult bands that are nothing more than products of their own hype, but this band actually deserved the dedicated following that they had amassed and it speaks well of them that listeners would go to such lengths to obtain and spread their music.

The brief intro includes strange sounds accompanied by the toll of a funeral bell. It is not as eerie or morbid as one might expect, but it does create an odd effect. As "In a Bloody Night of Full Moon" begins, one is immediately reminded of Burzum's "Det Som En Gang Var". It is mostly the result of the synth melody, but the music is not far removed from the same type of style as the aforementioned track. It is mid-paced and possesses an epic feeling, which is no surprise considering some of the bands that have influenced these Germans. The sound is very rough and lo-fi, with high treble for the overall mix. It is not so much the guitar tone, but the combination of guitars, synth and vocals (which are a little too loud) that has the potential to cause ear pain if listened to on headphones. The song never manages to break away from the Burzum vibe and establish itself, which is rather strange considering the skill of the musicians involved. Either way, it is not a bad track to open with and sets the tone for what is to come.

"Shadows" is an interesting track, though it does not fully realize its potential. The main theme is an average, mid-paced riff that is not particularly impressive. This song's saving grace is the presence of a brilliant tremolo melody that is interspersed throughout the piece, creating a mournful atmosphere. These riffs cut through you like icy winds, but the arrangement of the song lessens their impact, to an extent. The song would have been better off with this as the primary motif and the other riffs playing a less dominant role.

The next song is "...And Snow Covered Their Lifeless Bodies", which starts with a sombre melody that is accentuated by the subtle use of a clean guitar passage as well. The main riff is sorrowful and imbues the listener with a sense of loss. There are other riffs that hint at some sort of hope, perhaps only as a contrast to the misery that currently lurks within; almost like some fading memory of a distant past. As with the previous song, the atmosphere is no consistent, with the more upbeat melody sort of killing the dark vibe. All the harsh production and necro vocals in the world cannot maintain a pitch-black feeling if the songwriting is so schizophrenic.

"My Evil Soul" is another song from their first rehearsal tape, and it is a little more straightforward. The formula is rather standard, including several elements found in the early Darkthrone material. It is fast-paced, for the most part, but does not inspire much feeling. The riffs are not altogether bad, but it seems that the band really put forth no effort to make their first L.P. something special. There are much better songs, on the various recordings that they had made, that they could have included.

The title track begins in a very similar manner to the previous song, with an introspective and melancholic intro that leads to some mid-paced riffs that sound, in part, inspired by Bathory. The atmosphere is not as dark as one would hope, but still quite solid. Had they opted to not use the synth, the song would be a little better. All in all, it gives off kind of a subdued feeling, as if the band is holding back.

"Kingdom of Forgotten Dreams" features a cold tremolo melody that is more in line with what many would expect. The howling vocals suit the despondent vibe and add to the general impression of misery that the song summons forth. At one point, everything slows down and as the woeful guitars convey a sentiment of mourning. This miserable track is one of the highlights of the album and would have been better suited to be placed earlier.

This is followed by "Under the Cold Fullmoon", a song that combines epic melodies with cold and mournful riffs, creating an atmosphere of darkness that there is no escape from. Everything about this track is exactly as it should be; the fast tremolo riffs that carry a sense of urgency and suffering, working their way into your subconscious like knives made of ice. The drumming blasts right along, buried at an appropriate level in the mix and serving only to keep time, never distracting from the guitars. The vocal performance is dead on, as well, adding to the raw and hateful feeling. This is the true gem of the album, and it showcases the type of songwriting genius that the Moonblood is capable of.

The final proper track is "I Am All", beginning with an epic build and then introducing a really incredible tremolo riff that possesses a feeling of pure evil and instills a sense of horror in the weakened heart of the listener. Again, the hatred and cold bitterness of a misanthropic being comes across and consumes all in its path. The vocals sound particularly enraged, adding to the overall intensity of the song. As it ends, one gets the notion that, rather than this being the full assault, Blut und Krieg is but a harbinger of things to come.

Despite my personal affinity for for this band, it would appear that the album falls short of what it could have been. It features some really good songs, but also some less-than-stellar ones. How "Nightly Mass", "The Winter Falls Over the Land" or "On Cold Wings" did not make the cut is a mystery to me. The album also could have benefited from an altered arrangement, as the strongest material seems to arrive at the end. Blut und Krieg is a solid album, one that includes great songs like "Under the Cold Fullmoon" and "Kingdom of Forgotten Dreams", but I cannot rid myself of the idea that Moonblood could have done even better, with a little more time and effort being put into this.
 
(24 Sept. 2011)

 
 

In the winter months of 1996, right after the release of their first full-length, Gaamalzagoth and Occulta Mors returned to their grim and morbid rehearsal space to record another collection of songs. After a couple of rather disappointing rehearsal tapes, Rehearsal 7 sees the return of the true Moonblood spirit and is the best one since Rehearsal 4. Even without the addition of the older songs, there is a good deal of new material on offer. 

The production is much better than Rehearsal 6, with the vocals actually being audible and the guitars and bass being fairly easy to detect. The guitar melodies are much more perceptible and easy to follow than on the last tape, certainly. The drums are in the background, where they belong, but definitely able to be heard and not just trailing off as in some of the other recordings. The overall sound is rather harsh and raw, with a lot of treble. In some ways, it can almost be like a torture in that one must turn the volume up to better hear yet this also makes the experience more painful. However, it is not to any extreme degree, so it is quite tolerable.

As for the music, there are a handful of re-recordings of older songs, here. "Under the Cold Snow", for example, is a bit shorter but somehow more fully developed this time around. The feeling is a little darker than before, though still not as abysmal as some of the other tracks. Perhaps, in reconnecting with these earlier songs, Moonblood managed to once again capture the old feeling that had been slipping with some of the other rehearsal tapes. To anyone new to the band, you will notice that Darkthrone and Bathory are among their main inspirations, and still they manage to create a feeling that is unique and special. There is something about the guitar melodies that seem to hearken back to an earlier age, before the filth of Christianity invaded and polluted Europe and began to destroy its people from within. Gaamalzagoth's vocals are utterly consumed with hatred, as heard best on "The Black War". His voice is very intense and does well to add an aggressive edge to the sometimes sombre and eerie riffs of Occulta Mors. The epic parts are still present, such as with the clean guitars and mid-paced riffs of "In the Forest of a Red Water" and "Glorious Days are not Forgotten". The songwriting of the former is quite dynamic for this massive track, consisting of parts that seem inspired by Viking-era Bathory (and almost more appropriate for Nachtfalke) as well as faster riffs. Throughout the various tempo changes, the atmosphere remains the same and there is a dreary feeling to this. Despite the inhuman screams, pounding drums and fast-picked riffs, it does not seem aggressive but rather hopeless and mournful in a subtle way. The latter contrasts this, being a little more uplifting and medieval in a way. This still fits in, in a strange manner, but not as one might imagine. Black Metal purists may have more appreciation for a straightforward song like "The Immortality of My Dreams and Visions", which is the most minimalist track on here. It possesses a cold and melancholic feeling and sort of fits the Transilvanian Hunger mold in its overall approach. "Fullmoon Witchery" is similar, and is my favourite song on this tape, featuring very memorable and hypnotic tremolo melodies that will definitely have you returning for repeated listens. Simplicity is not always the best way, but more direct songs such as these manage to capture the purest essence of Moonblood, as it has always been these faster riffs where their songwriting talent shines the most and do well to imbue you with morbid feelings. Re-recordings of "The Awakening of the Serpent" and "Damned Christians" also take you deeper into this grim, as the atmosphere darkens and becomes much more dangerous. The only unfortunate thing is that these songs sounded fine the first time around, so there was no great necessity in revisiting them. A song such as "Nosferatu", however, was the victim of an incredibly terrible sound both times and would have really benefited much more. Though that classic may have been lacking, the trademark eerie vibe that Occulta Mors is known for is very much present in the haunting melodies of the final track, "A Fortress of Your Dreams".

Any band that recorded as much and often as Moonblood is likely to miss the mark every now and then, as evidenced by the previous couple of rehearsals. With Rehearsal 7, they proved that they still possessed the same brilliance and inspiration to create raw and dark Black Metal as it should be and to take the listener to a world beyond this pathetic modern age. Even the weakest songs here are better than most of those found on Rehearsal 6. Thankfully, that was just a misstep, rather than the beginning of a true decline. The new songs on here, as well as the re-recordings, are cohesive and maintain the same black feeling throughout the entirety of the tape. All Moonblood fans are encouraged to seek this material out, if you have not done so already.
 
(3 May 2013)

 
 

It was in the spring months of 1996 when Moonblood set to work on one of their absolute best recordings. Rehearsal 8 - Conquering the Ravenland is a rather difficult demo to obtain, given the inherent rarity of the band's recordings. Even downloading is a difficult endeavour, as most copies that one runs across are simply songs from Rehearsal 7 with altered titles. Apparently, a lot of people don't take the time to truly listen to these brilliant works, as the Moonblood name is somewhat of a status symbol for some that wish to infiltrate the Black Metal cult, rather than a band that they truly appreciate. This is their loss, as Gaamalzagoth and Occulta Mors were utterly connected with the darkness that gave rise to this music in the first place, something which is quite evident on Conquering the Ravenland.

The overall sound is rather good, compared to some of their other recordings from 1996. The guitars are the dominant aspect and possess a certain level of power during the slower parts while the faster riffs maintain clarity and are rarely trampled underneath the bass and drums. The treble is not at a painful level, either, though the vocals are definitely high in the mix and kind of piercing at times, not so much in style but in the way that they were recorded. Unlike some of the earlier tapes, the songs here are easily followed and understood, allowing for the genius on display to be recognized. This enables the music to come through much better and to make more of an impact, as the listener is not forced to spend as much time filtering out unnecessary noise in order to focus on the actual riffs.

The material on Conquering the Ravenland is some of the strongest of any of the rehearsal tapes. Those familiar with the split with Deathspell Omega and Dusk Woerot will recognize a few of the songs, which are nearly as effective here as on the later versions. Unlike some tracks that were re-recorded, these sound fairly identical and possess the same kind of grim and hateful atmosphere. The mournful and eerie melodies that Moonblood is known for can be found all over this demo, with the title track and "Claws of the Fog" being good examples. This brilliant songwriting really grips you and pulls you back in time, to an age long forgotten. It is not even a matter of the lo-fi production; i.e. it is a feeling created by the very nature of the compositions. There is a feeling of melancholy for what the world has become and a longing for ancient times that have passed out of human memory but linger within the hearts of some. The cold and barbaric vibe embodied by much of the music is not just one of primitive violence, but rather a simpler and more pure way. The maniacal vocals and unearthly riffs do well to connect the listener with true darkness, in a way that other bands claim to but could never hope to actually achieve. This is the pure essence of Black Metal. There is no posturing or false elements introduced. There is only a genuine spirit that proves that the members of Moonblood definitely understood what they were doing, rather than being like the legions of followers that can only imitate. Sure, one can hear influences from Bathory and Darkthrone, even a cover song by the former (that is not 100% essential for the integrity of the rehearsal), but this band was always capable of creating something unique and special, something that has not been duplicated and cannot be compared directly to any other band. When one hears a Moonblood song, it is absolutely clear and there is no mistaking them for anyone else. This is a sharp contrast to the countless generic bands that exist today.

The songwriting is really dynamic, for the most part. Some of the tracks feature mid-paced sections, as well as occasional use of clean guitars and some old school Black Metal riffs thrown in. However, this tape is defined by the great number of fast-picked tremolo melodies that possess a cold and woeful feeling. I've always maintained that the faster songs/parts were Moonblood's best, and there is a lot of evidence to back this up, here. "A Forgotten Vision of War" is just the type of straightforward, fast-paced song that is being referenced. From the cold riffs to the tormented and hate-filled vocals, this embodies the best aspects of the Second Wave Black Metal sound while still being easily identifiable as a Moonblood song. The first half is not too far from something that would fit on Transilvanian Hunger, yet the latter part clearly displays the style Occulta Mors had cultivated for the previous couple years. The only weak song on here is "Show Me Your Wrath", a rather boring and out of place attempt to mimic Celtic Frost. Nine times out of ten, bands end up wasting precious tape or disc space when they imitate this band, as few have ever been able to do so in an interesting manner. Nevertheless, this is quickly overlooked as the final tracks exhibit even more brilliance and dark atmosphere. "First Snow - First Blood" employs a mixture of acoustic guitar with ice-cold riffs that chill your skin, creating kind of an epic feeling. As for "Bells of Apocalypse" and "I Hail the Night", these are two of the best songs that Moonblood ever recorded and these versions deserve nearly as much praise as the ones recorded in the following year. The sombre guitar melodies are uttelry haunting and remain embedded in your subconscious, never to leave. These miserable sounds will linger in your mind until your dying day. There is also a sense of urgency in these last songs, as you can feel that you are nearing the end and soon to leave this rotten world. A feeling of dread comes over you as the fear races through your brain, but it is soon replaced by the relaxing knowledge that the torturous journey through this hellish realm is soon at an end.

Conquering the Ravenland is the strongest material that Moonblood unleashed during the year 1996, even eclipsing most of the songs found on their debut L.P. If they had split up and vanished immediately after releasing this rehearsal tape, their legacy as one of the most important and genuine Black Metal bands to ever exist would have still remained to this day, and beyond. Moreso than nearly any of the other rehearsals, this tape is definitely essential to all fans of this band and for those into music of a raw and yet sincere nature. It is a crime that these guys did not enter a proper studio and record this (minus a couple filler tracks) as a proper full-length, as this destroys nearly anything else that was released during that year. Rare as it may be, seek this out however you must.
 
(4 May 2013)

 
 

As part of the monumental From Hell boxed set, released in November 2013, there is included a 7" E.P. that was originally recorded in 1996. Though only containing two tracks, Fullmoon Witchery is one of Moonblood's best efforts and is absolutely essential for fans of the band and of Black Metal, in general. The reasons for never properly releasing this at the time seem rather mysterious, as this is yet another recording that displays the genius that this band possessed and would have easily stood out among the majority of the albums that were released back then.

The music conveys an atmosphere that is cold and sombre. The fast-picked tremolo melodies are very memorable and possess a melancholic quality without being overtly depressive in the sense that is commonly associated with some bands, these days. The title track features some additional melodies that really add to the epic feeling of the song. As with many of their other works, it is as if this music transports your mind back in time. There is a gloominess that exists to mourn the world that was lost, long before this wrong and empty existence came into being. As for "Under the Abyssic Black Wings of the 3rd Angel", there is a bit of a Viking-era Bathory influence in the acoustic intro and the mid-paced riffs that serve to further take you on a journey to another time and place. Regardless of which style that Occulta Mors utilized, he was always able to create an epic atmosphere, which was accentuated by the evil and hellish voice of Gaamalzagoth. At times, the second song seems to foreshadow what would come with Nachtfalke. Some of the playing is a bit rough, but the vibe is always genuine and pure, which is worth more than a million "perfectly executed" albums with the sickening modern production and no feeling, whatsoever.

Regarding the production, this ranks alongside Sob a lua do bode and Of Lunar Passion and Sombre Blood as having the best sound of any recording throughout the band's career. Unlike the many demos and rehearsals, where one would have to train the ear and put forth effort to make out what was going on, at times, the guitars come through very well, here. The brilliant melodies created by Occulta Mors are able to be more fully appreciated on Fullmoon Witchery. The guitar tone is cold and, though not razor-sharp, still rather thin and trebly which suits the music perfectly. The blood-chilling screams and hateful-filled vocals are mixed at a perfect level to be heard and yet to not overpower the rest. The same can be said of the drumming, which is clear enough but not overbearing.

Fullmoon Witchery clocks in at only ten minutes in length and consists of but two songs, yet this recording is far more essential and important than 90% of the Black Metal releases that have come since its creation in 1996. These tracks have been floating around on bootlegs for some time, but if you haven't already acquired them in some manner then make haste in doing so now. This is highly recommended and is a good example of Black Metal done right... something that is often lost on people, in this disgusting modern age.
 
(27 Apr. 2014)

 
 

As the season of dying crept over the land and all fell within the grip of bitter cold winds, in the autumn months of 1996, Moonblood gathered in the nocturnal hours to record once again. Rehearsal 9 - Unpure Desires of Diabolical Lust emerged in December and was the final release of any kind for this year. Clocking in at an hour and a half, this massive collection of songs is padded only with one unnecessary cover tune. Otherwise, it is filled with many of the trademark sounds that Gaamalzagoth and Occulta Mors had become known for.

As with the last tapes, this material displays a good deal of variation from clean guitars, mid-paced sections and the fast tremolo riffs that many have come to expect. This rehearsal takes a little time to fully get going, as the first songs are more slow and plodding. If not for the vocals, would not be out of place on a Viking-era Bathory album. However, Gaamalzagoth's voice is a hateful and croaking sound that makes Abbath sound like a choir girl. Yet still, he also shows some range and throws in a good amount of tormented screams when called for. The arrangement of the tracks could have been a little better, as putting slower songs together at the beginning of the rehearsal could seem tedious for some. It takes nearly fifteen minutes to get to the first high-speed Black Metal riffs, in "Under the Abyssic Black Wings of the Third Antichrist". Even this is rather dynamic and not as straightforward as one might hope and some parts could have been shaved off to make a shorter and more direct song. The title track fits this description well, being more lean and to the point, a fast-paced song that would have been a better choice to lead off the tape. The  main guitar melodies possess the sombre and ethereal qualities that characterized many of the band's earlier works. This unearthly vibe is continued on "Into a Castle on the Blood-Rocks", though the poor sound makes it difficult to fully recognize, at times. The morose tremolo riffs resemble a ghostly and wailing wind, at times, creating a cold and dark atmosphere.

The feeling becomes even more melancholic, during "The Curse of the Warlord" and "To Kiss the Timeless Eternity", both carried forth by mournful guitar melodies. Again, the lousy quality makes it a bit problematic to fully immerse yourself in this, as things begin to run together and to become a rumbling mess. This almost seems more noticeable throughout the second half of this tape. This is not so much of an issue with "Forgotten Spells in the Forests Nocturnal" and "Supreme Black Forces of Steel", though that may also be a result of possessing such familiarity with the later, and much clearer, recordings of these songs. In truth, these would likely be under-appreciated as well, otherwise. Still, the occasional riff manages to cut through the fog, such as the hypnotic melodies in "Looking in the Eyes Infernal", but only temporarily. This can interfere with the music's ability to transport the listener to another time and place, as previous recordings so often did.

The sound is not very good, and it does require that the volume is turned up a bit to really catch a lot of what is going on. As with the last tape, the treble is fairly high so listening to this can be somewhat painful, but it is not as bad as it could be. During the slower sections, one can clearly make out the riffs and even the clean guitar passages and bass lines. The drumming is at a decent level, while the vocals are kind of high but no moreso than on most of the other recordings. Some of the faster songs would have truly benefited from a better sound, as the low quality makes it hard to appreciate some of the melodies. "Night of the Incubus" is a good example, as it is barely perceptible that there is a really good riff leading the song off, but it is buried in the muddled sound. It is hard to believe that the sound seems to have gotten worse with the later rehearsals, rather than staying the same or improving a little.

Unpure Desires of Diabolical Lust is another solid Moonblood recording. It is not an official release, so the few disappointments regarding structuring and arrangement cannot really be held against it so much. Some of the songs could have been trimmed down, while the emphasis on the mid-paced riffs could have been dialed back a little. As said before, the band's best moments are generally the faster sections which often feature very eerie and haunting tremolo melodies. The less of this that they include, the less impressive the material seems. As for the best songs, it would seem that these guys did a good job in choosing a couple of the better ones to record again, later on, though "Into a Castle on the Blood-Rocks" would have been another worthy choice to make an appearance on a proper release. Either way, this tape is very much worth listening to for any Moonblood fan.
 
(3 May 2013)

 
 

Of all the Moonblood rehearsal tapes that are available, Worshippers of the Grim Sepulchral Moon is among the best. Recorded in December 1997, the material here spawned forth around the same time as that found on the splits with Katharsis and Deathspell Omega, though those were released a few years later. Strangely, only one of these tracks managed to make it to the band's second full-length album, Taste Our German Steel. As with most of Moonblood's demos and rehearsals, one has to question why so few of these songs were given a proper recording. Then again, it is the obscurity of these tunes that makes it worth the effort to find these cassettes (or the music that they contain).

It begins with "...To Be Immortal", which wastes little time in establishing an epic feeling. The vocals are quite similar in sound to what was heard on The Winter Falls Over the Land, though the music does not feature the same level of clarity. The production is kind of muffled and distant, but not so much that you cannot make out what is going on, with ease. The quality is surprisingly good, allowing the sinister tremolo melodies to hover toward you, with diabolical intentions. For the most part, this track is rather straightforward, with the same chilling guitar riff returning to plague your mind, several times, throughout.

The next few songs are not all that impressive, though still solid enough. "Don't Fear the Dark" begins with a somewhat gloomy feeling, soon transitioning to a galloping riff. This is not terribly evocative, but the tremolo melody that follows is a bit more effective. "Path to Thy Funeral Light (Part I)" does not possess the dark atmosphere that the title would suggest and, though the guitar riffs are a little sharper and tear through the muddy production, the medieval vibe does not help it. "Entering the New Kingdom" rips ahead at full speed with more dismal tremolo melodies and blasting drums, though it sounds as if Occulta Mors was pounding away on a rock, rather than an actual drum kit.

"Procreated though the Sperm of Astaroth" is a lengthy track, clocking in around nine minutes. The guitar melodies are repetitive, yet this serves a purpose and the hypnotic effect adds to the overall sense of hopelessness and doom. One riff, in particular, is dreary enough to lure one toward the gates of death. Such morose sounds are not for the weak-willed. The song ends with a brief clean guitar passage, reiterating the main theme.

The following song, "The Temptation of the Night Empress", includes an old school rhythm that is reminiscent of Hellhammer, though the wretched drum sound returns, sounding really awful and having a detrimental effect on the presentation. Some of the riffs sound like something from Emperor's Wrath of the Tyrants.

"Then Came the Silence" opens with a mournful guitar melody that reaches into your chest and tears into your heart. You can feel the misery bleeding forth and washing over you. Each new riff serves to build upon the previous one, taking the gloomy atmosphere deeper into the depths of darkness. The method by which the main riff is played gives rise to an eerie feeling, something that remains with you for some time. Thankfully, Moonblood recorded a proper version on the Taste Our German Steel L.P.

"Cathedral of Restless Souls" carries this haunting feeling even further, with some thanks going to the guitar tone that is utilized. The song is pretty straightforward, maintaining a steady pace throughout, moving along at high speed. The drums sound more natural here and the tremolo riffs put you in a trance, as the dark and morbid melodies weave in and out of your mind. There is really no good reason for why this song did not appear on a later release.

The same level of quality is also present on "Nocturnal Shades in the Moonlight", another song that follows the Transilvanian Hunger model as it relates to technique, though it really has its own atmosphere and sounds even more obscure than Darkthrone. This one features some excellent riffs and it is a shame that it was no re-recorded down the line. The epic nature of several of the melodies is something that really set this band apart from most of their peers.

"A Shadow is Born in Hell" begins with a creepy guitar melody, before speeding up to the same intense pace as the previous track. Unfortunately, the following riffs do not demonstrate any sense of continuity. The atmosphere is not very dark, due to the odd melodies. In fact, it borders on optimistic, at times. This is definitely a case of false advertising, based on the title.

The demo concludes with the fifteen-minute long track, "Worshippers of the Grim Sepulchral Moon". While the riffs are decent, there is really no reason for this song to go on for such a length of time. There is no real variation in tempo or mood; at no point does it appear that the song is going to expand and go beyond what you hear during the course of the first three minutes. There is no build, no climax and no tension. To hear how an epic Black Metal song should be constructed, refer to Burzum's "Det Som En Gang Var", on Hvis Lyset Tar Oss.

Worshippers of the Grim Sepulchral Moon is one of the better Moonblood rehearsal tapes, in terms of sound and quality. As with most of the others, there are hidden gems among the more standard songs. Tracks like "Then Came the Silence", "Cathedral of Restless Souls" and "Nocturnal Shades in the Moonlight" are all essential listening, while the rest of the songs are still solid enough in a supporting role. While some of the band's rehearsals are very difficult to get into, this one is not. Fans of Moonblood are encouraged to obtain this, one way or another.
 
(13 Nov. 2011)

 
 

Released by Sombre Records in March 1998, the Moonblood / Asakku split offers up a couple decent quality songs of raw German Black Metal. This 7" E.P. was limited to 500 copies, so it is not the easiest to come by. The material on hand is well worth hearing, upholding the traditions of the sub-genre quite well, though it cannot be said that these recordings are earth-shattering, by any means.

The Moonblood track, "Hordes of Hate", was recorded in September 1995. This would have, easily, fit onto the band's first full-length album, Blut und Krieg. In some way, the arrangement is even reminiscent of "I Am All". It starts with an epic intro, before unleashing a blistering assault of frozen tremolo riffs that freeze your flesh and leave you unable to move. The pummeling drums then come along to lay waste to that which is left, as the demonic howls summon the forces of evil to consume your miserable spirit. The guitar melodies are straightforward, yet memorable. The bass lines, more or less, follow along with the main riffs, rarely straying. The production is about the same as what can be heard on most of Moonblood's studio recordings. It is odd that this song was left off of their debut L.P.

Asakku does their best to match the quality of their peers with "Endless Woods", recorded in May 1996. The song starts out with an acoustic guitar, before transitioning to a galloping riff in the vein of Bathory. They utilize a variety of tempos, still managing to maintain a consistent atmosphere throughout. The faster parts employ tremolo riffs that are not all that dissimilar from Moonblood. The production is a bit annoying, as the bass and drums are a little too loud in the mix, with the former possessing sort of a clicking sound that is a little distracting. All in all, Asakku showed promise and would have been a worthy part of the German underground, had they survived.

Quite often, the idea behind split releases is to pair a newer band with one that is more established, to help expose them to a larger fanbase. Such was the case with this 7", yet it seems to have been somewhat of a failure. Asakku was already dead by the time this release came about and this did nothing to revive the band. As for Moonblood, this was nothing more than another opportunity to share one of the countless songs that they were sitting on. It may sound average compared to some of their tracks, but that is only a result of the consistent quality that they were known for. Pick this up, if possible.
 
(25 Feb. 2012)

Rehearsal 12 (1998)
 

Taking form from the dark nothingness, in March 1998, Rehearsal 12 is the final such tape from Germany's Moonblood. After only four years, the band seemed to be winding down. Certainly, the creativity would not remain at the same level as before, with less and less output as time went on. For their final rehearsal recording, Gaamalzagoth and Occulta Mors delivered an hour and a half of quality music that is certainly worth the time of any Black Metal fan.

The sound quality is surprisingly good, compared to some of the other recordings. It could be that my copy of this is simply better than what I have of the others, but there is no way to really know. The sound is very raw and underground, of course, but there is a certain clarity that was often missing from some of the previous rehearsals. The vocals are not disproportionately high in the mix and the guitars are easily discerned from the rest. The riffs come across well and there are no moments where one is struggling to follow along, as would happen before. The drumming sounds a little odd, almost like a drum machine. Still, it is not enough to really affect the atmosphere.

Musically, the songs remain true to the style that Moonblood is best known for. There is no senseless experimentation or wandering beyond the established boundaries of their usual approach. The songwriting is still rather dynamic, something this band rarely got enough credit for. A track like "Endless Chaos" displays a skillful mixture of the faster tremolo melodies that dominate much of the band's output with memorable mid-paced riffs that are never dull. Songs like "Domain of Hell" and "A Walk in the Woods" are a little more straightforward, characterized by sombre and somehow epic guitar riffs that permeate the darkest depths of your mind. The latter is the only track on here to make it onto the band's second full-length, Taste Our German Steel. In this case, it was a very good selection. One must also keep in mind that this was written and recorded during a time when many bands of this style had gone soft or experimental, and those that would pick up the torch were not fully prepared to do so yet, in most cases. Moonblood was absolutely keeping the black flame burning and, for the hundredth time, these guys should have recorded a half a dozen full-length albums, at least. There are traces of an old school '80s approach, here and there, blended into the band's typical dark and eerie riffs. This is evident when listening to "The Quest After the Doctrines of Might & Wisdom" and "Into Frozen Forests". The former is a rather lengthy song, yet possesses a minimalist feel as it consists of relatively few riffs and maintains the same pace throughout. It could probably have been a few minutes shorter, but the extra length is no real detriment. There are songs that last even longer, such as "These Graves and Wooden Coffins are My Realm". The same can be said of this one, more or less, as there is no real necessity in going well over eleven minutes. The song is good, and there is no problem with any part of it, but it could have had the same impact at half the length. Another long one is "In the Moors", though it stands out for a different reason. It may seem like a typical Moonblood song upon first listen, but the actual harmonies are somewhat strange and uncommon for them. The feeling created is still cold and dreadful, so it certainly accomplishes something. Still, one would almost expect to find these riffs on an LLN recording, instead. Another song that feels a little out of place is"When the Moonlight Takes the Sky". The riffs are not quite dark enough, despite seeming the other songs, on the surface. The length does not help matters, as this is another that is stretched beyond what it should have been. The last two tracks, "Troglodytin" and "As a Soul in the Blazing Banner of Darkness", make up for any strangeness and end the tape on a better note.

Rehearsal 12 is fairly solid, with more quality Black Metal from the elite of the German scene. Some of the songs are longer than they need to be and there are some odd riffs, but there is nothing on this recording that one would consider to be bad. With that said, the Witchfinder General cover is completely out of place and does not belong on here. However, since this is not an actual album, things of this nature really should not count against them, too much. Even though several of the songs needed to be worked on a little, there are still enough good ideas on this tape to prove that Moonblood was capable of much more than 99% of their so-called peers, during 1998. This is certainly worth hearing for any fan of the band and of raw Black Metal in general.
 
(26 May 2013)

 
 

Of Lunar Passion and Sombre Blood is an L.P. of Moonblood material recorded in August 1998, yet never properly released. That is, until 2013, with the From Hell boxed set from Iron Bonehead Records. Prior to this, some of these tracks were available only on various splits or bootlegs, and not always offered at the optimal quality. Thankfully, over a decade after the dissolution of this once mighty band, these valuable gems have now been unearthed. In a sense, this can be looked at as the third Moonblood album.

Any true fan of Moonblood should be familiar with all of the songs on this record. However, the way in which it is presented makes much of this material practically new again. While some were previously available with poor sound quality or a different mix, others were only heard before on barely audible rehearsal tapes. Though some of the songs were included on the Fullmoon Witchery bootleg, even those versions sound inferior compared to the ones here. Finally, the absolute brilliance of these tracks has been captured, for the first time. For those that often claimed that Moonblood was overrated or only hyped as a cult band because of the incredibly necro demo tapes and rehearsals (the true battle cry of an idiot that has no business listening to Black Metal to begin with), Of Lunar Passion and Sombre Blood shall silence their hollow criticisms.

The songwriting is pure genius, from the gloomy intro to the epic and mournful tremolo melodies of songs such as "A Soul in the Blazing Banner of Darkness". Gamaalzagoth's hateful vocals come across better than ever, rivaling that of Blut & Krieg. The frigid guitar melodies carve through your flesh and penetrate your very soul. The song structures are very well thought-out, showing that these guys were more than just some of the most grim and evil figures in the underground; they were also skilled musicians that honed their craft with constant rehearsing and recording and writing and knew precisely how to create the sort of atmosphere that they were going for. The riffs are easily identifiable as belonging to Moonblood, despite the Darkthrone influence that exists in the style itself, and are quite memorable. This material is characterized by the kind of eerie melodies that the band utilized from their earliest days, exemplified by the main riff of "The Quest for the Doctrines of Might and Wisdom". For the most part, the songs keep up a fast pace, centering on tremolo riffs and rather primitive and straightforward blasting on the drum kit. As for the latter, enough is done to keep the song moving, but there is no abundance of unnecessary fills or double-bass nonsense. Regarding the riffs, themselves, one need only listen to the cold and haunting melodies found in "Under the Goatmoon", to feel the true essence of Black Metal in its most undiluted form. This may be the best song on here, filled with hideously hateful vocals and grim, sepulchral riffs. There is a dark and evil feeling that is conjured up, something that permeates your mind and overtakes your being. This is the power of true Black Metal, something Moonblood wielded all too briefly, as their career ended prematurely. Somehow, within the confines of traditional songwriting, bereft of outside elements or styles or experimentation, Gaamalzagoth and Occulta Mors were able to create truly epic compositions, as clearly evidenced by "These Graves and Wooden Coffins are My Realm". It is amazing how some bands try to mimic the aesthetic an general style of something, while being completely unable to come anywhere close to creating the same type of masterpieces as those that truly understand what it is supposed to be about. Songs like this are like a journey through the frozen wastelands of desolation and sorrow, before descending into the hopelessness and pitch black suffering of purest hell.

The only track that stands out from the rest, in the sense of not really fitting the theme and style of the others, is "Burning in Hell". However, anyone familiar with the members of Moonblood know that they were massive fans of Quorthon's work, and that the various eras of Bathory had a strong influence on Moonblood (and later Nachtfalke). This is pure '80s-style Black Metal, sounding like something from Bathory's debut L.P. or even Venom's seminal record, Black Metal. In that respect, it is great to see this, just as a nod to the roots of evilness. The thrashy riffs and hellish lead solo, along with the ugly vocals, does well to capture the spirit of the Old Ones.

The production is very clear... for Moonblood. That said, this is nowhere near a modern, clean sound and suits the music very well. It is raw and ugly, yet lacks the tape hissing and feedback and other unpleasant distortions that often hid the band's brilliance on various cassette recordings. The guitar tone is not quite as sharp as on the previous full-lengths, lacking a bit of rawness in favour of the more ghastly sound that was found on some of their offerings. The sound may have benefited from adding treble to the guitars and lowering the drums just a bit, but these are minor complaints that are more a matter of personal preference.

If anyone listens to this and still attempts to deny the utter genius and genuinely special qualities possessed by Moonblood, they should just get as far away from Black Metal as possible, for such scum has absolutely no understanding of this dark cult. This is clearly not for such imbeciles and a release like this comes just in time to, perhaps, remind people what true Black Metal should be and to cleanse the scene of the legions of worthless bands currently littering the scene. For too long have pretenders and usurpers occupied the throne of that which they never really understood nor ever belonged to. Of Lunar Passion and Sombre Blood showcases classic Moonblood at the height of their creativity and is an essential album not just for fans of Gamaalzagoth and Occulta Mors, but for anyone that has even a passing interest in Black Metal. From the material to the presentation, everything here is just right and massive hails go to Iron Bonehead and Moonblood for making this release happen.
 
(16 Apr. 2014)

 
 

Moonblood's sophomore effort, Taste Our German Steel, picks up from where Blut und Krieg left off and even succeeds in creating a darker and more haunting atmosphere. Released through End All Life, in 2000, this L.P. was limited to 100 hand-numbered copies. Unfortunately, the band's second full-length album also proved to be their last. Gaamalzagoth and Occulta Mors laid the band to rest, shortly thereafter, and thus robbed the Black Metal world of any future brilliance.

"Embraced by Lycanthropy's Spell" begins at full speed, with a dark and sombre tremolo riff that is accompanied by minimalist drumming that does nothing more than keep the pace. The vocals are grim and evil, suiting the music perfectly. Right away, it is clear that the production is even more harsh and under-produced than on the band's first record, giving it the feeling that it belonged to some previous era. The riffs possess an epic quality about them, which is something Moondblood was known for. This material shows more influence from early Darkthrone and less of the Bathory-esque tendencies that would sometimes appear. The repetition creates a droning aura that lures the listener into a trance-like state.

The next track is "Sarg und Tod, Part II", which utilizes a similar riffing style but offers a different feel based on the half-paced drumming pattern. This soon shifts to the same blasting approach as before, but the brief difference adds something. Around the middle, the band incorporates a clean guitar melody that blends in with the rest of the instruments, fairly nicely.

"Then Came the Silence" begins with a lone tremolo melody that carries a mournful vibe. This is soon joined by the rest of the instruments, and the atmosphere created is dark and hopeless. The song follows the same general pattern as the previous tracks, and the overall impression is that the album is much more cohesive than the last one, partially due to the lack of variation. The raw production suits the compositions very well, though a little more clarity would have benefited the brilliant melodies. Again, this song conveys an epic feeling and the riffs are very memorable, despite the rough sound.

This is followed by "Apocalyptic Vision", which starts out with an interesting intro that hearkens back to the 80s, in a way. Soon enough, however, the bands dives into a full-on Second Wave Black Metal sound, in the vein of Transilvanian Hunger. While working within the confines of a style that some would consider to be quite limiting, Moonblood demonstrates their high level of skill when it comes to writing haunting guitar melodies. As far as the drumming being simplistic, it goes to show that the band truly understands the type of music that they are playing, especially the fact that the guitar riffs should always be the main focus, with the percussion only functioning to keep time. This is the longest track on the album, lasting a little over nine minutes, and it maintains a dreary atmosphere throughout. It ends with a short acoustic piece that plays the same melody, almost as a nod to Bathory.

"The Angels Lament" bursts forth from the gates of Hell, possessing a sense of tension and trepidation that gives an unsettling feeling. This song must have been a favourite for the songwriters behind the early Deathspell Omega material, as they mimicked this type of approach quite a bit. The aura is like that of a nightmare from which you are unable to escape.

The final song is "A Walk in the Woods", utilizing the same style as the other songs, though again creating a different feeling. This is almost more epic than dark, though still retaining some sort of murky atmosphere. As the song progresses, the frozen melodies are slowly embedded in your brain. The final moments introduce a more introspective riff that begins to brings you down into the morbid gloom, before fading into nothingness.

Taste Our German Steel builds upon the strengths of Blut und Krieg and eliminates the weaknesses, resulting in an album that is slightly less ambitious but much more cohesive. This is raw, minimalist and hateful Black Metal with a somewhat sombre tone, following in the footsteps of Transilvanian Hunger, to an extent. However, while working within the same style, the band still manages to sound unique and to retain their own identity. While the production is harsher than the first album, it still enables the listener to soak in the great guitar melodies and to suffocate in the atmosphere of darkness that is given birth. If you have not heard this already, seek it out by any means necessary.
 
(26 Sept. 2011)

 
 

By 2001, the mighty German Black Metal band Moonblood had already met its end, despite unreleased material continuing to appear for a couple years after the fact. Yet at the same time, another band was poised to take their place in the German underground. Though Katharsis has never reached the same level of quality, they have always done their best to keep the black flame burning. As is often the case with split releases, a lesser-know band is aided by one that is more established, enabling them to get their name out there and to reach an audience that may have otherwise neglected to take notice. In this case, it was almost like a passing of the torch, since Moonblood was winding down. The resulting album is not exactly groundbreaking, but does well to offer up a couple tracks of raw Black Metal were like a fist in the face of the multitude of symphonic / experimental bands that were putting out records around that time.

The Moonblood track, "Supreme Black Forces of Steel", sounds quite similar to the material that they contributed to the split album with Deathspell Omega. This is understandable, as all of the songs were recorded during the same session back in November 1997. It is fast-paced and very straightforward, with little variation in tempo. The tremolo melody possesses an epic quality, as is often the case with this band, and the guitar tone manages to cut through the fuzzy and distorted production. The drums are, mostly, buried enough to not detract from the guitars and the vocals are at a perfect level to be heard quite well without being too high in the mix. While the main riff is very memorable, some of the others lack the clarity to really stand out and affect the overall atmosphere. At any rate, this is a solid offering from a legendary band.

Side B of this 7" E.P. features the Katharsis song "Watchtowers of Darkness Part II". After a slow build, reminiscent of early Slayer, the song bursts forth at top speed. To contrast the production of the previous song, here the guitar is buried under the vocals and drums. Odd that the older song would have the better sound quality. In trying to maintain a grim and underground approach to recording, the band actually undermined their own efforts and ensured that the song was unable to have the full effect that it should have had. Near the middle, the pace slows down a bit, being somewhat reminiscent of old Celtic Frost or some other 80's band. Not long after, things speed up again and Katharsis does their best to imitate Darkthrone, though not nearly as impressive. The track grows on you as it goes along, and is not bad at all. Still, one would think that they had stronger material than this. Despite the fact that the E.P. was limited to 666 copies, they should have considered a better song.

This split does not present anything revolutionary from either band, but it is solid and should appeal to fans of either. While it goes without saying that the Moonblood song is the superior of the two, Katharsis makes a decent enough showing to perhaps warrant further investigation into their discography.
 
(21 Sept. 2011)

 
 

Despite the fact that the band had officially been laid to rest following the release of Taste Our German Steel, there was still an abundance of unreleased material that had been recorded for a handful of ill-fated projects. As a result, Moonblood continued to make posthumous appearances. The songs featured on the End All Life / Sombre Records Sob A Lua Do Bode / Demoniac Vengeance split L.P., with Deathspell Omega, were originally recorded in November 1997 and ended up sitting on the shelf for quite a few years before being released. Limited to only 350 copies, this is rare but worth seeking out for the Moonblood material, alone. As for Deathspell Omega, the songs are a little underwhelming and unable to meet the expectations that many may have, going in.

Moonblood starts the L.P. out (and rightfully so) with "Forgotten Spells in the Forests Nocturnal". From the opening moments, the atmosphere is dark, grim and unexpectedly epic. The main riff is a tremolo-picked melody that falls very much in line with the material that was used for the Katharsis split (being recorded during the same session) as well as their second full-length. It has been said many times that this style is very reminiscent of Darkthrone, yet the band manages to inject enough of their own creativity that it may betray their influences but never sounds like a carbon-copy. The melodies are very memorable, while maintaining a cold and sombre feeling. Nearly everything here is done to perfection, showing a very clear understanding of this style of music. The only complaint would have to be the acoustic section at the end, which does not blend in well with the rest of the instruments.

"A Silent Dream of Impurity" begins with a sorrowful intro section that includes a clean guitar as well as an overall epic vibe. Soon, this transitions to a faster tempo of raw and frigid Black Metal. The riffs flow from one to the next, very smoothly, like a sharpened blade slicing through pale virgin flesh. These melodies do well to carry the listener to another world, leaving behind the mundane existence that curses many in this wretched age. The vocals are filled with hate as the guitars penetrate the fuzz and static of the grim production job.

The next song has a slightly different tone, at first, until the second guitar comes in and adds a layer of bitter cold frost. "Bells of Apocalypse" features some of the most sorrowful riffs, yet the general atmosphere is not as depressive as one might expect, based on the utter contempt and venom being spewed from Gaamalzagoth. Much like the raw sound of the music, the vocals carry a very primitive, harsh feeling as well. There are brief sections with some sort of sound effects added in, including bells and some hellish chanting. This helps add a layer of darkness to the proceedings, though the main riffs were doing a good job already. Late in the song, additional riffs are introduced and they carve through you with no remorse, joined by maniacal howls.

Sob A Lua Do Bode ends with "I Hail the Night", which picks up from where the previous song leaves off. Again, the fast-paced drumming and tremolo riffs are accompanied by the malevolent, raving vocals to create a dark and epic masterpiece of a song. The pace shifts a little, near the middle, but this brief nod to the past soon gives way to blood-curdling guitar riffs that drive you deeper into the foggy night. The atmosphere of this track truly justifies its placement, as it does give a sense of finality and works well to end Moonblood's contributions to this split L.P.

"And my ways goes through the forest of lost souls
Through the forest of nocturnal hate
And I lost my soul in these diabolical areas
And the path is darkened by a shade"

Demoniac Vengeance starts out with "Follow the Dark Path", and while the production is similar to the Moonblood material, it still sounds kind of weak by comparison. The same can be said of the songwriting, as Deathspell Omega was not capable of holding their own with the legends of German Black Metal. That said, this song is not bad and features some good riffs in the old Darkthrone style, as well. Their approach is a little more derivative, but still possessing a feel that is identified with Deathspell Omega. It sounds as if they were still using a drum machine at the time, though this may not be the case. At any rate, it comes off as a little less natural than some of their other releases from this time period. Shaxul's vocals do not seem quite as intense as usual, either. The riffs do well to overcome any of the potential shortcomings, giving a disturbing and morbid feeling, especially during the slower part that arrives in the middle of the song. One thing that the two bands on this L.P. do share is the ability to create an epic vibe while working with a relatively minimalist type of music.

"Morbid Rituals" bears similarities to some of the songs that would appear on Inquisitors of Satan, though some of the cold tremolo riffs are more sorrowful and epic, in a way. Halfway through, the pace transitions to something more chilling and macabre, making use of open-arpeggio riffs and a slower tempo that allows the atmosphere to become even darker. Fog rises from the damp earth, illuminated by the moonlight, as nocturnal spirits guide you through the darkened graveland and into the forest that lays beyond.

This split L.P. comes to an end with "Yells from the Abyss", though it does not make the same impression as the previous tracks. Some parts sound similar to "From Unknown Lands of Desolation", and it is likely that they were merely recycled and re-worked. As with the other songs, the pace slows down after a few minutes and allows an evil feeling to creep over you. It is a familiar formula, so there is no shame in this, despite the predictability. The thrashier riffs, later in the song, seem out of place and do little to add to the overall composition. In this way, the band fails to go out on a high note and, instead, ends with a whimper.

The Moonblood material is much more essential, just for the fact that it is some of the best stuff that the band ever recorded, while Deathspell Omega's contributions were not as earth-shattering. Two of their three songs were fairly good, but pale in comparison to the mighty Moonblood. This is a case where the two bands featured on a split were a little too far apart, in terms of quality; therefore, the lesser of the two comes off looking worse than they should, perhaps. In the end, it is a solid release and well worth the time to track down.
 
(27 Sept. 2011)

 
 

Dusk Woerot is the final release from Moonblood, marking an end to a brilliant and oddly obscure musical career. The band always went out of their way to limit their recordings, part of this being that they released only vinyl and cassettes. In the autumn of 2000, Gaamalzagoth and Occulta Mors created music together for one final time, before the demise of Moonblood. The issue of this unholy union would not see the light of day for a few years, as the two musicians soon went their separate ways. And so the most revered band of the German Black Metal scene faded into oblivion, ending in an appropriate manner: a demo tape limited to 666 copies.

This demo begins with an ominous intro, as an evil voice calls out from the darkness, amid sounds of bitter cold winds and ravens circling overhead through the stormy night. This leads into the first proper song, "Dusk Woerot: Chapter II", which starts with an icy tremolo riff that carves into you flesh and allows the blood to flow into the waiting mouths of nocturnal ghouls. The material is quite similar to that of Taste Our German Steel, as well as the various split releases. This is raw and minimalist Black Metal with obvious influences from early Bathory and Darkthrone. The guitar melodies are very memorable and this track actually holds its own up against anything else that the band has recorded.

"Dusk Woerot: Chapter III" continues where the previous song leaves off, though taking on a slightly darker feeling. It is very straightforward and fast-paced, with no real variation in tempo. The guitar tone is thin and razor-like, which suits the music perfectly. The production is rough, but absolutely clear enough to appreciate everything that is going on. Of course, this is how underground Black Metal should sound. The mix is just right, with the drums serving only to keep time and never dominating the sound. The guitars could have been slightly higher, but they are easily heard. The vocals are sinister and wicked, with no hint of humanity remaining.

The final song is "Born to Live in the Shadows of Damnation", which starts out with an acoustic intro that sounds reminiscent of Viking-era Bathory. This can be seen as a kind of foreshadowing, hinting at the next full-time project of Occulta Mors: Nachtfalke. The longest track on here, this mid-paced tune clocks in at nearly eight minutes. It is a little plodding, until the latter half where a nice epic melody emerges. This is a good song, but the band's best moments were always the faster riffs, in my opinion.

And with this brief demo, the musical entity known as Moonblood marched onto the battlefield one final time. Dusk Woerot is not the definitive representation of this band's capabilities, yet it offers a glimpse into the brilliance wrought by Gaamalzagoth and Occulta Mors over the years and is a worthy addition to anyone's collection.
 
(2 Oct. 2011)

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