Moon: The Nine Gates

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Moon: The Nine Gates
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Moon: The Nine Gates

Moribund Records (CD), Schattenkult Produktionen (Tape)
February 16th, 2013, November 19th, 2013 (CD)
Release length: 43:52
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In 2010, Australian Black Metal one-piece Moon, helmed by Miasmyr (former Catacomb and Forn Valdyrheim), issued their debut full-length effort Caduceus Chalice to mild praise and criticism. The recording was initially released through Wolfsvuur Records on cassette and limited to one hundred hand numbered copies before getting picked up by Moribund Records for a wider distribution later in the year. Fast forward three years and Moon find themselves signed to Schattenkult Produktionen for their follow-up album The Nine Gates, again limited to one hundred hand numbered cassettes with a later release from Moribund Records on CD. Is this new album a suiting follow-up, or does The Nine Gates show more repetition than in how material is made available?

Similar to Caduceus Chalice, the audio here is raw, sticking with vocals that sound more like wailing wind, or at least voices travelling on it from afar, a mixture of sharp and buzzing guitars and deep bass that overpower the recording, and drums that are pushed back in the mix with the exception of cymbal crashes. This doesn’t reflect the pieces of Ambience though, such as the dismal “The Rejection of Flesh” which sounds more like the opening score to a b-grade Horror flick, or anything Rob Zombie might direct. “Inhale Darkness,” however, is where it starts to show. This performance finds a heavy focus on the keyboards to set up a memorial environment thanks to some notes sounding like harmonized chants in a Viking Metal manner. The slow pace and subtle bass presence sets up a cold, mournful experience with solid drumming that carries an often infectious rhythm. But, after this point there’s very little that really stands out positively, or even compares to the quality of this one song.

The Nine Gates has a lot of problems, but the biggest is that, while it’s obvious what Moon is trying to achieve, the atmosphere just doesn’t come through properly all the time. “Poison from the Abyss” is a rich track that means to be bleak thanks to the howling vocals, but they paint a very different picture compared to the instruments. There’s also an odd chiming about two minutes in that sounds like an incoming call ring tone on someone’s cell phone one of the microphones picked up. Then there’s the overly gothic “Sabbat” that doesn’t portray anything ritualistic, but instead ends up a melancholic sensation of standing in a castle with Count Dracula or some other vampiric legend in the middle of a bad storm. It just comes off like a generic composition pushed over-the-top with layers of analog audio and the most muffled vocals of all the songs, making it incredibly cheesy. This is only the fourth song, and even after a number of spins the point of the album still gets lost here, and even moreso afterwards.

The further in you get, the more you realize the music offers very little to separate one similar song from another. “Astral Blood” has a lot in common with “Inhale Darkness” down to the point where you wouldn’t really be able to tell the different between them. In fact, the biggest factor ends up being the amount of drumming, which is muffled so much you may not pick up on it right away, or even notice that the latter track has a strong focus there, while the first of those two is handled in more of a Doom Metal approach, leading to realization of how low in volume everything but the cymbals end up being, and how detrimental it becomes to the performances. Then there’s “Lilim Drowning” which sounds like another variation of the trudging “Astral Blood,” but a lot thinner. It does play up the drowning part of the title by lowering the volume of everything, but at the same time it just makes the whole performance boring and obnoxious to listen to. Even the Ambience driven “The Rejection of Flesh” is matched with “Spiritless Winds,” which is as dull as “Lilim Drowning” before the rich “Gate of the Moon” offers anything mildly entertaining again. This one ends up a sharper experience akin to “Sabbat,” but far less cheesy, wrapping up The Nine Gates on a track that caters to a traditional Black Metal approach while keeping a nice emotional pull in some spots, such as the enthusiastic start.

Sadly, The Nine Gates is one of those releases that ultimately needs to be heard in anything but a digital format to get the full effect. Since the cassette version was limited to one hundred pieces, the only option for many is the get it on CD from Moribund Records. While it’s obvious the label does what it can try to save the raw output, there’s no arguing that there’s an immense difference between this format and hearing something on cassette. Thankfully in this day and age there are ways of salvaging that sound, such as recording the CD version onto a tape, and even recording that tape onto another one to give it a second generation output, or just running it through a cheap FM transmitter to get a monotone sound instead of stereo, recording onto a blank tape being optional at this point. So, if you missed out on the initial pressing, you can still find ways to experience it relatively close to the way it was intended.

The Nine Gates is a major step backwards when compared to the band’s debut album three years ago. It’s littered with bad decisions, conflicting atmospheres that fail to convey the emotion properly, and a bad choice on the levels for the drum kit, all of which make it hard to tell certain similar songs apart. Every aspect of this album just sounds like one kvlt or raw Black Metal stereotype after another being churned out to appeal to fans of the style, leaving very little in the the way of consistency and memorable impact. One could argue this is to live up to the title of The Nine Gates, offering some kind of difference in each track, but what does exist is far from remarkable enough to even begin to live up to that standard. Personally, this is an album I wanted to love given the potential on display from the previous full-length. Unfortunately, it feels like the talent Moon has was just ignored for the sake of putting something new out. The Nine Gates isn’t exactly a waste of time, but it’s far less memorable, or even enjoyable than any mediocre by-the-books Black Metal album released in the past ten years.

01. The Rejection of Flesh – 2:26
02. Inhale Darkness – 7:48
03. Poison from the Abyss – 5:41
04. Sabbat – 4:21
05. Astral Blood – 4:08
06. Lilim Drowning – 7:22
07. Spiritless Winds – 2:29
08. Gate of the Moon – 9:37
Overall Score: 3/10

Purchase The Nine Gates

Moon
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Digital review copy of this release provided by Moribund Records.