Review Summary: Finding that middle ground between a harsh Scandinavian winter and traipsing through autumn woods.
Crimson Moonlight’s debut LP moves away from the blatantly symphonic black metal they played on Eternal Emperor
to a heavier, more death metal infused style. On a general level, The Covenant Progress
is a melodic black metal album. It is the only album Crimson Moonlight played in this style, but considering the band floated in and out of this niche, The Covenant Progress
is surprisingly accomplished.
For a quick rundown of the aesthetic differences between this record and their prior EP, look no further than the re-worked title track from that recording, ‘Eternal Emperor’. The difference is immediately apparent; the new version swaps the slow moving string intro for a barrage of blasting guitars and drums. Throughout the track, guitar riffs surge to the front, replacing the symphonic elements of the original. Instead, the keyboards loom in the background, adding atmosphere but not defining the song.
Crimson Moonlight’s composition style is very stream-of-consciousness, which matches their extensive lyrics. Essentially, Crimson Moonlight is good at telling a story. The tracks on this album cover a lot of ground, but they have at least a riff or two that become a refrain, like guide posts on a winding wooded trail. There are a few other guide posts, but this is an aggressive album that has very little clean guitar and no clean vocals.
In contrast to some other bands in this genre, Crimson Moonlight is a very capable full band. They have no fear of bass and use drums that aren’t programmed. While that thin, harsh sound that raw black metal bands cherish can be admirable, Crimson Moonlight still constructs a great atmosphere in these tracks. The journey this album takes the listener on falls on middle ground between wading through a Scandinavian blizzard and traipsing through woods in autumn. Expertly avoiding too much of either side, the album is very balanced with its excellent production, full bodied sound and subtle use of the lighter touches, keyboards and flittering tremolo lines.
This sound, inviting but intense, is amplified by the contrast the death metal influenced riffs and growls have with the aggressive, and at times beautiful, melodic black metal sections. The contrast also gives the albums that added dimension of refreshing changes of pace. Even though blasting waves of sound are ever present, the band switches gears to avoid pummeling the listener with any one element for too long.
The Covenant Progress
enters with a ferocious storm of black metal and exits with a death metal dirge, and both are equally as effective. What amounts to an epilogue, ‘The Covenant’, weaves back in some of the keys and symphonic touches the rest of the album suppressed. The result is a calming and somewhat majestic interlude that could have graced the score of a Harry Potter film, filled with curious mystery but not unending dread. Now that the journey has ended, it is time to start again.