Review Summary: Far beyond the mysteries of skies, The city of stone has spoken, Revealing the heavenly highs, Calling the thunder to rise, Descent of gods!
In my searches for music that will transport me to a different state of being or mind, I find interest in indigenous music that captures the spirit of the individuals playing it. As an example, I enjoy Norwegian folk/black metal for it's ability to take me to the cold and misty Norwegian fjords and rolling landscapes (with Satan as my tour guide). What I think makes it so effective is that it is something unique to that region of the world in it's roots, and is reflected in the music in a genuine way. It's rare to find bands that can take inspiration from another culture without sounding forced or contrived, often failing to pull something original from the source material. Aeternam is a melo-death band from Quebec, Canada, that takes heavy inspiration from middle-eastern themes including Islamic and Ancient Eastern Civilization, and they have a few twists on the theme that make this formula work effectively.
Blending melodic death metal and epic symphonic melodies is nothing new, but it can be hard to find an organic fusion of the two. Aeternam combine the two sounds in a way that manages a progressive feel, without leading astray from it's inspiration. On Moongod, the addition of a choir, hand drums, and sitar among other instruments, helps bolster the presentation and increase variety rather than feeling tacked on. The middle eastern influences are amazingly well done, and the production successfully makes the combination of fierce riffing and tribal and symphonic instruments soar and drip with atmosphere and vibes. Underneath it all, there's a decidedly polished modern melodic death metal vehicle, relying on power chords and tremolo picked single note melodies and harmonies to drive the experience along. There's also a bit of 80's heavy metal/thrash influence in the tracks Rise of Arabia and Cosmogony. I was pleasantly surprised by the all acoustic track Iram of the Pillars, which is fun and spirited, showcasing the Middle Eastern influence in it's purest form.
The varied approach also encompasses the vocals, which lead the charge with a combination of full and throaty growls strikingly similar to Nergal of Behemoth, and clean singing that isn't afraid to take the forefront. Each track has a varied vocal performance, that manages to hook the listener with pleasant melodies, and chorus-like layering. From the range and conviction put into many of the choruses (such as in the title track), to the tribal clean verses, there are barbed hooks everywhere in just the right places. Tying it all together are some interesting and sharp lyrics, that are worthy of dissection. They often paint a vivid and frightening image true to death metal. My favorite example of this is from the song Xibalba:
"A thousand corpses upon the lighted serpent
Collapsing on the tainted stairs of Hun-Came
Reptilian eyes, igniting the offered flesh
To the blood thirsty sphere of the sky
Dissected bodies, stacked beneath the temple
Ritually drowned in a lake of blood
Heads of the sacrificed
Open the gates of Xibalba!
Aeternam's Moongod succeeds in painting a wide and heavy stroke upon melo-death with few faults, although they are present. Idol of the Sun fails to capture much of the spirit found in the rest of the tracks, and is the only track where the symphonics sound somewhat forced and are are a little too derivative. Thankfully, we get an epic closing song clocking in at over seven minutes, taking all of the best moments of the album and amping it up to eleven. It does well to conclude the album. Although I praised the production for allowing the wide instrumental diversity some breathing room, it lacks any unique sound that Aeternam can call their own, focusing more on polish and perfection. Thankfully, it is still a far cry from sounding too mechanical or processed, doing more good than bad. That all being said though, Moongod is a standout album, and one that may be overlooked, as it is a few years old now. I whole heartedly recommend it to fans of death metal, especially to fans of Behemoth, Nile, Septicflesh or Amon Amarth. This is absolutely not a release or band to overlook.