Review Summary: Progressive Darkness is a hell of a ride from start to finish, and once you get past some of the bumps in the first few songs, the latter half will simply blow you away.
Moolyght’s sound is hard to describe, it is one that emphasises their epic and technical sound while still being able to keep an atmosphere which is so damn infectious, each song is practically a fairy tale written in song, and each one has it’s moments of beauty and it’s moments of pure power. It would be easier to describe them if they stuck to one genre in their songs, or just a few set genres even, but no, they go everywhere, from straight-forward black metal to epic power metal to symphonic metal to death metal and beyond. Probably most similar to them is the band Disillusion
, from their BTTOS days, the way they can create such a vivid atmosphere without sacrificing any of the epic tendencies that could break a less capable band’s imagery. For a band that seemingly came out of nowhere, Moonlyght show a sensational grasp of song-writing and
There is something to please everyone here, be it in the melodic breaks that occur so often, the fantastic melodic leads that would have one reminiscing the older days of melodic death metal, the power metal passages led by the vocalists strong, if somewhat unorthodox voice, or the symphonic elements which give the band a whole other side to play around with. Unfortunately, this can get a bit overbearing sometimes, but after a few listens you get used to the odd changes in the music and can appreciate it for what it is while still finding small little nuances which you probably didn’t notice the first listen or so.
With such a varied and hard to follow album you need a great opener to really get you interested, and did Moonlyght deliver" You bet they did. Fantasy is an epic crescendo of varied emotions and wonderfully driven riffs. It opens with a soothing woman singing over epic chanting in the background, the vocalists heavily accented voice and somewhat harsh voice comes in afterwards, contrasting hers brilliantly. The song smashes into a mid-tempo masterpiece of melody and controlled aggression soon after, where the singer’s more impressive black metal rasps begin to dominate, and already you’re immersed in the rich atmosphere Moonlyght have created. The song goes back and forth from folk/power metal to gripping black metal, and they pull it off effortlessly. Just as the song seems to end it arises with a beautiful melodic interchange between the guitarists, with the bassist giving it an undeniable groove, and then as they get more aggressive and the song seems to be getting ready to fly out of control it ends rather abruptly, and you need to just sit back and appreciate the genius that has already been put on display.
You don’t get long to rest though, as when the next song, ‘The Sceptic Traveller’ begins you know you’re in for one hell of a ride. Here the symphonic elements come into play, with a truly epic opening, but it also displays Moonlyght’s uncanny ability to slow their music down with an acoustic break while still keeping it sounding like the same song, and when you have such a bombastic start, that isn’t easy to pull off. Here is where I think you will be reminded of Disillusion
the most, for a moment, it’s almost uncannily similar, but then you are forced out of your trance by the tormented screams of the vocalist and we’re back to the bombastic epic power/black metal we were at earlier. Every song has moments like these, just as you think you are figuring the band out they throw a new element of their music at you, and eventually you just submit, realising that this album is simply not going to let you predict what is going to happen next.
We’re so far into the review yet I haven’t even begun describing how technically talented these guys are, which is a crime, because each member contributes in an accomplished way that is hard to imagine from such young lads. The bass is very audible, which is a tad strange, considering the fact that you could argue this album is very black metal influenced, yet among all the acoustic breaks and soft parts of the album, it just fits. The drumming is very technical at times, yet never overly quick or too slow, for most of the album it is pretty mid-tempo, with several aggressive moments where it will get much quicker, and although it is pretty hard to focus on the drumming when so much is going on around it, he is quite clearly talented, which you will mostly notice at the beginning of the songs, especially ‘Ride On Ice Storms’. The band’s biggest assets and selling point are the guitars on the album, which sound phenomenal throughout, be it when they are playing a slow acoustic melody or when they are ripping away at your senses alongside the screams of the vocalist, they play both technical and memorable riffs which helps tenfold when you are playing such complex song structures.
Now, the vocals can be a bit hit and miss, his black metal screams are good, great even, if a little monotonous, but his clean vocals are both great and bad. At the beginning of Fantasy, they sound brilliant, and it’s the contrast with the female singer’s beautiful voice which makes them so, but at other times in the album they just don’t sound that good, and a little forced, maybe that’s down to his inexperience with handling both styles or just a general lack of confidence with his cleans I can’t make out, but it is only a small problem in a great album, and for the most part, they sound fine! The lyrics are another matter all together, and I’m not going to go into too much detail with them, but they are a bit too clichéd power metal for me, and there is very little variation.
Progressive Darkness is a wonderful album, but the band’s inexperience is obvious at points, where they seem to either miss out on an opportunity to seriously blow the listener away or just try too hard to incorporate a lot of things in either too early or too late. But, when they get it right, it is simply stunning, and ‘The Autumn’s Freezing Harmony’ is an example of this, where a wonderfully emotional and epic opening leads to a beautiful piano break with a violin line over the top, that is the epitome of perfection, and the rest of the song does not disappoint, being a wonderfully paced and slightly less forced level of epic from the rest of the album. After this slower song from the band, they kick straight back into usual form with the next song, ‘From Honour to Nothingness’, these two songs mark the peak of the album so far, and for the first time show what the band can do if they really, and I mean really, focus on the flow of the songs. From this you might think that the first few songs were badly put together and all over the place, and that is far from the truth, but when you compare them to these two, they seem
like they are, and are almost bad in comparison! ‘From Honour to Nothingness’ is pretty much a straight up melodic death metal song, just with a whole bunch of influences from the rest of the album, the folky playing around of ‘Fantasy‘, the epic symphonics of ‘The Sceptic Traveller’ and the emotionally driven keyboard work on ‘Ride On Ice Storms’.
After such a brilliant pairing of songs, you’d think that the band would have a hard time of following it up. In response to this, Moonlyght placed the title track at the end of the album, and longest, at a modest eleven minutes. ‘Progressive Darkness’ is a wonderful song. It really is. It features everything you have heard so far, but more streamlined, more focused and more powerful. The female vocalist returns, the violin plays part, the synths come in at perfect times and the vocals seem more heartfelt than ever. Here the band are at their most menacing, their most progressive, their most beautiful and yet being their most compact. Somehow, Moonlyght managed to make a song that overshadows the rest of the album while being less… well, dramatic!
So, how do you best describe Progressive Darkness, well, I don’t think anyone will ever be able to truly put into words what this band plays. But they have something special, that’s for certain, even if the first half of the album is somewhat disjointed, it excels at being unique, and when the band have really get into rhythm with the last three songs, you need to just sit back and appreciate what they’ve managed here with their debut album. Although their second album will be the band’s swansong, it will hopefully finish where this one started, and further cement this band as one of the most under-appreciated in the industry.
That flame is dead, my eyes are dead, watch this forever, my fear and love, the coming days of progressive darkness.