Friday, January 11, 2008

Review: Lightless Moor - Renewal (2006)

Lightless Moor [ MySpace ]

Renewal is the debut EP from Italian Gothic Metal outfit Lightless Moor. Formed in 2001 in Cagliari on the island of Sardinia, the band is heavily influenced by the "Beauty and the Beast" style of metal made popular by bands like Theatre of Tragedy and The Gathering. The influences are so apparent, in fact, that it's easy to categorize Lightless Moor as little more than a copycat band. A close listen, however, reveals subtle differences that could work to separate the Italians from their predecessors as Lightless Moor continues to evolve. For example, Ilaria Falchi's operatic vocals dominate each song, with guitarist Frederico Mura's growls used in more of a supporting role. Additionally, Giovanni Mancosu frequently works in some progressively styled keyboard passages to compliment the traditional piano melodies and eerie orchestrations.

The differences from and similarities to more notable Gothic Doom/Death acts aside, the members of Lightless Moor display a solid understanding of the sound they're after. All of the tracks on Renewal are relatively mid-paced, with aptly placed tempo shifts and mood swings. The production is so-so, which can be forgiven in light of the band's indie status and lack of recording history. The unfortunate side effect is that many subtleties are buried beneath the muck. Toward the end of the first track, for instance, Falchi engages in a duet with Mura as he cleanly sings his part, but his voice is barely discernible. Roberto Mura's bass pops in on occasion, but for the most part lies unheard deep beneath the surface. The real tragedy, however, is the effect the weak production has on Matteo Rampi's performance behind the kit. The snare sounds absolutely flat, and frequently so too does the crash, but the double bass is the worst, sounding as if he's strapped pillows to the mallets.

Given the emphasis placed on Falchi's vocals, I was disappointed in her overall performance. She's certainly a second tier metal singer, but still struggles in the higher end of her range - sometimes overreaching a bit more than she should. That being said, her style is not overly operatic nor is it too coarse, but is a good fit for this genre. One of her better performances is on the ballad "Renewal" as she sings with a bit of a classical, almost medieval cadence. With a bit more work, I can see her rising up to be counted among some of the more elite Gothic Metal vocalists.

Nothing about Renewal really stands out, other than the potential for Lightless Moor to develop into a stronger Gothic Metal outfit. To do so they'll have to continue to break away from the comfort of regurgitating the work of earlier bands and risk a bit of originality and experimentation. Gothic Metal completists will probably want to get their hands on this EP, but casual fans should wait to see where Lightless Moor goes next.

Track Listing
1 Lightless Moor 7:20
2 Be My Key 5:29
3 Castaway of Changing 6:42
4 L'Anima e il Cantro (The Ballad of the Lost Lover) 6:34
5 Renewal 1:53
Total Runtime 27:58

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