Friday, October 24, 2008

Review: Moonshine - Songs of Requiem (2006)

Moonshine [ MySpace ]
Songs of Requiem

Quite some time ago Songs of Requiem, the sophomore release from South Korea's Moonshine, made its way to me and for reasons unknown got lost in the shuffle. With my recent move to Kentucky, many such things that had been lost have now been found. While I am disappointed at having missed reviewing this disc when it first arrived, I'm nevertheless grateful for having uncovered it because it is a very enjoyable Gothic/Doom album.

Metal bands from South Korea are few and far between, though I imagine they are still more numerous than bands of any genre from North Korea. Seoul's Moonshine formed in the mid-1990s as a two-man gore/grind outfit going by the name Deathrasher. A well-advised name change also saw the duo adopt a much more melodic and symphonic style of extreme metal. Expanding their ranks to include session musicians on bass and keyboards, Amon (vocals, guitars) and Giga (drums) released their debut full-length in 2001. Five years later came Songs of Requiem, an album brimming with dark imagery and lush atmosphere.

An epic piano-driven intro, sounding like something off of a Trans-Siberian Orchestra album, sets the stage for the experience to come. "The Other Side (of Me)" opens the album proper with frantic blast-beats and furious Black metal riffs and is one of the speediest tracks on Songs of Requiem. As fast-paced as it is, the song nevertheless manages to blend in melodic keyboard riffs to offset Amon's growls and tortured shrieks. Such is Moonshine's core formula - ferocity tempered by melody. Every track blends various metallic elements without losing sense of harmony or intensity. Keyboards are used heavily throughout, but they are well-placed and never distract from the other instruments. Classic metal riffs are also to be heard in abundance, adding yet another level of interest to Moonshine's music. Amon's vocal style is primarily a quite phlegm-y growl which works well to make the lyrics comprehendible, though at times he does adopt a menacing baritone.

Listening to Songs of Requiem I am reminded a lot of early Amorphis. While certainly not cloning the Finns, Amon and Gira possess a similar ability to craft well-structured songs that draw on a variety of influences. Their skill is most evident in the fact that none of the songs on the album sound repetitive or monotonous. All are enjoyable listens, though the brooding "The Song of Retrospect" comes off a little forced - like the band was just going through the motions. Another song that manages to stand apart, but for more positive reasons, is "Dying Agony". This track has a very '80s Goth-wave sound to it, yet it remains distinctly metal due to Amon's growls and crunchy riffs. He also tosses in a couple of brief old-school solos for good measure. Definitely a highlight of the disc.

From start to finish, for the most part, Songs of Requiem is an album of interesting and enjoyable Gothic metal that will appeal to a wide audience. Recommended.

Track Listing
1 Ouvrir La Porte 2:03
2 The Other Side (of Me) 5:33
3 Hallucinating With Shadows 5:18
4 The Ghost Who Mourns 5:25
5 Endless Fall 4:59
6 Domesticated Creatures 4:15
7 The Song of Retrospect 6:01
8 Dying In Agony 5:35
9 Nocturnal Halls 1:53
10 Lady In Black 5:02
11 The Memorable Tide (Remixed) [bonus] 4:58
Total Runtime 51:02

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