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The debut full-length album that started it all for Norwegian band Aeternus, Beyond the Wandering Moon. It's revered as a classic black metal album still to this day despite having been released over a decade ago, but has it aged well in that time frame and what made it such a monumental record in the first place?
Many things come to mind when the term black metal is brought up; corpse paint, forests, winter, snow, blood, goats, satanic paraphernalia, and darkness. It's rare to find any black metal group that can sing about winter and not have it sound cheesy or over the top, but compelling story telling is one thing that Aeternus have mastered. Beyond the Wandering Moon is a piece that has to be looked at in depth and given an attentive listen, as the story found within does wonders for the content at hand. Epic tales of winter are the subject of every track and they come to life in the imagination easily. This release also marks the introduction of Morrigan, a female entry into the ranks of Aeternus who took over the jobs of at long last adding bass to the material and the keyboards.
The instruments themselves can become monotonous every now and then when the tempo changes become scarce and the tracks seem to blend into one another, but there are a good range of patterns and beats impaled along the composures that show an infusion of both black and death metal elements. There are also a lot of Celtic influenced melodies just like in Dark Sorcery; an EP released by Aeternus in 1995. "Sworn Revenge" has a definite pagan feel to it just by the composure of the song and the more pronounced acoustic segments, and these segments are randomly sprinkled throughout the material. Ares' vocals aren't as deathly as they were in Dark Sorcery either, but he still has his own compelling manner of narrating a story and keeps the listeners attention on the tale at hand.
"Sworn Revenge", "Sentinels of Darkness", "Waiting for the Storms" and "Winter Tale" are some of the best songs from Beyond the Wandering Moon, having a variety of elements that makes each one unique. "Sworn Revenge" and "Sentinels of Darkness" have the most pagan feel to the instruments, and the latter is the most bass heavy song in the entire album. The vocals are also well done and melodic. "Waiting for the Storms" is just a dark and powerful track, while it lacks the Nordic vibe to the instruments the lyrics tell a completely different story that centers around a god of storms. "Winter Tale" is overall the darkest track listed and is one of the only ones where the keyboards come to an effective use and the entire song is slow, desolate and eerie; from the acoustic diminished chords at the beginning, through the chugging drone of the rest of the bass heavy song.
Beyond the Wandering Moon has barely stood the test of time when stacked up against other Aeternus releases but it is a good and memorable debut effort. Cold, desolate, daunting, everything black metal should be. There is a good use of atmosphere and a brilliant infusion of pagan influence, which would have been ground breaking for its time. Whether you're just getting to know about black metal or you've been a long time enthusiast, give this album a listen and you won't regret it. But just know, there are better releases by this band out there now.
- Villi Thorne
Aeternus' debut album saw the light (or probably the dark) back in 1997. Aeternus had been on my want-list for years and at last I got this at the end of 2002. This is the diary of the process that I went through with 'Beyond the Wandering Moon'.
The CD arrived and I inserted it into my CD player as fast as possible: This is what I'd been waiting for so long... Well, the cover looks okay, but the booklet is kind of boring. But hey, it is the music that matters! Eerie piano intro 'Under the Blade of the Dead' began to play and I simply forwarded to the next song. 'Sworn Revenge' surprised with its fast tempo. Oh, another black metal album from Norway, then... But the song has a lot of parts and different musical stuff. Surprisingly heavy album, but still individual sound. And those Celtic melodies! Wow!!! I continued listening to the album and doing something with my computer at the same time. The music flowed on, but it had become numbing, boring actually. And during 'Embraced' I started to forward the songs. "Oh, not so good album" was my initial opinion.
Next time: I had already put the album on my trade-list. I grabbed it one night as I started to read a book. I thought it would go nicely on the background. It did, for some time. Again it started to sound very boring. Then I thought I'm going to write this review.
Time: Now. What I have learned, once again, is that some music needs total concentration so it can linger and pollute a listener's mind. What I have found in 'Beyond the Wandering Moon' is nothing beautiful, but very dark and brutal atmospheres. Doomy heaviness, blackish touches, death metal brutality, ancient warrior spirit, folky melodies and melancholic piano work. A band that comes to my mind is Primordial (also on Hammerheart Records), but Aeternus are still individual because of their Norwegian roots. The songs are long and sometimes nothing seems to happen in the form of changes. So, partly almost transcendental, partly warlike. One just needs to let the music in, at least this worked with me. Still, it is not possible to get into the album all the time, it needs a right state of mind.
As stated, the sound is partly blackish, but it is so much heavier than usual Norwegian black metal giants usually are (or were). Some of the elements are a bit buried in the mix, but all this makes the album sound original (kind of dirty, but epic) and one can find new things after many listenings. Look at the cover and listen to the music and there is a connection, as is with the music and lyrics. The sound effects heighten the atmospheres. Who doesn't love ravens' song?!
Aeternus' debut album is full of epic and original dark metal. And that's a lot said, I think, especially in these times of clones.
(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2003)
A blizzard is conjured, a crystal sheet penetrating the darkness, glistening with strength. The strength of your ancestors, your people, as you and they become one with the Earth. You are a warrior, and you will die honourably, at peace with yourself and with your world. You will wait for the storms.
Ah, this is a beauty - one to which I can't hope to do justice with mere words. Ambient, pulsing rhythms reminiscent of a ship rocking on stormy seas. Folk-tinged melodies vary subtly against a blanket of white noise which dominates the CD. Rhythmically driven by the drums which throb broodingly in the background. Vocals aren't prominent either - deep, lengthy growls, adding an extra layer of darkness and rhythm to the music. The album closes with a reflective Celtic tune which is very aptly named "Celtic Harp Solo", having opened with an ominous piano piece. In addition, the production is excellent.
In a way similar to the very best of Burzum and Sacramentum, Aeternus succeed at disconnecting the listener and transporting them to an unexplored world with endless possibilities.
Aeternus have shifted from folk-inspired Pagan Metal to a more straightforward (albeit more brutal) Death Metal sound. I for one enjoy all of their later albums but Beyond The Wandering Moon had all the qualities of the band in perfect harmony.
From the haunting piano intro of Under The Blade Of The Dead to the celtic harp-solo of The Last Feast the band uphold a brutal yet intensly melodic sound that is complemented by piano and some sound effects.
Although the sound is very Black Metal influenced in for example the faster parts, the sound of the guitars and the vocals is so heavy you almost think your listening to Death Metal!
But then however, the band almost drowns you in a stream of beautiful celtic melodies, a perfect example is the song Sworn Revenge that litteraly takes us to all the extremes the band uses on the album. It starts out insanely fast and then turns to more slow and brooding part to eventually come out victoriously melodic.
There's simply not a bad song on this album, but I can imagine some people would have a hard time listening to the whole thing in one sitting.
Probably the band's best effort and certainly their most original one.
Listening tips are (apart rom the ones already mentioned):
White Realm (crushing speed and vocals)
Sentinels of Darkness (a folk song turned to grinding doom)
Vind (one of the "True" black metal songs)