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On MA, AOC is called “Epic-Archaic” metal. At first glance it resembles Black Metal in most things. Actually, I would personally classify it as Black Metal, or more correctly, Avant-Garde Black Metal, although what most people would classify as “Avant-Garde” is not what you would hear here. Lunar Reign on the other hand is more clearly, Black Metal.
On the AOC side, it starts with what made me realize this was going to be different. A Black metal Style Talk of Hatred against Christianity and Its Children, but with the oddest keyboard/guitar tone under it. This flows exactly into what would seem to be a “normal” black metal style song, but you soon understand that it is not. The way the music is “Different” is hard to explain unless you actually listen to the music. The structure is a bit different, the feeling is different, but it’s not different enough where it’s too Avant-Garde and “weird”. One of the main differences I recognize in this album is the bass. It’s very high in the mix, and jumps all over the place in the songs. It’s not chaotic, but more like jazz. Its fits perfectly, but makes very little sense musically sometimes. Oddly, the entire instruments jump around in almost “folk” like intervals, and it creates almost an epic feel, although it falls short on some of the Epic stuff I’m used too. I didn’t recognize it at first, but tracks 2 and 3 have no vocals in them; they have so much stuff happening in them that they don’t need Vocals. The next track has vocals, and is the “demo” version. It’s interesting, and has a cool flute that is in it. Personally, it’s the best track on the album.
Lunar Reign is a good band from AOC to do a split with. Most of the music is standard black metal, The vocals in the first track have this weird “spacey” effect on them. (Along with straight vocals). They remind me of a small section in the Dissection song, “Where dead angles lie”. It makes for an interesting listen. Personally, the Lunar Reign Side could do much better if it was an Ep by itself, as the AOC side totally outweighs this, because you feel it’s not as good as AOC and you want to go back and listen to their side.
Overall, this is a rather interesting split, and I would think most fans of black metal would enjoy this.
There is something about local artists that makes them seem particularly unique (though perhaps disingenuously so). Perhaps it's the proximity one has to them, forcing you to examine their work in a closer fashion. Surely it's one simply a matter of all bands being unique and special snowflakes; a cursory glance at Nuclear Blast's catalog can prove that to anyone. Either way, I find myself more intrigued by local artists than I am at those with international exposure. Yes, part of it is certainly due to a personal connection to a few of them, but at the same time I'd like to think that perhaps these smaller artists are more willing to experiment when a paycheck is anything but confirmed.
Here we have a release between two small local bands: AOC, labeled by creator Cid as 'Archaic Metal', and Lunar Reign, a rather unusual breed of black metal. Placement of the artists seems distinctly questionable: AOC's side begins and composes over two thirds of the material on this CDr, and in a rather savage act of overshadowing leaves Lunar Reign looking rather frail in the wind. Lunar Reign isn't entirely without teeth; but after the incredibly multifaceted work of AOC, it's extremely difficult to compete for them. Over a half hour of music is present here, and it comes off seeming like an AOC demo with a few bonus tracks from 'that other band'.
After a brief intro culled from the film 'Midnight Express', AOC's side kicks off with 'Full Moon Ashes', the shortest track on his side at a mere four and a half minutes. Immediately, one can hear the trademarks of AOC's music: melody with well-defined space and low repetition, presenting emotion and atmosphere but with a distinctively metallic propulsion. One could almost describe this music as resembling Summoning in a certain regard, where one can theoretically describe it as 'black metal', but upon further examination possesses only a trace of such music in aesthetics. Indeed, AOC seems to have more respect for his metal heritage than Summoning, and makes no attempt to hide it. The music is lush and spacious, and has a vivid, mystical atmosphere, like gliding serenely through solar systems in deep space. It is both aggressive and tranquil.'
The eleven-minute epic of Naglfar is next, which drifts through its nautical sounds in numerous distinct movements, displaying a clearly high level of compositional artistry. But perhaps the best track is the one that throws a great deal of its careful construction to the wind in favor of raw emotion: 'Mightiest Under The Moon'. Recorded at a different time with somewhat lower quality, it is the only track with vocals and stands head and shoulders above the rest. Cid's vocals ring out in a unique screech that resonates with both passion and ferocity. The subtleties of previous tracks are present, such as the recurring flute in one of the central melodies, but by far the most captivating aspects of it are those of savage howls and spiraling guitar lines directed towards the constellations above us. And so concludes a magnificent side by AOC, proving that in the eternal battle of art versus entertainment, the former will always triumph over the latter.
Lunar Reign fares not as well. I'd really go as far to say that their flaws are mostly position-based: putting them after AOC was a pretty piss-poor decision when it comes to logistics on a lot of levels. However, for those with the patience for something more standard after AOC's progressive onslaught will likely be pleased with what they hear. Despite being more conventional than AOC, one could still firmly plant Lunar Reign in the 'unorthodox' category. Lunar Reign play a spacey, slightly gothic in places, moderately technical variety of black metal with no particularly distinct influences from any major artists. Perhaps one of the biggest problems of this side is the production: the vocals and keys are pushed very far into the front, and the riffs are frequently difficult to distinguish; this is rather troubling as the music is distinctly guitar-based, and the riffs are often unusual and interesting.
However, such distinctions don't make the tracks easily distinguishable. The patterns of the tracks are very similar to each other, particularly in the arrhythmic vocals and rather repetitive drumming. Not to say that Lunar Reign's side is poor in any respect: just rather uninteresting and easily overshadowed by their chronological predecessor. I'd still recommend this split as a purchase, despite the relative weakness of the second side. Just keep such factors in mind before one springs to say "Keep your fork- there's PIE!"