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In the winter months of 1996, right after the release of their first full-length, Gaamalzagoth and Occulta Mors returned to their grim and morbid rehearsal space to record another collection of songs. After a couple of rather disappointing rehearsal tapes, Rehearsal 7 sees the return of the true Moonblood spirit and is the best one since Rehearsal 4. Even without the addition of the older songs, there is a good deal of new material on offer.
The production is much better than Rehearsal 6, with the vocals actually being audible and the guitars and bass being fairly easy to detect. The guitar melodies are much more perceptible and easy to follow than on the last tape, certainly. The drums are in the background, where they belong, but definitely able to be heard and not just trailing off as in some of the other recordings. The overall sound is rather harsh and raw, with a lot of treble. In some ways, it can almost be like a torture in that one must turn the volume up to better hear yet this also makes the experience more painful. However, it is not to any extreme degree, so it is quite tolerable.
As for the music, there are a handful of re-recordings of older songs, here. "Under the Cold Snow", for example, is a bit shorter but somehow more fully developed this time around. The feeling is a little darker than before, though still not as abysmal as some of the other tracks. Perhaps, in reconnecting with these earlier songs, Moonblood managed to once again capture the old feeling that had been slipping with some of the other rehearsal tapes. To anyone new to the band, you will notice that Darkthrone and Bathory are among their main inspirations, and still they manage to create a feeling that is unique and special. There is something about the guitar melodies that seem to hearken back to an earlier age, before the filth of Christianity invaded and polluted Europe and began to destroy its people from within. Gaamalzagoth's vocals are utterly consumed with hatred, as heard best on "The Black War". His voice is very intense and does well to add an aggressive edge to the sometimes sombre and eerie riffs of Occulta Mors. The epic parts are still present, such as with the clean guitars and mid-paced riffs of "In the Forest of a Red Water" and "Glorious Days are not Forgotten". The songwriting of the former is quite dynamic for this massive track, consisting of parts that seem inspired by Viking-era Bathory (and almost more appropriate for Nachtfalke) as well as faster riffs. Throughout the various tempo changes, the atmosphere remains the same and there is a dreary feeling to this. Despite the inhuman screams, pounding drums and fast-picked riffs, it does not seem aggressive but rather hopeless and mournful in a subtle way. The latter contrasts this, being a little more uplifting and medieval in a way. This still fits in, in a strange manner, but not as one might imagine. black metal purists may have more appreciation for a straightforward song like "The Immortality of My Dreams and Visions", which is the most minimalist track on here. It possesses a cold and melancholic feeling and sort of fits the Transilvanian Hunger mold in its overall approach. "Fullmoon Witchery" is similar, and is my favourite song on this tape, featuring very memorable and hypnotic tremolo melodies that will definitely have you returning for repeated listens. Simplicity is not always the best way, but more direct songs such as these manage to capture the purest essence of Moonblood, as it has always been these faster riffs where their songwriting talent shines the most and do well to imbue you with morbid feelings. Re-recordings of "The Awakening of the Serpent" and "Damned Christians" also take you deeper into this grim, as the atmosphere darkens and becomes much more dangerous. The only unfortunate thing is that these songs sounded fine the first time around, so there was no great necessity in revisiting them. A song such as "Nosferatu", however, was the victim of an incredibly terrible sound both times and would have really benefited much more. Though that classic may have been lacking, the trademark eerie vibe that Occulta Mors is known for is very much present in the haunting melodies of the final track, "A Fortress of Your Dreams".
Any band that recorded as much and often as Moonblood is likely to miss the mark every now and then, as evidenced by the previous couple of rehearsals. With Rehearsal 7, they proved that they still possessed the same brilliance and inspiration to create raw and dark black metal as it should be and to take the listener to a world beyond this pathetic modern age. Even the weakest songs here are better than most of those found on Rehearsal 6. Thankfully, that was just a misstep, rather than the beginning of a true decline. The new songs on here, as well as the re-recordings, are cohesive and maintain the same black feeling throughout the entirety of the tape. All Moonblood fans are encouraged to seek this material out, if you have not done so already.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com