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Moongod - 88%

theBlackHull, February 16th, 2013

Moongod was released quietly at the end of 2012 on Galy Records. This is the second opus from Quebec City’s Aeternam, whose previous album Disciples of the Unseen has been supported by none other than the heavyweight Metal Blade Records machine. With the change of label came a change of line-up, but despite the turbulences Ashraf Loudiy (vocals, guitars) and Antoine Guertin (drums, vocals, sampling) nonetheless pulled one of the best Canadian metal albums of 2012.

If The Prince of Egypt movie soundtrack had been composed by Kataklysm or Borknagar, I’m sure it would have sounded like Moongod. In my opinion, it is a great gem but an alien style to Canada. Its rich symphonic arrangements and middle-eastern topics are directly pointing to the international community (and market) of archeological diggers such as Arkan, Nile, or Melechesh, although Moongod will without a doubt find its own niche in the heart of our Great White North metalheads. Kudos here to the excellent artwork designed by artist Pascal Laquerre (Kataklysm, Eclipse, Merciless Terror) that will draw additional attention with its occult ancient civilization references.

Like many ‘symphonic’ metal albums, keyboards and programming are predominant on Moongod, without overwhelming any of the other instruments. The drum is ultra polished, offering the essential bass drum and snare skeleton to the overall composition, and leaving all cymbals far away in the mix. Guitars are central to the structures (take for example “Rise of Arabia”), and as heavy as any of your favorite metal band. While having a strong rhythm section and relatively straightforward riffs for a death metal band, the guitar arrangements alone are rather sober, thus cleverly leaving a lot of place to vocals and sampling (same technique as Novembers Doom, for example). We find a few original solos worth mentioning, such as on the songs “Cosmogony”, “Idol of the Sun” and “Xibalba”, but the real lead section is driven by an impressive range of vocals (death growl, clean and choirs) and programming. These elements are so important that mid-way through the album we find a vocal-and-percussion song called “Iram of the Pillars” where a horde of Egyptian Quebecers gathered in the studio to add to the atmosphere.

The ‘symphonic metal’ tag of Aeternam comes from the layers of arrangements and vocals, as mentioned earlier, a technique that gives a lot of melody and makes it highly accessible. This is why I got hooked the first time I spinned Moongod, and the reason why it will be enjoyed by all types of audiences. Highly recommended.

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