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Echoes from the synth dungeon - 76%

Cosmic Mystery, August 9th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, 12" vinyl, Nuclear War Now! Productions

Truly captivating, inspirational, dreamy, nostalgic and intimidating are the words best associated with Moenen of Xezbeth’s 2018 debut full-length release titled, Ancient Spells of Darkness. Another band of extremely valuable talent is brought into existence, to ride and give a new and refreshing audible anatomy to black metal. The artwork for Ancient Spells of Darkness drew me in at first glance, it reeked of the primitivism that black metal once held dear and cherished almost as if approaching extinction. Baring much resemblance to artwork one would find on a Bathory or even Burzum album cover, my interest was peaked and therefore helplessly lured in by this ancient spell of darkness.

Having the inclusion of synthesizers on every track created an atmosphere that felt as though you were imprisoned in a medieval dungeon. The synths are excellently used to express and reinforce the sinister vibe of the compositions. Moenen of Xezbeth’s pacing on the record is fabulous, sharing a variety of ranges and tones, most songs exhibit groove and showcase a steady emphasis on guitar and synth harmony. Many black metal bands have begun to embrace the slower doomy side of music, thus helping their sound and compositions achieve a greater deal of immersion. One good example would be “Into the Black Mist”; it is perhaps the most memorable track on the album due to the arrangements of the keyboard synth and the depth at which it is felt. That fantasy effect you get as though you’re playing a board game such as Dungeonquest or Talisman is produced outstandingly on Ancient Spells of Darkness. The guitars are played cautiously as to not eliminate the dark atmosphere created by the keyboard synth. They play along steadily and even give the synth lead for a vast portion of the album. I can’t recall ever hearing keyboard driven synth used this effectively by many black metal bands apart from Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse and Ancient’s (Norway) The Cainian Chronicle. It comes as a great surprise to be able to measure Moenen of Xezbeth’s musical immersion to two notorious black metal bands. This tells me the underground black metal scene is in the claws of more than capable and dedicated musicians.

The drumming on Ancient Spells of Darkness acts as a complimenting force to the rest of the instrumentation. It ensures the steady pace is not disrupted by keeping things fairly simple all the while providing small changes in patterns. It evokes a trance-like effect, though played heavily, it is consummate in lending stupor to the listener. The music on Ancient Spells of Darkness does introduce more energetic moments on some tracks via a quicker rate of playing; such can be heard on the title track and Obscured by Lunar Rites. Ancient Spells of Darkness has a unique vocal styling which can be compared to someone speaking during the consumption of an overwhelmingly bitter beverage, which in effect causes him/her to make screwed/twisted facial expressions.

An overwhelming mystique is prevalent on Ancient Spells of Darkness, you can identify that element in the picturesque album cover artwork. The painting matches the mood of the music, thus aiding in the completion of the packaging. Much chatter has been surrounding Moenen of Xezbeth since the sampling of their demo material was made possible. I can definitely understand why so much babbling is taking place after giving this brief ritual a thorough listening session.

Favorite Tracks:
“Into The Black Mist”
“Oath of Malignancy”
“Ancient Spells of Darkness”

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