Majestic, symphonic BM with a touch of medieval-style dungeon/winter synth!
Synthesized orchestrations have been infused with black metal for decades now, creating a sub-genre of technical and theatrical metal known as symphonic black metal. Now, I'll be the first to admit that with the exception of a few bands, this sub-genre hasn't really been my thing. However, after a renewed interest in dungeon synth and winter synth, I've come to appreciate the genre more than ever.
That brings me to Moon And Azure Shadow, a one-man Black Metal project that mightily imbues the dungeon, winter, and medieval synth style into his unique brand of gothic-infused black metal. The result is an incredible album of epic song lengths and robust symphonic pleasure known as 'Age Of Darkness And Frost'. Consisting of three lengthy tracks that contain a hefty dose of black metal with a wide variety of other sounds, and four tracks of classical synth-style compositions, 'Age Of Darkness And Frost' is a surprisingly exceptional album that is sure to make a few "Top 10" list for 2019.
The breathtaking album opener, "Across Dark Landscapes" makes it grand entrance with an enormous symphonic auditory effect. There are so many imposing sounds on this track, it almost as if it could be used for an expeditious sequence in a movie. The cinematic quality is incredible and hearing this, I imagine a group of nomadic travelers, traversing a snowy mountain summit in search of a new place to secure as their home. As the climax of the music winds down, a beautiful piano melody can be heard, taking us to the end of this triumphant song. The next track - and first long track on the album - is the title track, "Age Of Darkness And Frost". At almost nine minutes long, this wondrous endeavor features elements of medieval synth, gothic sounds, and very impressive symphonic black metal. Starting with another cinematic opening, it soon embraces the sound of a slow-tempo gothic anthem. The black metal-style vocals kick in and take this track to new heights. After a short melodic interlude, heavier & faster black metal rhythms take center stage and even include a section of blast beats over a canorous guitar and keyboard riff.
The following track, "Black Winged Gates Of Destiny Descend" is another short respite between longer tracks but it's no filler by any means. Theatrically, this song is monstrous and contains some chilling keyboard tones that are equally catchy. "Abyssic Lunar Tower" is the longest track on the album at seventeen and a half minutes long. The opening keyboard riff is like an addictive dirge that has a considerable sound and is soon joined by a sequenced drum beat that really sounds incredible. After a few minutes, an acoustic guitar plays a simple riff before an early-era Emperor-style Black metal riff unloads in the audial senses and makes this track even more pummeling. The riff at the six minute and twenty second mark is one of the best I've heard in many years and is one of the most brutal sounds on the album. At around the eleven minute mark, the song winds down to an eerie winter synth sound with a thunderstorm soundscape augmenting the ambient space in the background. A slower black metal riff soon takes over and plays out to the end of this majestic track.
Next is "Through The Channelling Of Souls", and with its medieval synth sound, provides a powerful statement with regards to the elements of nature and the darkness that conceives it. At almost eleven minutes long, "Unholy Vanquishing" begins with a ceremonious keyboard track, as if a group of warriors are preparing for a long battle in the icy cold north. Soon after, a gothic-like Black metal riff takes over and has a wonderful - but sorrowful - sound, like early Hecate Enthroned songs. This track also features some mighty voice narrations, adding yet another great element to this album. The last couple of minutes of this song is a great mix of slow-tempo black metal and dungeon synth and the vocals once again shine throughout.
The final track, "Passage Through Time And Cold" features an excellent piano arrangement with some symphonic keys to add additional layers. The tone throughout this track is very melancholic and ghostly and is the perfect way to end such an amazing album. The last couple of minutes turns into an ambient soundscape with a scene of a snowy ridge and a traveler making his way to a nearby destination.
Listening to 'Age Of Darkness And Frost' has turned out to be such a pleasurable experience. Within a few months, I've gone from never hearing of Moon And Azure Shadow to including this album on my Top 10 metal albums of 2019. I highly recommend checking out this album right away!
Recommended for fans of: Early Emperor, Hecate Enthroned, Winter synth music