Thursday 10 December 2015

Moon Curse - Spirit Remains (Album Review)

Release date: November 27 2015. Label: Kozmik Artifactz/Bilocation Records. Formats: CD/DD/Vinyl

Spirit Remains – Tracklisting

1. Beneath The Waves 7:03
2. Electric Veins 10:55
3. Lord Of Memories 11:27
4. Vicious Sky 5:04
5. Witches Handbook 7:57

Band Members:

Matt Leece - guitar & vocals
Rochelle Nason - bass
Keith Stendler – drums


The ability to tickle nucleus accumbens in the brain and create vivid imagery flashing around in the mind is music’s finest modus operandi. Occasionally you come across an album that holds promise of both dark and light, beauty and ugly, that contains such vibrant soundscapes unfolding at your feet, as the ear is occupied transmitting, the mind is busy covering vast landscapes of snow-capped forests, deep fjords, barren sun-scorched grasslands, dark dungeons and green meadows. This is such travelogues of the mind that Moon Curse newest opus Spirit Remains’ omits upon hitting play.

The doom-trio from Milwaukee with their sophomore release has outdone their fine self-titled debut from 2012 on so many levels. The production is better, brighter more defined, the riffs are bigger, the atmospheres are deeper, the rhythm section tighter and the vocals even better. The six songs on this stoner-doom-rock behemoth blends together in epic manner all the best these genres have to offer, from classic riff-virtues of the early 70s heavy rock to the tar-dipped slow metallic grooves of later-days doom giants spiced up with stretches of higher tempo flat-out doomy stoner rock. Despite the lengthiness of most of the songs on the album, they never feel drawn-out nor being long just for the sake of length – there is never a dull moment and in the company of the cursed lunarians 11+ minutes passes by with the blink of an eye.

Moon Curse starts the ballet on a quite note with a short mellow intro before the court is in session and melodic guitar lines, monolithic drumming and slow low-end bass rumblings take over the agenda. On the album opener, the listener will soon find oneself beneath heavy waves of slow crushing stoner doom, carrying you from one big splash to another. Lifting you high atop the wave’s crest of shimmering white light guitar flares just to plunge you deep down the dark water’s caverns buried below layers of layers of dark distorted basses and finally washed ashore beaten bruised by the shear heaviness at sea, yet still feeling light, cleansed and craving for another sweep of the lunar tides. In some strange way I am reminded of Mastodon’s epic Leviathan album with regard to scope and magnificent glorifications of the sea mostly due to the eerie atmosphere and feel of the song rather than composition or pace as Moon Curse plays ball in a total different court than Mastodon. An all-out grandiose track and they are barely getting started.

Beneath The Waves blends perfectly over into the next musical journey that picks up the stranded seaman and gently leads him up the beach of some distant eastern country to the sweet tones of oriental sounds of strings and flutes. Slowly leading our traveller to follow the electric veins. This track is a slow-burner of snail-paced twisting and turning riffs intertwined with eastern sounding noises, giving this track a warmth and the feeling of melting in the rays of a mad moon. This underpinned by the distorted vocals and frantic mood of the singing that really suites the overall feel. There is really nothing to remark on the musicianship, everything is performed dead-on and with an impeccable sense for co-work and interplay, and it becomes quite evident how much effort, blood and sweat that has been put into the making of this album.

Third track continues the good virtues from the two preceding songs but also utilizes of a persistent Uncle Acid like groove and melodic swagger that bobs and bounces with easy and excellence making it impossible not to nod along as the ‘Lord Of Memories’ takes you further and further into a bewildered acidic dreamlike state of doom rock excess. Despite a runtime far beyond the 10-minute mark at no time this songs seams either pointless nor boring, in fact this listener is on the edge of the seat with anticipation for what lurks around each next corner of these dark meandering musical embroideries. The songs is slowly brought to a hold with 2 minutes of acoustic ice cold beauty where Matt Leece gently chants: “Somewhere there’s behind the quite lines, the one with troubled minds, don’t turn your back, waisted we are what’s left tonight, twist your rusty knifes into his back, too late to say you and me are true, spirit remains, spirit remains, spirit remains…” Lucid visions of a fog-clouded bog immediately emerges on the retina and you can almost feel the blade between your spines as the sounds from the final stoke of the strings die out.

Slowly fading-in from the previous track ‘Vicious Sky’ kicks off from 0-100 m/hour in seconds and turns everything over with killer chugging riffs, subersized distorted bass-lines and crashing drums. This song sees Moon Curse in familiar territories bringing back all the elements I loved from their self-titled debut, but adding an even more lethal EW-vibe further materialized in Matt’s eminent voice that perfectly matches the heavy madness going on in this track. What strikes me on this album is how well he is capably to change the tone and phrasing throughout the different songs to match the various expressions going from softly chant-like singing to full-fletch dungeon deep wailing (always straying from simply screaming/roaring). Thus he and the rest of the band continuously trickles your ear canals as you stare at the evil moon hanging low on the vicious night sky.

Last serving cooked up by the bewitched mooners is ‘Witches Handbook’, and indeed this is the ABC on how to construct and execute a slow-burning doom rock monster brew. This is the near perfect re-interpretation of the iconic ‘Black Sabbath’ song by said band, but importantly without being plagiarism. This is stand-out brilliant. Well-done Moon Curse, bloody perfect. Especially the guitar tone is so damn thick, sick and intoxicating, you can almost feel the strings vibrate from each stroke on the axe. The song ends on a high-note where everything is driven to an end in a fast pace followed by soaring guitar leads and the crashing of drums. Upon yet another finished listen, feeling replenished and ready to go over the moon again. I urge you to check out this awesome album ASAP and preferable to also pick up the vinyl from German label Kozmik Artifactz/Bilocation Records.

Words by Niels Fuzz Bartholdy

Thanks to Kozmik Artifactz/Bilocation Records for the promo. Spirit Remains is available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl now.


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