WARMOON LORD: Burning Banners Of The Funereal War
Release year: 2019
Label: Wolfspell Records
Everything about Finnish one-man project Warmoon Lord and their (his) debut album reeks of pure, unadulterated and unashamed nostalgia. Everything. From how the digipak looks to how the music sounds, it all is so retro that the album could as well be from 1998 or 2002. It’s so well pulled off, that you could fool people into believing this is some long-forgotten album from the later years of second wave black metal. It’s kind of cool, but at the same time it feels kind of cheap.
Warmoon Lord take their name from a song by cult French black metal act Vlad Tepes, part of the infamous Les Legions Noires who were all the rage some ten, fifteen, twenty years ago, and in the same general direction is where Warmoon Lord stakes their sound. Heavy LLN elements combined with elements from both second wave Norwegian black metal and early noughties Finnish black metal (think early Satanic Warmaster), that’s Warmoon Lord for ya. It’s not exactly heavy on the originality factor.
It feels kind of odd to listen to a black metal album that panders so heavily to a middle-aged sense of nostalgia in its whole essence. This degree of pandering in itself is not alien – a genre like synthwave, or a lot of modern thrash metal, is basically based on it – but in a genre where even classic artists have sought to reinvent themselves (with varying degrees of success, one might add), it just feels somewhat discordant. Out of place.
Luckily though, Warmoon Lord do their pastiche well. In a sense, one could call their black metal a condensed version of what a lot of us who were teenagers in the late 90’s and early noughties first fell in love with. There’s a bit of that 90’s rawness, but combined with an atmospheric approach, a sort of amalgamation of different strands of second wave black metal, which takes a balanced middle road between them. It does lean heavily towards the mysteriously dark, wintry, vampyric side of things more than the rabidly blasphemous, though. More vampires and fullmoons than goats and naked nuns drinking cum n’ blood coctails, if you get my drift.
The sound is thoroughly unpolished – although to reach this degree of authenticity, I suppose one should call it extremely polished – with the classic buzzing guitars and little to no low-end. The riffs alternate between melancholic, even romantically dark melodies to shredding maelstroms of chaos, with drumming that’s fast a lot of the time, but in a distinctly primitive, organic fashion, and vocals that switch between tortured distant screams to infernal croaking. And considering the time and era Warmoon Lord deify, of course there’s a bit of synth in there too – not too much, though, because that wouldn’t do. After all, these were the times when a great many people crusaded against the use of synths in black metal, and the likes of Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth made impacts on charts with their synth-heavy metal.
There aren’t really standout tracks on what is a very solid album, but in many ways Obsessing Darkness embodies what the album is about extremely well; it starts with a riff that brings to mind Darkthrone’s classic Under A Funeral Moon album, proceeding to add some highly atmospheric synths that take the song in a direction that might evoke memories of more melodic norsecore, even the earliest recordings of Emperor. This kind of rather clever borrowing from many sources ensures that Warmoon Lord somewhat paradoxically sounds extremely familiar, but at the same time it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it reminds one of at any given time.
From another viewpoint, Warmoon Lord isn’t so much pandering to nostalgia as defiantly abandoning much of what black metal has evolved into during the last 15 years. I suppose that artistically, this would be a more respectable reason for taking this approach, but I’m not sure it matters one iota to me (or you) as a listener. Whatever the motives be, Burning Banners Of The Funereal War is a slab of pure black metal nostalgia. Luckily though, it is a very well crafted slab of black metal nostalgia, with both good songs and an authentically retro atmosphere that captures not only the superficial elements of the era, but also something of the actual essence of black metal from that time. Some of that sense of dark, otherworldly satanic mysticism. But it does make me feel very, very middle-aged listening to this, being reminded of my youth and wax nostalgic about those times. Yikes.
Burning Banners Of The Funereal War is an album I have thoroughly enjoyed, but at the same time, I feel that whatever the motives behind the project be – pure nostalgia or some kind of statement – it still lifts a bit too unashamedly from the classics of yore.