ANCIENT CEREMONY: Under Moonlight We Kiss
Release year: 1997
Label: Cacophonous Records
Ah, the mid-to-late 90’s. Those were the days I took my first fledgling steps into the world of extreme metal. Naturally, for the day and age, some of the first acts I got into were Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir, those two rising stars of the melodic and synth-driven approach to black metal. I guess this was the first semi-mainstream bandwagon in black metal to jump on to.
Ancient Ceremony were a band I never got around to hearing back then; they were only familiar from Cacophonous Records’ copious ads in magazines such as Metal Hammer and Terrorizer; scarcely an issue went by without the British label advertising their latest releases, such as this. To be honest, whilst there was a certain amount of cheese in their roster – these guys, Abyssos and Twilight Ophera to mention a few – Cacophonous did also release some seriously classic albums. Cradle Of Filth’s The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh and Vempire being two notable classics!
But Ancient Ceremony, then. From the cheesy cover with a pale gothic chick with bloodied lips, a full moon, the statue of an angel… everything screams 90’s vampirous, melodic and gothic black metal of the worst, cheesiest kind. And that’s exactly what you get: a bunch of Germans who’d studied the textbook of the worst clichés, cheesiest imagery and cheapest tricks employed by Cradle Of Filth, with none of the finesse or style the much loved and much hated Brits had.
So yes, you get the entire array of plastic-fang black metal vampyrism here. Plenty of female vocals, low (pitch-shifted) and reverbed male spoken words with feeble stabs at a dramatic effect, mysterious whispered voices, lyrics about lost love and graveyards and vampires and eternal love in death and so on. Like someone had overdosed on Coppola’s Dracula and Cradle Of Filth and Alchemy Gothic brochures.
And it’s glorious in its own super cheesy way. The music is, naturally, saturated with synths and keyboards, wistful and melancholic melodies, and in truth there’s not that much blackness in this black metal. Musically, it’s more like an amateurish forebear to the throngs of gothic metal bands that would saturate the metal world some years later. The thin guitars and tempered tempos have no extremeness to them. But there’s a certain undeniable charm in the clumsy stabs at CoF-vampyrism and darkly dramatic extreme metal here. You can’t call it good, but it’s endearing in a darling way. It’s so silly and over-the-top, whilst still obviously being serious, that it’s fun.
Whilst not good by any stretch, on a musical level this isn’t bad, either. And yes, it’s thoroughly cheap, cheesy and bland. And silly. But there are moments when the music clicks and things sound very decent. As such, even whilst being amused by the sheer cheesiness of the album, there’s also moderate enjoyment to be found here.
But most of all, this is a real throwback to those bygone days of the 90’s when a still quite young black metal scene was rapidly evolving and expanding in all kinds of directions. This kind of cheesy, plastic vampire black metal would be prominent for a short time and then, deservedly, fade and all but die out. Much of that time and era is embarrassingly silly in retrospect, Under Moonlight We Kiss most certainly so, but there’s a funny sort of charm to it all.
So yeah. I can’t really recommend this album because it’s thorouhgly mediocre and clumsy. But it’s also kind of fun. Maybe, if you remember that time but never got around to checking out Ancient Ceremony – and who can blame you if you didn’t… maybe then you can get some kicks out of this.