WARMOON LORD: Battlespells
Release year: 2021
Label: Werewolf Records
Three years ago, in my review of Finnish one-man band Warmoon Lord’s debut album (read here), I pondered lengthily on the merits and demerits of pandering to pure nostalgia. Ultimately, though, what held more weight than musings on the impact of that on artistic merit is the fact that Burning Banners Of The Funereal War was a really good black metal album.
Battlespells, Warmoon Lord’s second full-length album, sees the one-man band to some extent shed its skin, but the core of pure 90’s (with a touch of early noughties) worship remains intact. This is pure anti-modernist, traditionalist black metal.
Where the debut to a large extent looked to the likes of raw yet melodic Finnish black metal a’la Satanic Warmaster and the French Les Legions Noires black metal for inspiration, Battlespells broadens the horizons to other bands of the same era. There is still a feeling of pastiche here, to some extent, but now it grows to include Norwegian and Eastern European black metal in addition to the aforementioned.
Starting with a mid-tempo, atmospherically melodic section, opening track Virtus Tenebris brings to mind Finnish avantgarde black metal group …And Oceans. Other parts of the album echo early Dimmu Borgir and, heck, why not even some Ancient. And it’s certainly not by chance main man Lord Vrajitor has enlisted Rob Darken – yes that Rob Darken – to provide the symphonic, majestic instrumental intro to The Key Of The Moonpiercer.
From these strands of mid-nineties to early noughties black metal, Warmoon Lord weaves together an enchanting piece of black metal that is at the same time both melodic and raw, atmospheric and barbaric, familiar yet new. Obviously, Lord Vrajitor has a crystalline vision of what he wants from his black metal: Battlespells is extremely focused, a tightly streamlined album with nothing in excess. Indeed, the only thing truly separating this from the classics of old is how focused and thought-out this sounds; many classics of yore were more or less the result of youthful exuberance resulting in both majestic successes as well as clumsy fumbling on the same album, even the same track. None of that here.
With a razor-edged, sharp guitar sound shredding away tremolo-picked riff after another, abundantly albeit tastefully used epic synths, plenty of blasting tempos and high-pitched, tortured shrieks for vocals, Battlespells will appeal instantly to everyone who thinks black metal’s best before date was somewhere before 2005. There is nothing modern, nothing latter day, nothing innovative about Warmoon Lord. This isn’t even conservative, this is traditionalist.
And, definitely: there is beauty in that. I feel that Battlespells is a significant artistic step forward for Warmoon Lord. Musically, it’s not leagues above the debut, but the broadened scope of influences gives the music a more individual character. Sure, you can still pick this music apart and single out very direct sources of inspiration for a lot of the elements, but they’re less on the nose. Warmoon Lord has learned to combine them in far more interesting ways.
In the end, to cut a long story short: Battlespells is one of the finer 90’s black metal albums this side of the 90’s.