Review by Fernando on April 20, 2023.
If there’s one thing that encapsulates Finnish black metal as a whole is stubbornness. It is one of the most prolific and active black metal scenes in the world, and the one uniting thread of all the bands in it is a complete dedication to their own sound, and a bitter refusal and disdain for outside influences beyond what the bands already like. And at the same time, there’s an unshakable reverence to the sound of black metal past. Moon Oracle is one such case that displays that stubbornness with their sophomore record Ophidian Glare, released by Signal Rex and Bestial Burst.
Moon Oracle is a project featuring Sûrya-Ishtara (of Blood Red Fog) and underground veteran Harald Mentor, who alongside drummer U. released their debut Muse Of The Nightside back in 2021, displaying true devotion to the underground and the early demos of Beherit and a necrotic production meant to drive people away. Their sound is deliberately stuck in the early 90’s, while at the same time being oddly timeless, and with this new record Ophidian Glare, they keep displaying that stubborn devotion. The biggest change between the band’s previous record and this new one is the production, this record is nowhere near as raw and near unlistenable as their debut, but the sound is still punishing and gritty, with an audible yet very bass heavy and treble driven mix and dry vocals with barely any effects, except some backing pitch shifted vocals meant to sound demonic. The vocals of Harald Mentor are the main standout, his dry growls treading that line between the shrieks of black metal and the gutturals of war metal, he sounds very dejected and bitter in this record, almost as if he was exhausted and sleep deprived when recording his vocals, and yet he never sounds lethargic, and his overall performance is consistent from beginning to end.
Sûrya-Ishtara is obviously the main architect of the band, as he handles all the strings, and it's his guitar and bass playing what keeps this record as a timeless sonic relic. The doomy riffs and droning bass lines evoke the same dread that Beherit and Impaled Nazarene once had, alongside the early dark ritualism of Norwegian black metal, and rounded with some dark ambient synths, courtesy of U. who is also a true devotee of the primitive and tribal sound of early black metal drumming to truly complete the band’s sound. That being said, while the band do a good job of sticking to their guns and delivering a record that could have easily been released in 1993, that’s also its biggest detriment as this almost psychotic devotion to black metal means there’s no real surprises or curves, it is black metal in every sense of the word, no more, no less, albeit with a definitive devotion and mystique that not many bands had. The best way to describe this record is as a black metal record by black metal fans for black metal fans, specifically the true dwellers of the underground who scoff and sneer at modern black metal and trends.
Overall, Moon Oracle definitely play to their strengths and even though this record wasn’t fresh or innovative, I can respect how this band is dedicated to maintain a sound of black metal that essentially stayed in the 90’s, and the truly devoted will certainly get more of this record than, say, the latest Dark Funeral for example.
Best tracks: ‘A Vision In The Mansion’, ‘Serpent's Word’
Rating: 7.7 out of 10388