Horned Lord Of The Thorned Castle
Review by Vladimir on September 29, 2023.
On a dark and stormy night, upon a thorned castle, stands an evil and malicious red figure. His nature cruel and terrible, yet his magic black and vicious. This figure that only tales spoke of is none other than the Horned Lord Of The Thorned Castle, who feasts upon those whomsoever dare to approach him or the battlements of his castle. This small intro here is exactly what I’ll be covering in this review, and the subject is the Finnish melodic black metal band Moonlight Sorcery. Last year, the band introduced themselves to the world with two EP’s, Piercing Through The Frozen Eternity and Nightwind: The Conqueror From The Stars, but this year, the band has prepared a work like no other, the one that you will hardly find in this day and age. For this delightful opportunity, I’ll be reviewing their debut album Horned Lord Of The Thorned Castle, set to be released September 29th via Avantgarde Music.
On this album, Moonlight Sorcery provides a melodic black metal output that is quite complex and progressive in terms of overall songwriting. The musical formula is consisted of downpicking guitar riffs, frequent neoclassical guitar solos, symphonic keyboards, double-bass drumming and cold harsh vocals, all of which certainly go beyond the limits of traditional melodic black metal. From start to finish, it’s like a repeated magic that does not vanish at a certain point and the stylistic consistency of their songwriting certainly manages to hold up from one song to another. Probably one of the most attractive songs of the bunch would have to be the fourth track 'Yönsilmä', which builds up the atmosphere with a clean guitar intro before riding into action. Something that clearly dominates on every song is the guitar solos, which as I said before, they are very neoclassical and frequent throughout this album, yet in so many ways it is perfectly blended to really add a whole new layer to the keyboards, and not make it feel like a gigantic distraction or an extremely big boredom. The soloing in particular is quite similar to that which you would hear in various Children Of Bodom songs, but they are also bordering with power metal in so many ways. The only time when the soloing takes the game completely is the sixth instrumental track 'The Moonlit Dance Of The Twisted Jester’s Blood-soaked Rituals', where it clearly goes for that Yngwie Malmsteen approach from start to finish. Whatever magic Moonlight Sorcery cemented on this album, it is certainly not something that you get to hear very often in the world of black metal, especially since there haven’t been many recent bands that come out with something like this. You can clearly tell that these guys are not just fans of black metal or extreme metal in general, they also share a big love for neoclassical metal, power metal and symphonic metal of all things. Another thing I’d like to talk about this album is the cover art done by Linda Piekäinen. The cover art is stylistically and conceptually quite simplistic, but most importantly, it’s done with some clear sense of deviation and it’s very different from the kind of art that you would often see on black metal albums. As for the sound production of this album, the band went all the way to push the high-quality production to the maximum, while keeping both the instrumental and vocal work well balanced.
I must say that this caught me by surprise because I have got used to black metal so much lately that everything has become so predictable, but this one certainly managed to exceed my initial expectations. Moonlight Sorcery created an album that is equally incredible and unique, especially for the standards of modern black metal where you would often see bands following a certain trend or a particular sound that is popular at the moment. I am not sure how will other black metal fans react to Horned Lord Of The Thorned Castle, but I can certainly say that this can be loved and appreciated by fans of melodic and symphonic black metal who can look past the genre’s limits and immerse themselves in the magic that this album has to offer.
Rating: 8.9 out of 10508