The music business is cruel and tragic sometimes. Many, many highly talented and promising bands break up way before their prime and way before they receive even a fraction of the recognition they would have deserved. Unfortunately Québec’s MOONLYGHT are one of these sad stories, with their second album “Shining” not being the next step up towards the Metal Olympus, but in the end acting as their epitaph on the graveyard of Metal. At first drummer Guillaume “Caps” Coté left the band to concentrate on his other band NEPHUSIM, then musical mastermind Sébastien “Roby” Robitaille decided to leave as well, which in the end was the last nail in MOONLYGHT’s coffin.
Their previous effort “Progressive Darkness” was an absolute masterpiece of Black, Death, Power, Progressive and Folk Metal all swept into one and after not very good experiences with now defunct Swedish label Escapi Music, Mankind’s Demise Records had swooped them up for “Shining”, so let’s see how this one fares in the books. The basic components are still there, but the recipe is a little different, as the songs are a little less sweeping in terms of Folk influence and accordion, but that does not mean that they are any less epic or high-class, they just show a slightly different, overall a little heavier side of the Québecois quintet. And this time they even unleash some French, as on opener “Middle”, which I personally find highly interesting, I wish that they would have done a little more of this, but that’s a minor detail. Starting out with calm acoustic guitars and a lone lead guitar the Canadians then kick into high gear, with double-bass, symphonic keyboards, wonderful melodies and some flute, while Roby spews forth the lyrics, but MOONLYGHT keep things immensely varied, with the acoustic guitars coming back, some clear vocals and lots of tempo changes without losing the accessibility of the song, even when some Arabic sounding percussion and melodies are thrown into the fray, brilliant opener!
“Downfall” marks the extremes even more extreme, meandering between very aggressive and heavy Black and Death Metal passages and highly melodic parts, which form a stark contrast to the aggression surrounding and a very well implemented violin once more shows the masterful songwriting talents that elevate this band head and shoulders over the vast majority of its peers, together with Roby’s excellent voice, which can go from aggressive growl to expressive and original clear voice to sinister Black Metal-like snarl within two or three heartbeats, how could this band not have been picked up by one of the bigger labels, I ask? The eight minutes of “Malediction” are a unique rollercoaster ride through all the different elements MOONLYGHT stand for, including a quiet interlude with violin and acoustic guitars, but with all of these many different parts and passages the songs always remain accessible or even downright catchy while maintaining a fairly high level of complexity at the same time, now this is what I call true talent!
There are some albums, where you can skim through the songs to get a pretty good idea of what is going on, but “Shining” makes this near impossible, as behind every turn a new and different twist lurks, snatching away your attention from whatever you were doing at the time, now can there be too much of a good thing? Kind of. Almost 72 minutes of music are maybe a bit much to take in in one sitting (even though they set one last big exclamation point with closer “Parallels”), but that should in no way detract from the magnificence on display on this album, which offers us the legacy of this band, which more than definitely could compete with the greats in years to come, so my hope is that the guys will realize with a little time what gemstones they have created in the past and that they will find their way back together to create more masterpieces such as this one, if you have not ordered (or bought) this CD yet, it is about time, because this is one of the best albums of the year, no matter what!
(Online September 25, 2008)