Sunday, April 22, 2012

Moonloop - Deeply from the Earth (2012)

Moonloop is an act from the Catalonia area of Spain which brings an admittedly dramatic and riff-centered freshness to the progressive death metal niche. Deeply from the Earth is their second full-length, coming out through Listenable Records, which the band has put a considerable amount of time and thought towards. Their self-issued debut was far back in 2005, and though I've not heard it, I can only imagine they've grown in leaps and strides. As they've taken their band name from a Porcupine Tree song title, I feel it's only fair to note that there are often some similarities to Steven Wilson's buddies and progressive death titans Opeth, in particular their harried (and in my opinion creative summit) material on Still Life or Blackwater Park, but Moonloop are by no stretch of the imagination carbon copies, and one can also hear the Spaniards' roots run further back to sounds like later period Death.

There is a very clean, precision aesthetic constructed through a near endless selection of riffs, most of which are of great quality and prove the central focus for the listener's attention. Most of the tracks provide a labyrinthine adventure through constant shifting dynamics, from the exotic Eastern flair inherent to the intro "Awakening Spirals of Time" through the more surgical and hostile architecture of "A Life Divided", mid paced thrashing lilt of "Legacy of Fear" or the epic "Atlantis Rising" which cycles through a good number of aesthetic variations from driving riffs to clean guitars and soaring, slicing vocal harmonies. Speaking of which, the clean vocals used here are in my opinion far better than Eric Baule's guttural delivery, which is often pretty dry and monotonous by comparison to the onslaught of gleaming riff sequences. Granted, the guy's also handling the synthesizers and some of the guitars, a talented chap, but I'd like to hear a bit more emotion and variation there, because the sheer impressiveness of the music makes them feel as if they were just tossed on as an afterthought.

Otherwise, Deeply from the Earth is an adventure, and should appeal to a wide audience ranging from the progressive metal geek to those interested in more technical/clinical death/thrash. When they build up intensity, Moonloop is practically on par with a band like Vektor in the sheer level of invention and effort that was painstakingly placed in the riffing craftsmanship. The samples are all clean and smooth, the cleaner guitar tones resonant but not as heavily prevalent as you'd find in Opeth. The drums and bass are both quite nice, if never stealing the show away from Baule and Juan José Martín, and there's a clear maturity to the music which survives both the more aggressive outbursts of energy and the heavily saturated melodic strains. At about an hour in length, there's a lot to soak up here, but the band handles the length of the record with a seamless grasp of dynamics, emotionally charged and frenetic leads, and there is no doubt that it's capable of transporting the listener elsewhere. Worth a listen if you're into Opeth, Dark Suns, Disillusion, Devin Townsend, Illogicist, Gory Blister, Symbosis or other bands of this ilk.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

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