Sunday, October 29, 2023

Silver Bullet - Mooncult (2019)

Silver Bullet is another band that could be considered alongside the more pompous, heavily orchestrated Euro heavy/power metal acts, specifically a group like Sabaton or Powerwolf, albeit performing with a lot more speed and finesse in the traditions of the Euro power metal of the 80s and 90s like Gamma Ray, Helloween and Blind Guardian. I'm honestly shocked that they haven't become a bigger name amidst this towering scene, because they're quite good, across all their three LPs to date, with this sophomore Mooncult my personal favorite, the point at which they are best balancing these two halves, never becoming quite so goofy sounding as the former can attain, but definitely going for a more accessible and commercial sound than the latter. As a plus, if their name didn't tip you off, they focus exclusively on horror themes!

Mooncult being a conceptual album about the witch-burnings of the 16th century in Europe, as opposed to the normal Salem, Massachusetts trials. Now, I won't go and tell you that these Finns succeed on many level at making music that sounds actually creepy or turns out that the very typical sorts of choirs, orchestration and pirate-shanty style backing vocals don't really breathe horror into the material, especially when affixed to such harmonious, majestic sounding metal. Maybe the intro to "Maiden, Mother and Crone", or the doomy swells and creeping riffs of "Light the Lanterns", but even that isn't exactly the darkest heavy metal you're going to hear. But what it IS, is excellently written, packed with good leads and melodies, and a vocalist in Nils Nordling who really stands out with a style that is somewhere between Dio's more operatic leanings and Ralf Scheepers' screams and sustain, he's a total package power metal frontman that maintains a personality through every track, even as he's backed up by lots of the gang shouts, synth-estrahs and choirs arrangements.

The rest of the band are no slouches, mind you, and this record hits like a truck when it needs to on a thundering mid-pacer like "The Witches Hammer" or a detailed, frenetic piece like "Burn the Witch". No, these guys aren't winning awards for unique song titles, but Mooncult is a well produced exhibition for its style, an album you can have fun with throughout, with plenty of variation as it ventures into its more operatic, narrative, or folksy segments, and while it's not as scary as it might have been were the band to tread some darker, more dissonant waters, the message behind the lyrics is strong enough, an aegis against paranoid persecution, delivered with glittering power and precision. Easily a band that should be considered more than some of their scene's other upstarts like Battle Beast.

Verdict: Win [8.25/10]

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