Moonlight Sorcery
Horned Lord of the Thorned Castle

Those in the know and follow symphonic black metal, are aware that since their Piercing Through the Frozen Eternity EP in 2022, Finland’s Moonlight Sorcery has been touted as the next big thing in 90s-styled melodic/symphonic black metal. Some even saying they are going to be the next Dissection or Emperor, with a windy, grim, majestically icy take on classic 90s symphonic black metal.

But the follow-up EP, Nightwind: The Conqueror from the Stars, cooled those expectations a little with a more melodic typically Finnish development. And now with the full-length debut finally upon us, expectations should be tempered even more, as the trio has now fully leaned way more into a Finnish melo-death metal band akin to Kalmah, Children of Bodom, or even Swedes, Skyfire.

Now, I want to state this unequivocally, the album fucking rules. But it is a little different sounding band than the debut EP with a far clearer, bouncier melodic, and solo/lead-filled (and I mean FILLED) affair. The much more prevalent keyboards are much more ‘Finnish’ sounding with a brighter, more upbeat, crystalline tone, as are the much cleaner produced guitars and the riffs and melodies they are playing. The only thing that screams more traditional black metal is the vocals of Antti Mikkolainen, which are blackened metal howl still, and some occasional riffs and blasts that hearken a little more back to their older style (i.e. start of “Fire Burns the Horizon”).

But as I said, the album is fucking magnificent, just not the pure 90s Scandinavian black metal of the debut EP. The 9 songs are all absolutely top-notch, with riffs and solos for days, which essentially sounds like a black metal, frostier Kalmah.

The opener “To End the Day” immediately lets you know the band’s slight new direction with oodles of shredding, as do the likes of “In Cold Embrace”, “Yönsilmä” “Vihan verhon takaa” and instrumental “The Moonlit Dance of the Twisted Jester’s Blood-soaked Rituals” (basically a 3-minute solo). It’s all super shreddy, but superbly played, with sumptuous synths glossing everything.

And even with song titles like “The Secret of Streaming Blood”, “Into the Silvery Shadows of Night” (the album’s lone moodier, slower song), and personal favorite “Fire Burns the Horizon”, the corpsepaint and the icy, grim black metal lyrics, the overall tone and hue of the music is still surprisingly upbeat and lively.

Eight-and-a-half minute closer “Suden tie (Wolven Hour part II)” ends the album with a  rangy, epic,  and of course, lead-laden affair.  And while admittedly there’s a bit of solo fatigue going on at this point and I bit of me wishing the band bared their ‘grimmer’ teeth a little more, Horned Lord of the Thorned Castle is still a fantastic album and proves Moonlight Sorcery to still be a bright new star in Finnish metal.

Unrelated note- the CD version of the album has some sexy assed gold-embossed font that is super cool.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
September 25th, 2023


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