Dead Mother Moon

Century Media
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Dead Mother Moon
02. Onyx Through The Heart
03. My Destiny; A Weapon
04. Dusk Sang Fairest
05. Paradise Failed
06. Nocturnalism
07. To See and Follow The Call Of Lions
08. The Lantern
09. Dig Up Her Bones

Melodic death metal has been hugely influential over the last 30 years, arguably more so than any other metallic sub-strain. The impact of those early IN FLAMES, DARK TRANQUILLITY and AT THE GATES records can hardly be overstated at this point, and there are countless examples of bands doing great things in the name of melo-death, whether in a more traditional sense or via the more circuitous route provided by metalcore.

Fundamentally, the original blueprint for this enduring subgenre was so well-conceived that it looks likely to survive indefinitely, and UPON STONE sound eager to be at its forefront, while also reconnecting it with its feral roots. "Dead Mother Moon" eschews modern inclinations to polish and sharpen everything up to a state of futuristic perfection, instead taking melodic death metal screaming back to its grubby origins. With a sound pitched midway between IN FLAMES' "The Jester Race" and DISSECTION's "The Somberlain", this is a melo-death record born of the underground and pure in both conception and execution.

At first, the raw fury of UPON STONE's sound comes as a shock to the system. After decades of melo-death bands sounding like a million dollars, to hear these San Fernando Valley misfits disregarding such niceties in favor of belligerent, distorted tones and believable, sweat-drenched drums is disorientating, but a pure thrill. The opening title track absolutely reeks of the mid '90s, but UPON STONE have done more than just emulate triumphs of the past: by injecting some very contemporary grit into their attack, they have given arcane melo-death a perfectly timed upgrade. Consistently enhanced by frontman Xavier Wahlberg's commanding but psychotic roar, these songs offer a splendid blend of nostalgia and vitality. It's just like the old days, only more so.

Ultimately, UPON STONE's puritanical approach has paid off. "Dead Mother Moon" is a mere 31-minutes long and flies by in what seems like half of that, so solid and authentic are its contents. There is frost in the air and vitriol dripping from the ceiling during "My Destiny; A Weapon", which revels in the same, icy atmosphere that made DISSECTION such a potent force, and oozes elegance and melancholy in equal measure. "To See And Follow The Call Of Lions" has the same full-throttle intensity of AT THE GATES circa "Terminal Spirit Disease", as vicious blastbeats and none-more-classic metal pomposity collide, allowing more insidious, cold-hearted atmosphere to permeate the whole. Most gripping of all, "The Lantern" weaves pagan/folk metal vibes subtly into the equation, as UPON STONE stretch out and allow an otherwise myopic assault some space to move around in. A closing (and very rowdy) cover of the MISFITS' "Dig Up Her Bones" sounds almost exactly as one might imagine a MISFITS cover by a melodic death metal band would sound, and that's obviously a good thing.

Fans of big, shiny, 21st century melo-death are more than catered to these days, which makes this full-blooded return to first values all the more satisfying, particularly for those of us who prefer to dwell in the dirt. UPON STONE have resurrected something of profound value here. "Dead Mother Moon" is the real thing, revived and realized anew by true believers.

Author: Dom Lawson
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