Mooncitadel’s As Nightwind Embraced and the Shadows Caressed has the name, format (released on cassette) and artwork of a demo you’d expect to be of the lowest quality bedroom black metal that treads on every cliche of stale riffs and terrible lyrics with ultra lo-fi production. However Mooncitadel’s Stormheit has been a part of the Finnish metal scene since the late nineties and the absolute opposite is true, this demo contains the grandeur and atmosphere of the classic nineties Scandinavian black metal, sounding like it could have been released in 1996, but still with so many ideas in it’s majestic songwriting that it feels in no way a throwback or a worship project, rather a stunning piece of black metal with a timeless sound.
As Nightwind Embraced and the Shadows Caressed is just under the twenty minute mark, containing four songs in an epic and melodic variant of classic Scandinavian black metal. Just hit the play button on Dimensional Key as the Sword of Stars and you’re met with a goregous folky melodic trebly tremolo picked riff, wreathed in subtle keyboards, blastbeats, thumping heavy bass and rasping screams. The melodies from the two guitar lines throughout are brilliantly majestic, the upbeat folk melodies are the centerpiece of the album. With slower midpaced riffs in amongst the faster sections to giving it a headbangable change of pace, the whole package is so simple but incredibly effective. Beautiful and atmospheric but fast and energetic enough to fit right in with the classics of the genre. A frenetic if sloppy solo explodes in the middle of the track over that glorious mid-paced motif of a riff that the track keeps returning to, and despite the rawness of the playing the overall sound is so fantastic it’s simply charming, and four minutes passes like it’s nothing.
Lord Of The Moonrealm augments the fast trebly riffs with dramatic blasts of synths and galloping bass that wouldn’t be too out of place in an Iron Maiden song, great snarly vocals, and slower breaks for some ridiculously upbeat folky keyboard melodies, before returning to more of the trebly guitar attack. The closer The Earl Of Nightfall is the shortest track of the lot at just three and a half minutes, with a massively uplifting main riff and some of the most bombastic synths across the album, and some interesting slow leads in a track that wastes not a second and feels totally complete despite it’s relatively short length for the genre.
The production is rather lo-fi but not exceptionally so, you can hear all the instruments perfectly, with the guitars taking center stage, and the keyboards having an immense sense of grandeur without dominating the mix, and even the basslines are prominent and interesting with their earthly pounding. I’ts epic, sharp, icy and everything that’s great about Scandinavian old school black metal. It’s a production that really lets the epic folk quality shine through and the overall sound is perfect.
While not sounding particularly like any of the classic bands you could care to mention, Mooncitadel have released a demo that could have been released in the golden era of Scandinavian black metal, 1996 rather than 2016 – it has a timeless ice cold sound filled with majesty and grandeur that will have you playing it on repeat again and again.