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Moonscape - 2020 - "Entity, Chapter II: Echoes from a Cognitive Dystopia"

(37:29; Moonscape)


TRACK LIST:                  

1. A Prelude to Grief 1:49
2. Illusion or Reality? 16:54
3. The Ails to Withstand 8:29
4. In the Mourning Hours 10:17


Haavard Lunde - vocals, bass, guitars, programming
Pauli Souka - vocals
Runar Steen Hansen - vocals
Drake Chrisdensen - vocals
David Aakesson - vocals
Marcela Villarroel - vocals
Andreas Jonsson - guitars
Cezar Popescu - guitars
Bret Barnes - saxophone
Linus Abrahamson - guitars
Aaron Minich - keyboards
Eirik Dischler - organ
Alexandra Laya - violin
David Russell - piano
Leviathan - guitars
Rafael Agostino - keyboards
John Kiernan - guitars
Mark Anthony K. - guitars
Diego Palma - keyboards

Prolusion. Norwegian project MOONSCAPE is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Haavard Lunde. He formed this venture back in 2015, and released the initial project album "Entity" two years later. Following a couple of singles and an EP, Moonscape returned with the second album "Entity. Chapter II: Echoes From a Cognitive Dystopia" towards the end of 2020.

Analysis. While Moonscape is the creative vehicle of one person, the albums themselves feature many additional performers. Most of these are instrumentalists, adding some finer touches or additional instrumentation, while others are vocalists that perform set roles in a concept that is explored. This second album expands on the number of both sets of guest musicians involved, and as such this is an ensemble creation rather than a one man band. Which isn't unheard of in metal circles. A venture such as Ayreon does come to mind here, although I doubt if anyone will be surprised about Moonscape not quite being in that league as far as the finished article is concerned. How enjoyable an album is is a matter that, thankfully, comes down to many different aspects and facets. So while Moonscape may not have the mix and production qualities nor the star contributors of better known projects, this is a creation that comes with it's own strengths and virtues. Where engaging compositions is at the top of the list. The songs on this album, other than the distinctly classical symphonic inspired and oriented opening prologue 'A Prelude to Grief', are all solidly based on metal. And we are treated to a great variety of the genre throughout too, all the songs twisting and turning from one aspect of metal to the other throughout. Traditional heavy metal, classic era and more modern power metal, NWoBHM, thrash metal, speed metal, some extreme metal and arguably even some doom metal and symphonic metal can be found within the 37 minutes or so of play time here. Most of the songs feature just about all of these variations, and this style variation in itself makes this album one that merits a description inside the context of progressive metal. One might say that most of the individual pieces put together to form the complete compositions aren't all that progressive in nature, but that the constant alterations in style makes it metal made with a progressive approach. If that description makes any sense. As all these changes and alterations flow rather naturally, the variation in itself makes this an engaging listen, and that the performances by and large are of good quality throughout makes the engagement a natural one rather than one fueled solely by the variations themselves. Not all the details manage to impress as much as others, but the combined total is solid, and there is rarely if ever a moment of indifference throughout. This isn't an album that will have a universal appeal of course. The sheer magnitude of different metal styles included will not be to everyone's taste for starters, and that we on the vocal side have everything from traditional clean metal vocals to the guttural presence of the vocal style used in extreme metal will also limit the overall appeal somewhat. That the approach of the album is of a progressive nature to a greater extent than the actual music is another facet that probably will limit the appeal for some as well. This isn't an issue about quality of course, but about personal taste in music: Quite a few music fans have a defined taste that falls within certain specified parameters. Similarities to different artists is a game that I suspect will be just about impossible to take on here with any real hope of covering major parts of all the particulars that have been given a nod. Among those I noted down a bit more frequently than others were Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force and Iron Maiden, and for both of those bands I'd say that the period prior to 1990 is the one given a few nods here. Some of the organ details made me think of classic era Deep Purple, while some keyboard and synthesizer details here and there gave me associations to the likes of Dream Theater. People with a deep rooted knowledge of hard rock and metal can probably add a dozen or two more artist names to drop here though, and will probably be able to argue that many of them are more prominent than the ones mentioned too. I also took note of some details here and there that appear to incorporate Norwegian folk music elements, further expanding the large palette of genre details to be found and enjoyed. My impression is that these were applied and used more as a general additional feature rather than as a part of a folk metal context in this case.

Conclusion. Personally I find Moonscape's second album to be quite the charming affair, and quite the solid one too. While a lot of variation can be used to make less engaging material more interesting, my impression here is that the underlying foundation of the songs is well made too, and that the variation in this case enhances an already existing quality. Those who are fond of metal in just about all forms and variations strikes me as the main audience for this album, as at least most major forms are represented directly or indirectly. This will probably be an interesting album for fans of progressive metal too, but then first and foremost those with a fascination for traditional forms of metal and extreme metal explored within a progressive context rather than those who tend enjoy a more traditional variety of progressive metal.

Progmessor: March 2021
The Rating Room

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