One year after their promising debut album “Seed“, Cascadian folk metallers Moss of Moonlight from Bellingham of Washington, return with their second work. Their new album is entitled “Winterwheel” and despite its long duration (over 41 minutes) the band prefers to consider it as EP. Like its predecessor, “Winterwheel” is released by Cascadian Alliance. This time the American duo Cavan and Jenn played everything on their own, without any external help of guest musicians and they followed a quite different path, both musically and lyrically.
“Winterwheel” is far from the typical Cascadian concept of the band, since this album explores the Anglo-Saxon gods and primal paganism. Except for the lyrical concept, there are also many music differences I see between the two works. I find their music closer to epic pagan “blackened” metal this time, with less direct folk metal references. It has a better production and much more coherent songwriting. There are only 4 songs in the album, but the 3 of them are over 10 minutes each. Their music is definitely guitar driven, with countless rhythmic riffs and melodic leads of a very epic nature; there are also some great guitar solos. Jenn’s drums have a very natural and solid sound, setting the song rhythms, while they often add an almost “tribal” mood in their sound. The few synths and folk instruments never take the lead melodies, but they stay always in background, enriching their warm sound.
Don’t think though that there aren’t folk instruments in the album. On the contrary, you will listen to a lot of them, but the band has managed to merge them with the sound of its guitars, in a very solid and inseparable result. So, as I wrote above, you won’t listen to typical folk tunes; instead you will find a mystique folk layer that helps the band create a unique pagan atmosphere throughout every note of their music. Unlike the first album, the strong card of ”Winterwheel” is the amazing vocals. I find really impressive that the band turned its weakness into its advantage! Their brutal black metal screaming vocals sound more expressive and convincing, while Jenn’s vocals are really improved and the duets with Cavan’s clean male vocals are enchanting. By the way, the last song “Hræfne“, is practically a 6-minute ritual, based completely on the band’s unique chant-like vocals, without any music instruments, except for a few drums! The use of many verses in Old English adds a magical beauty and realism in the album, giving at the same time a personal character to the band.
Moss of Moonlight has composed a perfect epic pagan metal album, recommended to every fan of the genre. I really hope they continue to improve that much in every new release. “Winterwheel” is released by Cascadian Alliance in a limited to 100 copies digipak edition with 8-page booklet, containing the lyrics and a photographic microcosm of Cascadia’s seasons. All artwork and great photography is by the two band members and since the CD is very limited, you better hurry up. You can visit their official pages below to listen to the whole album and purchase it if you wish. The band has already thoughts for another EP to accompany “Winterwheel“. Let’s see…