Bristol’s blackened doom metal fiends, Moon Reaper, care nothing for your health. They want your lungs to implode and your chest to collapse when they step on the distortion pedal. The vocals of Morgan Cradick will singe the skin on your face like faulty fireworks in the wrong hands. We should expect music of this nature to be misanthropic, but the hatred of humanity emanating from their debut EP is bordering on sexual gratification. Moon Reaper get off on the idea of Armageddon.
If all the above sounds like a standard approach from a black metal artist, the band’s decision to enhance the power of their riffs with seven string guitars and technical djent techniques is about as leftfield as it gets. You might even frown in disapproval before hitting the play button, but your curiosity should get the better of you. After thirty seconds, you’ll know that this is no gimmick. Moon Reaper are fucking heavy and respectful of their doom and black metal heritage. Opener, ‘Time Warper’, is like Meshuggah covering Pallbearer with Behemoth’s Nergal on vocals. The chord choices are nasty and unorthodox and reminiscent of the sound a pebble makes when you swipe it against red hot tarmac, yet you expect Robb Flynn to chant “Headbang, motherfucker,” at any moment when they settle into a seven-string groove. Follow up, ‘Spiralism’, is a slow dirge of black metal with agonising vocal abrasions and no immediate song structure or repetition. “I’m lost in barren space/ The end consumes my soul,” screams Cradick after grinding his guitar to a torturous halt of violent downstrokes. The pseudo-pig squeal at the end only adds to the morbid intensity.
Moon Reaper’s love of challenging people’s expectations is a strength and not a weakness on this EP. The last place you’d anticipate a bout of slap bass is in the music of a blackened doom band, but ‘Clockwork’ does the unthinkable with minimum fuss and no extravagance. ‘Godeater’ alternates between rich chord-picking and drop-tuned chugs and showcases a wider vocal register from Cradick. Indeed, he mixes the eye-bulging roars with the deep intakes of breath needed for a clean bass tone that can handle the immortal lyrics, “Terror freezes the stratosphere/The Godeaters are coming.” Those awaiting the new album from Conjuror will find satiation in this record. It leaves your ears bleeding and mixes guitar styles with no warning yet celebrates the orgasmic imagining of the apocalypse with a euphoric glee. You might believe you’re too rational and sceptical to join a cult, but Moon Reaper draw you under their death-worshipping spell like Charles Manson’s hold on the middle-class wanderers of California.
Descent is a monstrous reckoning with the abyss, stripped of the usual clichés, and ready to charge headlong into the void in the hope there is no afterlife. The seven-string guitar tunings, black metal dissonance, and crushing doom riffs will leave you in awe. This is the ugly sound of a lifelong death fantasy.
Release Date: 30/07/2021
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Time Warper, Clockwork
Suggested Further Listening: Myopic and At the Graves – A Cold Sweat of Quiet Dread (2021), Conjuror – Mire (2018), Nixil – All Knots Untied (2021)