Faith No More showed as early as 1985 that thrash metal can appear in the most unusual of settings, in their case a weird post-punk/ alternative aesthetic. Italian duo, Moonreflex, produce a similar feeling of surprise, only it’s 2020 and you wouldn’t expect to find sharp thrash metal riffs underpinning the gorgeous voice of a pop-rock heroine.
Before you ponder whether to continue, let this reviewer assure you this is not some kind of Baby Metal or Poppy gimmick. The guitars are nastier than Sepultura’s early proto-death metal phase and crunchier than the skulls underneath the Valley of the Fallen on the outskirts of Madrid. Vocalist, Jennifer Tarentini, has a tuneful snarl well-suited to the head-banging charge of the finest Exodus rhythms and enunciates her words with an imperious inflection that most singers could never achieve. For proof of the band’s thrash credentials, look no further than the opening title track and it’s follow up, ‘Exaggerated’. These are glorious nuggets of space thrash coated in sludgy distortion and lit up by Tarentini’s fist-shaking voice. Is this prog metal, alternative pop, thrash revival? The answer is still no clearer after repeat listens.
It’s evident that guitarist, Giuseppe Daggiano, is what Jim Martin was to Faith No More – an unreconstructed metalhead who wakes up to Destruction’s Eternal Devastation album for his alarm clock and drives to work with Annihilator’s Alice In Hell on his stereo. Moonreflex are a duo and Tarentini writes the songs, but it would be fun to watch her face every time Daggiano plugs his guitar in to one of her compositions. Not one song passes without some kind of heroic thrash metal rhythm slicing through the melodic brilliance of her arrangements. Clearly, she approves of this strange sabotage effort, and we, the listeners, are better off for it. ‘Stop All War’ is Slayer fronted by Debbie Harry with a cosmic Van Halen vibe and the same ugly guitar tone that Voivod paraded on their debut album. ‘Closer’ is like one of those legendary 80s thrash demos that did the rounds in 1983, except with spell-binding female contralto vocals.
Yet Moonreflex are at their greatest when they veer towards an emotional rock soundscape. This is best illustrated on ‘Cosmic Brothers’, the album’s standout song of poignant acoustic fretting and shred guitar overdubs. Tarentini radiates like a coquettish Madonna crossed with Tori Amos, while Daggiano adds a chunky thrash hook to the chorus for good measure. Close your eyes and imagine you’re in a beer garden at night with your friends around you and a rock duo captivating you like two off-duty ghost writers moonlighting for some extra cash. It’s so good they try it again on ‘The Reason for Change’ but don’t quite capture the same emotional power.
Music as epic as this begs for a top-notch production job, but Moonreflex must have a limited budget and sub-standard recording equipment. On one hand, this gives the music it’s nasty blackened thrash guitar tone of the mid-80s, but you wonder if it’s intentional. The amount of echo and reverb on Tarentini’s voice is thick and creates a two-second delay on most of her notes, often with positive side effects, but it can also annoy after a while. As for the drum machine underpinning most of the rhythms, let’s just say they have no capability to give Daggiano the slamming double-kick patterns his riffs demand. ‘Heroes’ and ‘Save Your Dream would be much better efforts with cleaner production and less reverb, but would they lose their raw metal charm with these enhancements? It’s a conundrum they need to solve on their next release.
For now, we have an exciting record that thrives on its imperfections and stops at nothing to stay fresh and unpredictable. Resurrection is a metal album first and a rock album second. It begs the unusual question: Could Moonreflex become the Eurythmics of thrash metal?
Release Date: 03/12/2020
Record Label: Wanikiya Records
Standout tracks: Resurrection, Calling for Remake, Cosmic Brothers
Suggested Further Listening: Annihilator – Alice in Hell (1989), Faith No More – Introduce Yourself (1987), Nervosa – Downfall of Mankind (2018)