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To Embrace the Vampyric Blood (1996)

For those that are unfamiliar with this musical entity, Crimson Moon was an American black metal band that formed in 1994, thus putting them slightly ahead of most in the US that only picked up on the trend some years later. While the band claims to still exist, the two primary members split a few years back, each maintaining their rights to the name, yet neither making any effort to release new material. What we have here is two musicians that recorded a handful of things in the mid-'90s and then disappeared for a decade, only to return with some rehearsal tracks and and E.P. For a 'band' that claims such longevity, this is not very impressive.

In fact, as it stands, this is a band that has never even offered up a single proper full-length album. This is according to their own words. In the case of the 1996 record, To Embrace the Vampyric Blood, this was originally meant to be their third demo. However, Abyss Records liked the recording enough to release it on CD as a full album. Still, regardless of what decisions were made after the fact, Vampir Scorpios and Nocturnal Overlord went into this recording session with no higher aspirations than they had for their previous demos. So it is with this in mind that one must accept the limitations of this L.P.

Musically, Crimson Moon sounds quite a bit as one would expect, given the location and time period. For some reason, when Norwegian black metal began hitting these damned shores, Americans were more likely to pick up on Emperor than Darkthrone, for the most part. As such, there is a strong keyboard presence on this album, though probably darker than the sort of synth used by Ihsahn. It almost has a bit of a '60s/'70s horror vibe, to an extent, especially during the intro. There is a definite occult atmosphere to this, dark and gloomy in a similar manner to what Black Funeral was releasing at the time. The vocals are extremely grim and actually do well to add to the dismal feeling. Scorpios does not have a very distinctive voice, but it suits the music very well. Also, there are times when whispers and clean spoken passages are used, though buried enough as to not really stand out. While the band has mentioned the likes of Mayhem, Darkthrone and Immortal as influences, what is heard here sounds more akin to the output from Emperor and Graveland. Much like the latter, the riffs on To Embrace the Vampyric Blood are not very strong or memorable and frequently serve as a background for the rest, as the keyboards and vocals take the lead. If one listens close, it becomes clear that not all of the riffs are even pure black metal, which is to be expected from an American band. With death metal so ingrained in their pitiful souls, it was a common issue that those in the US were unable to fully cleanse these tendencies from their systems. As the band only consisted of two members, they had to resort to using a drum machine. This is too high in the mix and distracts from the rest of the music, at times, giving it a less serious feeling. The programming is not particularly skilled, either, with some flaws present as well as boring patterns. That is often the problem with bands that use fake drums; they lack the knowledge and understanding that a real drummer would have, regarding what style and approach would be best for the compositions. If one can get past this, there is some decent material here. At certain points, the riffs begin to rise from the fog and to build a bit of an epic feeling, reminiscent of Ancient Wisdom's first L.P. The fact that this is an American band means that it is held to a different standard. While it is passable as a product of the New World, it would be considered complete and utter garbage if the band was of European origin.

The production is really weak and is one of the most detrimental factors of this album. The guitars take a back seat to absolutely everything else. The keyboards, vocals and even the drum machine overpower the guitar riffs, at all times. This is one of the most severe flaws of this recording and something that many bands were doing, unfortunately. In this period, the true black metal mentality was being lost. While creating a dark atmosphere is one of the most important things in black metal, it is imperative that one does so primarily with the guitars. All other elements are meant only to accentuate the riffs, as far as I am concerned. The only reason this gets somewhat of a pass is that this was intended only as a demo, initially, so it is not as if these guys went into the recording with the mentality of making a proper album. The lousy, non-modern, sound is likely one of the only things that saves this, somewhat.

To Embrace the Vampyric Blood is an album with many flaws, that much is impossible to ignore. With the over-abundance of keyboards and the terrible drum machine, it is difficult to listen to. One song even features a brief passage of a female voice speaking some sort of nonsense. Despite all of this, these guys did manage to create a fairly grim and occult/horror atmosphere and it has its moments. Fans of other early American black metal projects, such as Black Funeral and Judas Iscariot, may want to give this a listen. Also, if you are neck-deep into the occult and love any mentions of Tiamat and Chaos, this is for you. Truth be told, this is incredibly amateurish and should probably be avoided. Crimson Moon should have put more effort into focusing on the creation of meaningful guitar riffs, and less time playing with their new Casio. Recordings like this are a good reminder of why one would be best advised to stick to European black metal and to forget that it was ever adopted by those from the wrong side of the Atlantic. Too few have ever managed to get it right.
(23 Oct. 2012)

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