France’s Moonreich make their full-length debut with Loi Martiale (French for “Martial Law”), a progressive metal CD that some will find much too melodic for its own good. However, those who give the CD a chance will find themselves rewarded, as the band strays off the path of symphonic black metal to create its own distinct brand of the majestic, one that minimizes keyboards and effects and instead relies on more traditional instruments, such as the piano, to evoke its atmosphere.

Moonreich on this outing focus on strife, starting off with the track “Le Regard du Pendu,” which features a military exchange before the band proper begins to play. The guitars of S and Weddir (Chadenn) play a dominant part, with both axes fuzzy and noisy. Guitar riffs are held in the black-metal realm, although melody comes through on the second guitar. Drummer Odarec pushes the pace forward, his drums interweaving through the guitars. And then there’s vocalist PZF (Maledictis), whose low-end rasp brings new meaning to shrieking.

Much like early Emperor Moonreich uses careful and precise songwriting to evoke a sense of the majestic. Both guitars strain to ever-higher heights, with the percussion becoming rowdier as they soar. On tracks such as “Les Psaumes d’Iscariote (Livre I: Le Pardon du Pendu)” and “En Preparant L’assaut,” the guitars set down more straightforward riffs, with the rhythm guitar exchanging hooks with the lead. The band also takes advantage of the piano, with the guitars building off key melodies.

Lyrically, the band touches upon Judas Iscariote, who hanged himself after his betrayal of Christ. The songs touch upon his life and how his sins have affected strife in the world since, particularly when it comes to waging war. Facets of death metal can be heard on tracks such as “En Mon Ame et Conscience” (which ends with some symphonic black metal touches) and the title track, both of which set a relentless pace and feature aggressive percussion and hard-hitting guitar licks. Other tracks reek of black metal, such as “Le Reveil du Pendu” and “En Marche sus nos Terres,” both of which combine blighted atmospherics with acrid percussion and guitar riffs.

It’s startling that Loi Martiale is Moonreich’s debut effort, given the sophistication and tightness of the band’s performance. Fans of the extreme seeking a band possessing kult proclivities but with the chops to venture into progressive realms should really check out Loi Martiale. It will impress even the jaded among you.

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