Getting the CD re-release treatment by Moribund Records, Moon's Caduceous Chalice is a dense slice of atmospheric, amorphous, ambient black metal. The gloomy atmosphere of opener 'In Shadow' is eerie, evoking looming shadows and images of clandestine moonlit rituals in darkened forests. Its abrupt end is a surprise and, in being so, serves only to disappoint as it sounds promising. The ominous atmosphere of 'Forest Samhain' is fleshed out with ghoulish howls from beneath the abyss, their depth in the mix bringing distance and another dimension to the slow pace. 'Beneath' raises the tempo considerably, transforming dread into wrathful barrage. What follows are the two standout tracks, 'Monastery' and 'Caduceus', the former's haunting echoes scraping long pious halls and high, imposing sanctimonious ceilings. The keys add a darkly twisted, disharmonious and discordant symphonic edge to the piece. 'Caduceus' brims with, pounding off-beat rhythms and violent screams and shrieks torn apart by schizophrenic anguish and torment spilling forth from the bottomless pit of reverb that make the floor toms resonate vast and vacant. Opening with a clean guitar section, 'Chalice' soon descends into epic black metal territory, barren soundscapes, and vast wastelands of anguish and pain with the closing four minutes having something hallowed about the choral chants and rising, almost uplifting lament. At twenty minutes long, it can be an arduous chore, an endurance test, but it is worth persevering as it reveals menacing treasures in it dark depths.
The compositions are, generally, striking, but the cramped atmosphere and what feels at times like interminable repetition can become tiresome. But the full effect of the vague vapours and mists of the guitars and vocals are overshadowed by the clinical keyboards and drum machine that, though drenched in reverb, are still too precise to appear as inhuman as the 'real' instruments. However, though the songs are veiled by the lo-fi bass-heavy mix and swathed in typical black metal production, this adds depth to the otherworldly and shape-shifting textures that leach from the speakers. Caduceus Chalice's dissonant and dismal atmospheres that gradually unfold into vast fields of emptiness can be impressive, but it's 'Monastery' and 'Caduceus' that standout as the best representation of what this joyless genre is capable of.
1. In Shadow
2. Forest Samhain