Sweden, 1995…Slaughter of the Soul is released and Melodeath surges in popularity. Washington D.C, 2003…Darkest Hour releases Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation and plants themselves atop the American Melodeath mountain. California, 2024…Dead Mother Moon is released and Upon Stone does their level-best to channel the sounds of the earlier Melodeath movements.
This is the first time in a review that I’ve stated a personal opinion or fact about myself so blatantly but here goes…I love melodic death metal. When new records of the genre come out I often seek them out, hoping they’ll have plenty of harmonized riffage, epic song writing and arrangements and most importantly will they have memorable hooks. Dead Mother Moon on first listen should’ve had all of the necessary pieces to put together a solid effort, but unlike the aforementioned At The Gates and Darkest Hour records, Upon Stone never quite gets everything together here.
“Dead Mother Moon” starts off exactly how I had hoped it would; fast. Right out of the gate, the eponymous track goes for your throat at 100mph, and shifts from riff to riff without taking a single breath. Then as suddenly as it started, the chorus comes in with carpet-roll kick drums, tremolo-picked guitars and guttural, howling vocals. But this is the first miss Upon Stone makes here, the melody that typically soars over a chorus isn’t given the space it needs to really be the highlight of the track. The problems continue on other tracks too. The songs never seem entirely put together effectively enough to reach their potential. It all seems to feel sort of lazy and just thrown together in a disappointing sort of way.
One of the bigger problems with this album is the production. Yes, the songs sound like an At The Gates, Darkest Hour and Dark Tranquillity mashup. Yes, the album seems a bit repetitive overall, but the production takes away from the experience quite a lot. Unless this was done intentionally the band would’ve benefitted from spending more time with finding guitar tones especially as they sound too damn muddy most of the time to really enjoy them. The mix sounds blown out at times, too busy and poorly executed. While the band can clearly play their instruments, it’s hard to pick things out from each other.
What makes matters worse is if you go back to their EP Where Whild Sorrows Grow, you’ll see that the band had a more focused sound. In three songs (four if you count the interlude) the band shows their songwriting chops, they wear their influences on their sleeves but don’t just copy/paste song ideas from them and the mix is much better.
Bottom Line: It’s pretty clear that paying homage to first bands of Death Metal/Melodeath, Thrash and Black Metal is not only common but (for better or for worse) it’s becoming an identity of newer bands. Certainly, we’re all capable of taking our influences and creating something of our own that we enjoy, but how far do we take them? The line between paying homage and lazily playing a tribute of sorts is razor thin here. Maybe with more exploration of other influences, and maybe returning to what made their previous EP so solid, they’ll stand out more from their peers and define their own sound and reach the top of the Melodeath mountain.