The third studio album from Italy-based Melodic/Symphonic Power Metallers MoonlightHaze titled “Animus” represents a ‘huge step up for the band’s songwriting and sound’. The five musicians said that they were excited from the very beginning when the first lyrics were written, and the first melodies came to be.
“Animus” is called introspective and intimate with messages of vitality and rebirth ringing through on bright and melodic fashion. With more than 5 million streams across online platforms, it’s no surprise that Moonlight Haze would crank up the heat on their musical abilities and unveil an album to us that’s got the fire and passion of a thousand suns burning at its back.
Fans of Nightwish, Avantasia, Amaranthe, Sonata Arctica, and Epica will find subtle inspiration, and downright influence in the numerous tracks across this album that dance along the lines of fantasy with precision and grace.
“The Nothing” starts out on epic levels with heavy keys and rhythmic guitars, setting the stage for Chiara’s calm yet alluring vocals. It’s a song that’s uplifting, motivating, and one that resonates with the Melodic Power Metal tune with perfection. It’s got all the perfect power metal lines “like heroes we will rise against the evil forces”, and no matter how many times you hear a similar phrase, it makes you pump your fist into the air.
The second track called, “It’s Insane” greets us with a symphonic blend of backing orchestration and ethereal keys that shift into the Melodic metal sound that defines this track. It’s an eerily familiar track but, holds its own unique charms with lighter rock-like vocals and a steady chorus. A solid rock anthem that every power metal deserves, this track is an easy staple for those new to MoonlightHaze and the sound they bring to the scene.
“Kintsugi” is a song with guitars that flow steadily as this heavy hitter depicts a tale about imperfection and visualizing the mending. It’s got the choir-like tone of Epica with Sonata Arctica guitar-style in chaotic, yet mesmerizing patterns that match seamlessly with Chiara’s vocal command. The light piano solo in the middle adds a fantasy element, as if to bring about reflection before piercing the veil with some sky-high soprano notes. It’s a track that has perfect intervals of fragility that make this song stand out from the rest of the album with flare.
Title track “Animus” begins like a mountainous journey with snowy cliffs backing a power metal ballad that demands full attention. “Light the embers” is a line that burns as brightly as this track’s composition. This song is lyrically quick but deeply layered with orchestration and dropping bass that throws to you a surprise with every enchanting verse.
“The Thief and The Moon” starts like a run and jump onto a getaway train. It’s speedy, catchy, and touched by symphonic elements that add easy visuals to the mind. This feels like a track off Nightwish’s ‘Dark Passion Play’ with Chiara’s vocals very delicate and similar in Anette Olzon’s in sound and tone. I wish the vocals were a bit more powerful on this track to better line up with the force of the melody but, the result allows me to better appreciate the instrumentals and unbroken solos this track has to offer.
“Midnight Haze” is a track founded on wall-smashing drumbeats with Chiara’s vocals bringing power and delight with every word. It’s catchy, with a bounce in the chorus that keeps you bopping along. Steady, synchronized guitars offer up a melody that pulls you through and you find yourself singing along almost instantly. One of my favourites from the album, this song offers simplicity and strength which allows it to be easily enjoyed without dwelling too deeply into the complexities of its lyrics.
Nearing the end of our journey comes “Tonight” that is a jaw-dropping melodic power metal track with rapid melody and feverish vocals that bring energy to this album. From the very beginning this song pulls you in with promises of passion and drive. Chiara’s vocal range on this song dances from a gentle whisper to the howls of a wind-filled night with flawless transition.
“Never Say Never” is reminiscent of Sonata Arctica’s ‘Wolf & Raven’ that must’ve served as inspiration for the speed and relentlessness this track has to offer. Worthy of any headbanger, this song has a quick, catchy chorus and consistent drums that keep you entertained. It’s driven with a courageous climax to an epic chorus; “never say never” easily sticks in your mind as a brilliant motivator with the melody lifting you to new heights as you move along to the music.
The adventurous Avantasia feel of “We’ll Be Free” holds a cinematic-style sound that creates one of the most ambitious tracks on this album. It feels consistent with a building storyline from introduction to adventure as every track seems more intense than the last, and this is no different. Orchestration blends with power metal riffs to set the background for lyrics that scream of long-forgotten journeys and the freedom that comes with finally acting on one’s own dreams.
“A Ritual Of Fire” is vocally powerful, and continues the hype of ‘We’ll Be Free’ by putting us on the field and leading us into battle. It’s bright, and fueled by uplifted notes and skillful strings that drive you to fight for what you believe in.
The final track, “Horror & Thunder” cracks the sky with lightning, rumbling this song along your brain waves and giving way to an infectious melody. It’s another head-swaying track with emotional vocals and a cascade of epic musical power that brings this album and its battles to a gentle yet, unassuming close. We know that more adventures away in the future but, will they be as wild as this one?
Generally, I think I got too hyped for this album, so the build-up left me a little disappointed. However, once this album picked up, it was a fast-paced ride that had me easily listening and head-banging along from one track to another.
Favourite tracks: Never Say Never, Midnight Haze, We’ll Be Free
Release Date: March 18th, 2022.
Label: Scarlet Records
1.) The Nothing
2.) It’s Insane
5.) The Thief And The Moon
6.) Midnight Haze
8.) Never Say Never
9.) We’ll Be Free
10.) A Ritual Of Fire
11.) Horror & Thunder