Moonknight play a deeply melodic lo-fi brand of black metal, and in the past, their music has sported a somewhat militaristic edge. Beneath fuzzy riffs that zoomed in and out of focus, a simplistic staccato beat kept marching time while highly distorted vocals wailed away. The effect was something otherworldly, like the songs came through a wormhole, changed by their cosmic journey or otherwise originating from a world where laws of physics work a bit differently.
Moonknight’s new EP, Zhora, is more contemplative, ambitious, and beautiful. First off, it’s a higher quality recording, so everything comes through a bit clearer, allowing details to emerge. That said, things are still fuzzy. But the uncertainty created by the distorted and smudged guitars now comes with an even bigger emphasis on melody and harmony, with cleaner guitars coming into play alongside accents like piano and tambourine. The more approachable sound is evident on both a more straightforward black metal track like “Weakhearted” as well as on the brooding “Valley Of Torment.” And while Zhora is a black metal record, it’s played with a restraint that lets melancholy bleed out. You can hear a bit of shoegaze in there, and vocals that were menacing in the past are now cathartic and almost tender. It’s fantastic, and Zhora is one of the best metal releases of the year, a magnificent step forward from sole member James Brown III, also of Harassor. Zhora is dedicated to the artist’s father. Listen.
Zhora is out now via Rising Beast.