Gothic folk-rock that threatens to go full metal at any moment.
Australian quartet MOANA are hell-bent on creating their own sound. I often use the terms melting pot and genre-hopping and MOANA are a real definition of this idea of not staying in one lane. A little bit goth, a large slice of psyche-rock, heavy folk influences and then absolute killer guitar riffs smash in for big solo moments – this will all take place in a couple of minutes of an eight-minute track. MOANA are highly expressive and not afraid to do things differently. They stand out from the crowd in all the good ways.
Take opening track ‘Kingdom’ for example. It opens up a bit like Chelsea Wolfe then transitions into something you’d imagine from Wendy Rule or Espers as we move from gothic rock to transcendent folk and back again. Then the guitars smash in for a banshee ride on the back of a serpent guitar. The guitars duel it out with… a saxophone whilst vocalist Moana screams and helps in the background before we have an extended mid-song meditation segment of drone keys and guitars. Then the track returns with a dramatic rock finale and has a spoken-word outro. There’s more variety and emotion in eight minutes than you get in entire albums and the shock is that MOANA ensures it sounds cohesive and driven.
This stunning commitment to making banshee folk metal continues with the fantastic ‘Temple’. Here, the guitars are up loud like a gypsy Courtney Love but after drinks with Kate Bush, they’ve got her on BV’s cooing and crowing. The entire track is pure storytelling genius as it moves from gigantic stadium rock crashes to ‘Trust In Me’ Eastern curiosity. The other three tracks lean slightly more towards the folkier side of the bands’ range. ‘A Rose in The Darkness’ is a beautiful ballad to break up the big rock vibes. Its echoes and tones cross over an Elizabeth Fraser vocally with something you’d hear from Unto Ashes perhaps tonally. Meanwhile ‘The Cry of the Banshee’ replaces guitars with fiddles and violins but they are no less powerful. Like a ceremonial purge dance, the whole track is wildly unhinged in the best possible way. The album closes out with the beautiful ‘Immortal’. The track centres on an old piano and string arrangement to back up the gypsy rock. It gives MOANA a cinematic gothic sheen that fans of Iamthemorning could get into. It builds into a marching doom of dramatic violins, piano and drums for a fitting finale.
There isn’t anything else quite covering this scope of folk, rock, metal and gothic arcane delights like this out there. MOANA are a genuinely unique triumph and they know just how far to push going off the rails so it is both satisfying and unusual. Easily one of the best folk and gothic albums of 2021. Don’t sleep on this, you’ll be casting spells well into the night. Off this album alone, I’ve personally bought their entire back catalogue. I regret nothing.
Recommended track: Temple
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