LunarMantraHooded Glaswegian denizens Lunar Mantra strike as an esoteric and mysterious outfit. They contain members of the equally unknown Obscure Lupine Quietus, Gate Of The Northern Star and Nolti Nan Gana Nan Nolta and play a mixture of seething black metal and ritualistic ambience. This was enough to get my interest and discover what was going on in their 35 minute, five track debut. Apparently the band released it independently back in January but the good folks over at Invictus in Ireland must have liked what they heard and are giving it a new lease of death, seemingly with an extra track tagged on the end.

It’s all about the ambience on opener ‘Ingress, Thy Web Hast Spun’ as we are taken into dark crypts where drums boom, chants and bells echo with wraith like ghostliness and you can almost smell the incense of charred bones. It’s a suitably atmospheric start and even has a sinister growl catching you unaware wondering how it is all going to develop. This it does as the ‘Stellar Catacombs’ expand into a guitar weave that’s rich and heavily melodic, building up gradually and then densely exploding with hollow sounding roars and intense blasting. It’s pretty much what you would expect in essence but served up with vigour and hunger. There are some meandering bass tones lurking under the hellish salvo of swarming guitars a contrast to their sting and kind of reminding me a bit of a Mortuary Drape feel to it all. The three main numbers here that are bookended by the ambient tracks are allowed to sprawl, vicious but in no hurry over an average nine minute mark. As this one proves there is a respite in the speedy flurries for a section of chanting and bells again at the midway point before the guitars drop back in and everything limbers up for more of a full blooded lupine attack.

This is pretty much the modus operandi throughout, the guitars are fast and furious with everything else clattering and bellowing away behind them on the likes of ‘Wealth Has Become the Shrine of Azazel’ which is a grim and determined march to the death with some slower textures adding a sense of doom to proceedings. There’s what strikes as a bit of a Swedish sense melodicism here too and the pronounced bass really has a voice in this part. As suggested by the track title ‘Xanthotic Madness’ increase the velocity and is a real feral beast as it rages away allowing some slower gloomy parts to pervade and add to the atmosphere. It’s pretty complex and dense stuff that should appeal to anyone who likes a hefty dose of underground blackness with the scent of death about it. The extra track at the end allows the band to explore their more ambient side and fits in as a good atmospheric albeit longish outro. It will be interesting to see where the band go from here

(7/10 Pete Woods)