I was aware of US one man project of Sean Yoshioka, Moon And Azure Shadow before this landed but never got round to them. Here in Covid-19 isolation though, time is all I have and this beautiful A5 digipak arrived a few days before I locked the doors. An age of darkness and frost indeed.

From the opening neo-classical strains of ‘Across Dark Landscapes’ the listener has the mood set, the land changed and you sit and the epic musical equivalent of a soaring eagle-eye shot of a strange land is brought to you. It is immediately, rich, evocative and full of wonder, a hint of darkness and the journey is begun before you realise it. Reminiscent of Arcana’s Dark Age Of Wisdom, but a harder edge lurking beneath the sumptuous folds.

A sombre atmosphere descends with the title track, again the neo classical keys and a disturbing, almost subliminal rattle in the background enclosing us and then the black metal vocals enter. A grim, dark spectre lurking in the shadows that gradually pushes the music into atmospheric black metal territory as the drums press on but the keyboard strings swell.

It would feel rude to some, rather like with Druadan Forest, to call this dungeon synth really, but only even you have a problem with the genre and are unaware how it has developed. Now the genre can be multi-layered, epic, sweeping and whispering across the borders of atmospheric black metal. Moon And Azure Shadow are frankly glorious, cinematic and neo-classical. They delve into full on black metal such as passages in ‘Abyssic Lunar Tower’; a slow, ominous stride that weirdly reminds me of early Darkthrone with Elend supplying the keyboards across the sound of marauding riders. They push into areas that are flirting with soundtracks; a little Japanese film and game soundtracks here and there – a Dark Souls sense of doom perhaps. They fill your mind when the music blooms.

Frankly I love this. I fell into it and had no reason to come out. It brought back memories of those musical days when black and extreme metal musicians were pushing at the raw boundaries and some like Mortiis, Elend, Arcana, Monumentum and others found these new lands to describe and to lead us through. This is music to inspire and to relax to and to bathe in. It genuinely took my breath away, and far better took me beyond the boundaries of my modern day isolation. Thank you.

(9/10 Gizmo)