Released By: Scarlet Records
Release Date: March 18th, 2022
Genre: Symphonic Power Metal
Chiara Tricarico – Vocals
Marco Falanga – Guitars
Alberto Melinato – Guitars
Alessandro Jacobi – Bass
Giulio Capone – Keyboards, Drums
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 and Thunder
Back in 2019, I was instantly impressed by the debut of the Italian symphonic power metal band Moonlight Haze, founded by two former Temperance members Chiara Tricarico (vocals) and Giulio Capone (keyboards and drums). They delivered a sound that maintained elements of their past work, while also moving in a slightly different direction, and they’ve managed to continue with that over the past two years, delivering an excellent follow-up in 2020’s Lunaris, and more recently with their third full-length release Animus, which came out earlier this year. I listened to Animus a few times back in March and instantly loved it, but never had a chance to review it at the time. After spending more time with it over the past week, I can now say it continues all of the momentum the band has built up over their past two releases and is possibly their best work to date!
Fans of Moonlight Haze should know what to expect, as Animus has all the same main ingredients as the band’s previous two releases, though they are at times applied slightly differently. For the most part, this is a very melodic, very keyboard-driven symphonic power metal album, with a good mix between heavier, speedier tracks with a stronger guitar presence, and more laidback, melodic metal tracks that rely more heavily on the symphonic elements and keys, which are often very flashy and playful, but very well done. The guitar work is very nice throughout, largely coming in the form of some nice melodic leads and some excellent, very melodic guitar solos, but the keyboards and symphonic elements are the main driving force here, along with Chiara Tricarico. Her vocals are as strong, passionate, and varied as ever, as she alternates wonderfully between light pop style vocals, epic operatic vocals, some deeper, slightly more aggressive vocals, and even throws in some growls in quick bursts. Production is excellent, as usual, and everything is very well done in terms of the overall sound and presentation.
As with the recently released Fallen Sanctuary debut, it’s obvious the music here has at least small traces of influence from bands like Temperance and Amaranthe, with the heavy reliance on keys, extremely catchy songwriting, and the overall modern sound it has going for it, but at the same time, it’s also clear the band has found their way this point, picking out the specific elements they excel at and focusing entirely on those, while also doing their own thing. While Lunaris, in particular, felt a bit more ambitious at times, going all out with operatic elements and occasionally feeling a bit grander, more epic, and complex, Animus feels a bit more straight-forward in its approach to songwriting, coming in with trimmed-down song times and instead going for catchiness, huge melodies, and big vocal hooks all around. The band pulls off both approaches well, and this album has some of their most immediately engaging tracks to date, while also holding up great on repeat visits. I did love some of the more epic songwriting found on the previous two albums, but the more accessible approach here works equally well, and if anything it serves as an even stronger vocal showcase for Tricarico, while still having some excellent instrumental sections.
The album gets off to a strong start with “The Nothing”, a fast-paced, very keyboard driven symphonic power metal track, with a strong emphasis on symphonic arrangements and big choir vocals, something which is used on and off throughout the album, with some tracks going for a big, epic sound while others are a bit more scaled back and instead focused more on the lead vocals. Either way, this is an excellent track, never going full speed, but moving at a fairly fast pace throughout, and it has some excellent melodies, especially in the chorus, which is where the choirs and lead vocals are both at their strongest. The symphonic elements are largely scaled back for “It’s Insane’, a light, mid-paced melodic metal track with a big focus on very light, bouncy keys and huge vocal melodies. The chorus has a bit of a pop feel to it, going very hard on the catchiness, and thankfully Tricarico sounds fantastic and is given plenty of room to shine with her ever smooth and strong vocals, while the guitarists are also given some of the spotlights during a fantastic, very melodic solo section towards the end.
The tempo picks up quickly with “Kintsugi”, one of the tracks where the lead guitar is more noticeable, especially with the excellent lead melody going into the opening verse, as well as another nice solo section. It’s still a very melodic track with tons of great keys and symphonic elements, as well as a big focus on vocal melodies and another catchy chorus, but it has a bit more heaviness to it than either of the first couple of tracks. Next is the title track, a mostly light, atmospheric track, with a big focus on the keys, as well as some very light lead vocals and an excellent chorus. It’s also the track where Tricarico’s harsh vocals are the most noticeable, coming in during the second verse to add a bit of extra energy to the track. Once again, the tempo picks up with “Thief and the Moon”, one of the fastest and heaviest tracks on the album, with frantic verses and a big, melodic chorus, as well as one of the strongest guitar solos on the album, to help make it one of my favorites.
The tempo slows down one last time for the next couple of tracks, starting with “Midnight Haze”. This track has some very nice folk melodies throughout, something the band tends to do once or twice per album. It’s a very light, very melodic track, with a focus on atmospheric keys, and of course, it has another big chorus, though even that feels a bit darker and more introspective than many of the other tracks here. Next is “Tonight”, which has a bit more energy and a bit more heaviness, but it’s still a fairly mid-paced track, largely staying in the melodic metal territory, with a very hooky chorus, and some excellent vocal melodies.
My favorite track on the album is “Never Say Never”, a very fast-paced track with a nice balance between big symphonic arrangements, some excellent keys, very nice melodic guitar work, and easily the catchiest chorus on the album, where Tricarico gets to shine, being forced to sing super fast, and yet with perfect power, smoothness, and precision, especially shining during the final run where she goes all out. The album closes out with three more very speedy tracks “We’ll Be Free”, “Rituals of Fire” and “Horror and Thunder”, each of which is excellent in its way. The former is the most epic, with some huge symphonic arrangements that shine during the chorus, while the middle track is the fastest, heaviest, and most classic power metal feeling track on the album, and the closing track has some nice lead and backing vocals from bassist Allesandro Jacobi, who tends to lend his voice to one track per album, doing a nice job of supporting Tricarico.
Moonlight Haze already showed great promise with their debut back in 2019, and they’ve only gotten better over the years, with both Lunaris and now Animus each showing a band that has fully figured out their sound. While this album is a bit simpler and less grand than its immediate predecessor was at times, it’s still an equally amazing album in its own right, with some of the catchiest and most engaging symphonic power metal tracks I’ve heard in the past few years, as well as having some fantastic vocals and excellent use of keyboards and symphonic arrangements. Fans of the band have likely already heard and enjoyed this album, while any new listeners looking for some very fun, energetic, and melodic symphonic power metal with great vocals, are sure to have a great time with this album, as well as the band’s previous two releases.
Written by: Travis Green
My Global Mind – Staff Writer
Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.