To those of us of a certain age, the mention of Eye of the Beholder conjures up a very distinct nostalgia. The old video game series was a first brush with dungeons and dragons for a lot of people, and among its elves and dwarves, something far stranger and scarier lurked – the Xanathar, the ancient evil Beholder from which the game series took its name. It’s surprising that the name hasn’t been used before for a metal band, so full credit to Xanathar for seizing the opportunity and making good on the source material. Darkmoon, as you might hope, pulls heavily from the Eye of the Beholder series thematically, but you don’t need to know anything about that to enjoy this demo, as it is more than strong in its own right.
Sitting somewhere between black metal and Cirith Ungol-style heavy/doom metal, with a pair of dungeon synth pieces to add atmosphere, Darkmoon is a delight of riffs and melody, played with a real force of conviction. The vocals veer between distorted screams that fans of raw black metal will appreciate, to some dramatic cleans that have more than a hint of Candlemass about them. As all that might imply, Darkmoon is an ambitious demo, pulling from some very different sources and making them work well together as a whole. It’s a riotous 15-minute blast of energy, that’s a whole lot of fun to listen to.
Even if this were not a first demo from the project, Darkmoon is a highly impressive and exciting release. It does exactly what a demo is supposed to do, in that it makes me want to hear more from Xanathar sooner rather than later. There’s a lot of character and talent here, and it will be exciting to watch the project as it develops – but even without that context, Darkmoon is still a great release, providing riffs, atmosphere, and energy in abundance.
Darkmoon is out now and can be ordered here.
Words: Stuart Wain