One of the things you learn first when you start trawling Bandcamp (or any other like-minded service) is that tags are not to be trusted. When you let musicians describe and catalogue their own music, you get often absurd and unhelpful classifications that are more to do with hype, fashion, and self perception. That’s why when I was sent Moonshield by Simon, who also drew my attention to the Bandcamp tag “fantasy punk”, my eyebrow shot up of its own accord. But gosh darn it, as nonsensical as that label sounds, it works perfectly for what Moonshield does on The Warband. Couple that moniker with the cheesy cover art and track names like “The Wizard” or “The Death Cleric” and you’re already well prepared for what’s to come; Moonshield peddle a type of heavy/power metal style that’s honestly unique and the secret to its appeal lies in the punk influences.
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Those influences come through the most on the vocals and the tempo of the instrumentation. First, the vocals shy away from the high pitched, vibrato laden style that has become intimately associated with power and heavy metal. Instead, they’re aggressive, fast and slightly abrasive. Their relationship with the music is also a lot like punk; they have almost none of the harmony which power metal vocals tend to have with the guitars, instead favoring the direct and standalone approach of punk and hardcore. Secondly, while the instruments definitely do a lot of the things you’d expect them to do in a power/heavy metal band, like solos, galloping riffs, and more, most of the time they’re fast, single-minded and pissed off.
The tones and scales used however are still very much power metal, which is what gives Moonshield that “taste” of those elder genres of metal. Add in gang choir vocals (on “The Archer” for example, one of the best tracks on the album), some cheesy Atari/Gameboy style synths at the start and ending of a couple of tracks and an overall refusal to take themselves too seriously and you get Moonshield. The Warband is a hell of a ride for anyone looking for heavy music that goes fast but does it differently than your run of the mill power metal band. It honestly shouldn’t work but it totally does and because it does so when it shouldn’t, it’s like a glass of cold water on a sweltering summer day. Hail!