I’ll admit to taking a punt on the new Upon Stone album Dead Mother Moon when it arrived on the MetalTalk list. The band’s name had a strangely familiar ring to it, and I knew it was going to be a nasty beast. But I wasn’t sure what would burst out of the speakers when I pressed play. Thankfully, it was a decision that didn’t backfire whatsoever.
Upon Stone – Dead Mother Moon (Century Media)
Release Date: 19 January 2024
Words: Paul Hutchings
Whooaaa! This is a visceral animal, alright. A combination of ferocious Melodic Death Metal, a tinge of Metalcore, and some gnarly Thrash all curled up in an angry fist that slams into your face from the opening riff of the title track.
It’s a real aggression-soaked start, one that possibly catches you off guard and has you rocking like Arthur Fowler in his allotment shed within minutes (non-UK readers, you’ll have to Google that reference, sorry!).
Dead Mother Moon is Upon Stone’s debut for Century Media, and the San Fernando Valley outfit have grabbed the opportunity with both hands and dug in the nails so deeply that blood is flowing freely.
They openly admit their love of European Melodeath. “When you’re 18, you’re still stabbing in the dark,” says drummer Wyatt Bentley of their early endeavours fuelled by the likes of Children Of Bodom, In Flames and Dissection. “Those bands were the gold standard. We could not love anything more than those classic Gothenburg and Finnish bands.”
For a band formed in 2021 and with an EP, Where Wild Sorrows Grow, released within months of their coming together, Dead Mother Moon is a phenomenal record. It evokes memories of those first listens of Slaughter Of The Soul, the seminal At The Gates release.
Bentley is joined by guitarists Ronny Lee Marks and Gage Goss and vocalist/bassist Xavier Wahlberg. The quartet can show a maturity beyond their years with tracks like My Destiny: A Weapon, with its calming synth ending, or the more melodic vibes that pulse through Dusk Sang Fairest, which is slower in tempo but no less heavy in both riffage and drive.
Breaking down into an acoustic middle section is also a brave move, but it demonstrates the confidence that Upon Stone have. Few bands would have the cojones to have this in your face so early.
Wahlberg’s vocals are likely to be an acquired taste, raw-throated and straining at every note, but they fit with the band’s style, even if they do at times echo some of their heroes perhaps a little too much.
They play a masterstroke on Paradise Failed, bringing in legendary Shadows Fall singer Brian Fair to add his own inimitable vocals to a track that simply oozes high-end Melodeath. It’s the history and influence of bands such as Shadows Fall that inspire Bentley and his bandmates through the nine tracks that comprise this album.
The delicate instrumental Nocturnalism provides an oasis of calm amidst the feral onslaught until you arrive at The Lantern, the penultimate song on my version, and a fabulous blend of old school and contemporary. It’s drenched in emotion and atmospheric splendour.
With the band having the audacity to cover the Misfits Dig Up Her Bones as a finale and with cover artwork drawn by German artist Andreas Marschall (Dimmu Borgir / In Flames etc), Dead Mother Moon is an album that genuinely gets better with repeated plays.
The band’s devotion to their sound is obvious, as are their intentions. The final words go to Bentley once more. “Without sounding arrogant, it feels like a rebirth of a sound that changed how we all looked at music.
“We hope that it’s a gateway for people to go back and discover albums like The Jester Race [In Flames] and Storm Of The Light’s Bane [Dissection].
“I want it to matter to a new generation in the same way those records did for us”.