When you’re scrolling through a list of new and forthcoming releases to give some of your attention (deficit), the name Hate Moon sticks out in a big way. It’s undeniably a little goofy, while evoking the atmospheres of other purveyors of Verb/Adjective Moon-ness. The album art, in all its puffy, broad-stroke glory, is also a little goofy. And they’re a black metal band from Pennsylvania, so nothing here really screams kvlt as fvck.
Thing is, the music is a pretty far cry from goofy. Hate Moon’s debut, The Imprisoning War, is focused, destructive, nuanced and passionate. It certainly deserves the attention of anyone thirting for well written, battle-hardened historical/cultural black metal underscored by tasteful synth lines. Folkvangr Records, who will release the full album this Friday, have been teasing us with a song here and a song there for a few weeks, but now you can hear the entire album right here, days before it’s official release.
Also, continue reading for a glimpse into the PA duo’s creative process.
Who are the members of Hate Moon? When did you start playing music together?
Tohmar: I am Tohmar, also known as Cullen, once known as Maelstrom. I’m a longtime veteran of the underground metal scene in the NJ/NY/PA region embarking on some new musical journeys. We’ve been playing on and off for almost 10 years, although this will be our first public/official release as we’ve historically circulated Hate Moon material through our network of friends only.
Tuathail: And I am Tuathail. I have been writing music for over 10 years but never played much into the scenes. Tohmar and I knew each other for some time till one day I recorded a demo, which I called Hate Moon. At that time I then asked Tohmar to do vocals and here we are now. This is my first official album being released aside from all the demos I have recorded for other projects I was involved in.
How did Hate Moon develop its sound? Did you know what you wanted to play at the beginning, or did it take more time to settle on this sound?
Tuathail: With Hate Moon’s sound I always wanted something more epic and symphonic-like. There was a demo with no synths on it and just with an epic sound to it and then other demos with waves of synth. So what you hear in the album The Imprisoning War is the set sound we had in mind since the beginning. From this, we will keep evolving the sound to what we feel is right to meet our vision of Hate Moon.
Does The Imprisoning War have a central theme or drive, or is it a collection of songs with individual purposes?
Tohmar: It has a complete and linear narrative both in music and theme. I tend to prefer music to be more conceptually abstract and therefore avoid bluntly stating “this album is about ___.” Instead listeners are given loose guidelines that they can craft at the whim of their imagination. For Hate Moon, we are a Norse-Gaelic band and the music, lyrics, and aesthetic are romanticism of the greater scope of ancient Norse-Gael culture and fantasy. Therefore someone listening to the album while reading a fantasy novel or playing a role playing video game can apply the theme to each of those stories, without being hindered by printed lyrics or a finite concept.
Have Hate Moon’s members played in other bands, or do you have other musical experience in your background?
Tohmar: I’ve been involved in underground metal bands for 15 years, mostly in the recording environment. I will be reviving my most adventurous project, Wall of Water, in 2018 with a new album I’m currently recording. I’ve released albums (mostly CDs) on various underground record labels through many other bands as well, but prefer to leave them in the past as I’m on a much different spiritual path at this point in my life. Eyes towards the future!
Tuathail: Right now I play in Hate Moon and another band called Thy Vast Despair. Thy Vast Despair is my first music project I started back in 2004-2005. This project I have been writing for years for but just now started recording a lot of the material in the past two to three years. I was in other music projects over the years but none have ever panned out and I don’t really want name drop the bands either. Not like they were known bands or anything, just one demo bands really that never worked out because of idea differences or laziness. Now my focuses are Hate Moon and Thy Vast Despair. Also, I have been experimenting with synth based projects, electronic music and power electronics. There are recordings but never widely released.
How long did you work on writing the songs for The Imprisoning War? Can you describe that process?
Tuathail: I wrote this album maybe 3 years ago now for the most part. From what I can remember about writing this album was one day I had a creative spike and I just kept writing song after song. To guess I would say the songs took a few days to a week to write, honestly. There were one or two songs not used, or even three. But then I had to edit the songs I wrote and makes changes with notes played or different synth octaves. Writing an album can be really easy if you have the right inspiration or very painstaking. Walking in the forests helped me get in the mindset and the autumn weather. That’s all I can really describe about it… just this music comes to me naturally when in the right mood.
How did the recording process go? Does the result match your original vision for the songs, or did things shift along the way?
Tohmar: I really enjoy the production on this one, much more than any other album I’ve been involved with. The engineering and production was a collaboration between Tuathail, myself, and an Engineer named Brian Gawaski of Deaf Locust Productions. I believe the vocals to be the best I’ve ever done, and the recording far exceeded my expectations given that I had never used most of the software before we started.
Tuathail: Tohmar did more of the mixing process and he did a very good job on this. It came out the way I imagined it sounding, perfect.
What other bands or music are you most interested in right now? Any non-extreme metal music that is particularly exciting to you?
Tohmar: I’ve been listening to a lot of Antestor, particularly the Return of the Black Death and The Forsaken albums. Crimson Moonlight and Grave Declaration are two other bands I’ve been listening to a lot lately- all great symphonic metal! In terms of non-extreme, I’ve really been enjoying the various synthwave/retrowave mixes that have been sprouting up the last year or so and listen to them often.
Tuathail: For me I usually go back on old bands I listen to and once in a while hear some new bands I like. But right now I have been listening to Ildjarn, Abruptum, Woods of Infinity, Skepticism, Crucifier, Drudkh, and other metal bands similar to them. For non-metal, I have liked listening to Skinny Puppy (all time personal favorite), Prurient, Project Pitchfork (older material), TSOL, Bauhaus, The Birthday Party… I like a lot of 80’s music, goth, industrial, and such.
A lot of black metal celebrates its geographical/cultural origin… Do you feel that Hate Moon’s music is related to where you live, or does it rise from different motivations?
Tohmar: Hate Moon is the celebration of Norse-Gael culture and the Norse-Gael heritage of Tuathail and I. Both of us traced our Irish heritage back to the Norse vikings that invaded Ireland in the 10th century, and our pseudonyms reflect the ancient Norse versions of our surnames. Therefore the ultimate theme and aesthetic of the band is Norse-Gael Irish romanticism. In terms of geographical origin, we always grew up/lived in separate areas (rural PA and a New Jersey beach town) so it didn’t seem to influence this collaboration.
Have you been performing these songs live?
Tohmar: Hate Moon has never played live and never will. I’m not a fan of metal shows and I never really liked playing live that much. I left the most popular band I was in to put my focus into studio recordings and have been able to release 4 full length albums in the few years since. I will be continuing to put my time into recording quality albums with Hate Moon, Wall of Water and others and not seeing them delayed by rehearsing for concerts.
Tuathail: I don’t really plan to play live as Hate Moon… I don’t like concerts for the most part. Mostly because of the people and cliques they created.
What comes next for Hate Moon?
Tohmar: Expect more releases, short and long, ideally at an annual interval. Our next work will feature some longer, more complex, and more epic song structures! An EP is almost completely recorded, writing is underway for our second album, and we also hope to formally release the demos we’ve been sharing for many years now!