Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. No, this has nothing to do with Disney, but that definitely made searching for information on this band a whole lot of fun. Let’s just say SEO is quite… unkind to this band. This is virtually the opposite of a Disney movie. MOANA in this context is the first name of band singer, guitarist, and leader Moana Mayatrix, and this is her band! They specialize in a hard driving, psychedelic, dark rock that’s as catchy as it is digestible. There’s a lot more to it than that, but we’ll delve into it all as we go along.
In The Allure is quite an accurate title since the music on here has a very enchanting, bewitching quality to it. I’ve always been attracted to music with commanding feminine presence, and MOANA is about as commanding as it gets. She’s able to contort her voice into a number of forms, all conveniently ear-shaped. Couple this with some stoned melodies, primal rock might, and some seductive approaches, you got yourself a hell of a good time.
It’s probably worth mentioning that MOANA are from Perth, Australia which will both confuse you when you hear the Middle Eastern-like melodies of “Smoke That Thunders”, but also explain the foreboding and feral qualities of songs like “Sister Winter” and, well… “Feral Umbilical”. It also explains the subtle lilt that shows up in the singer’s vocals, adding some character to already individually awesome songs. There’s a deliberate pacing to it all too – the first half of In The Allure is tantalizingly energetic, calling forth ritualistic writhing from your body (‘dancing’ if you’re boring about it) while the second half is sultry, sinister, and delicate. Overlap exists, but that’s the general roadmap.
(Quick note: this video is NSFW for some nudity)
Seated in the former is “Dracula”, a bloody ballad that sees Moana’s voice reach fierce lows backed up by hazy atmosphere, marching drums, and buzzing guitars. “Scarab” is the foil for that song, an infectious beater of a track that sends the singer’s voice higher. Without a doubt, though, the highlight of the first few tracks is “The Cultess”. It’s got a lot of driving rhythm to it as well, along with some shrill shrieks that are an acquired taste, but this track’s tone is caked in feminine power and freedom, alongside a tinge of something forbidden. ‘The rhythm begs/She spreads her legs/The great mother drum/She gonna show you where you come from.’ Yes please?
“Sister Winter” is where things take a tonal turn, when we trade in rocking rhythms for more atmosphere and emotion – again, for the most part. It’s also where we see the album’s title appear in the lyrics – ‘Cruel and pure/In the allure‘ – in a reference to the duality of nature that winter possesses, personified as equally beautiful and brutal. “Blood Moon” is a wonderful companion track to “Sister Winter”, two sides of the same foreboding coin. Folky percussion, deep didgeridoo-esque hums, even the way Moana’s accent is most present here (particularly in her pronunciation of ‘knife’) – all evoke strong imagery of the band’s native Australia.
By the time you’re hit with the industrial, come-hither attitude of “E LIX A” and the eruptive climax of “Promise”, you just want… more. It’s not that In The Allure doesn’t provide enough for all comers, it’s all part of the album’s hypnotizing qualities. You want more. You crave it. When the music’s as catchy as it is, it’s not like you’ll need any other excuse to hit that loop button and enjoy another ride, so indulge a bit like I did. You deserve it, and MOANA are more than capable hosts.
After all is said and done with several listens under my belt, I find myself sufficiently seduced by MOANA and not just because I seem to have a… thing for witches. There are such attractive qualities to this album – so catchy, so vigorous, it’s something that goes well beyond penetrating your senses. It’s even a little naughty with its expression, but likely not enough to appear vulgar; at least to sensible people. In The Allure is a pleasant and powerful debut for the band, here’s hoping they can continue to channel all that goes into making great music like this.