Moonspell is a band of many faces. From their black metal upbringings, through their alternative rock stage, and even within their aggressive blackened heavy metal of their present status, they always retained a very gothic, and exceptionally intelligent, state of mind whenever they put their name on a record. But with Irreligious especially, they concocted possibly the most important record to goth rock and metal in the 1990’s. Alongside Sisters of Mercy, Moonspell’s ideas of musical composition have been stolen time and time again, but never reach the level of emotion or intensity as its creators. Even Silenoz (Dimmu Borgir) declared he secretly loved this album during his “black metal only” phase, and Mille Petrozza from Kreator exclaims that Irreligious has created a new genre of metal and foundation for generations of bands to come. Perhaps he’s exaggerating about his first claim, but he sure isn’t far off.
The one thing that’s undeniable about Moonspell is that regardless if you like what they’re doing at any given time, they still sound like Moonspell. The band began individualized, and thus had more time to experiment. They also retain a sense of mysticism in their atmospheres that goes hand in hand with the attractive lyrical topics. Because they stripped away the blackened influence from their first two outings, Irreligious takes many-a gander into experimentation with the use of instrumentation as well as a sort of trial and error with when to use these or other relative tools. By incorporating imaginative moods with this experimentation opens doors for how the album carries itself and how Fernando’s vocals are able to fluctuate between styles.
The classic goth metal track Opium is your first insight into a rather straightforward manner with its extremely catchy hooks and drums. Fernando’s vocals are as seductive as ever, and already his growls have greatly increased in power and intensity. This transcends perfectly into Awake, a fairly symphonic track utilizing the strings as a palette for the rhythmic elements. Raven Claws, on the other hand, is an example of where experimentation can hurt. There is a female guest singer that comes across far too soulful for the sound of the song, though the song itself could not be much more redeemable without her. However, Mephisto shows how lack of experimentation hurts, it being a rather normal song for this album due to its infantile songwriting.
Forget Type O Negative as the standard for modern gothic music. Forget Peter Steele’s “I’m bummed, but highly sexed” mantra, because the amount of passion, enjoyable or not, that Moonspell immerse the music in is more human and at the same time a sort of apotheosis in that they bring on a completely new mindset than you previously had. Naturally, it being an early album they are still struggling with songwriting in itself and Fernando could still use much improvement vocally. It’s a bit too bad they didn’t take this sound further rather than focusing more on a more straightforward sound, but that just makes this album all the more special.