Moonspell
Alpha Noir


3.5
great

Review

by Trey Spencer STAFF
May 7th, 2012 | 51 replies | 15,532 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Moonspell drop the goth and every other extraneous influence in favor of a no-frills blackened metal approach that should surprise longtime critics while forcing their fan base to accept a slightly linear listening experience.

Moonspell have never been known as a traditional metal band. There’s no doubt that they’ve almost always maintained a metal element in their sound, but it has never been the sole influence. Over the course of twenty years and multiple albums they’ve dabbled with world music, rock, goth, electronics, industrial and more while integrating a varying level of metal as well. Even over the past few albums, as they have slowly moved towards a streamlined black metal sound, it has only seemed ‘streamlined’ in relation to their previous works. That is why Alpha Noir is such a surprise. With the release of Alpha Noir Moonspell have literally stripped their sound down to its core elements. The deep goth vocals that have almost always been a large facet of the band’s sound comprise no more than thirty seconds of the entire album, and the keyboards have been relegated to a very subtle support role. This is in addition to a noticeable absence of female vocals, electronics and industrial elements. What we’re left with is an album that derives its power almost entirely from thrashy, blackened riffs and visceral growls – and it works very well.

Alpha Noir opens with an undercurrent of feedback and rolling percussion before introducing the first blackened riff and Fernando’s guttural growls, and it is quite possibly one of the darkest, heaviest things that they have ever recorded. As it turns out, the opening section is also the song’s chorus and it’s the first major clue that this is going to be a different kind of album for the band. Unlike previous releases, Alpha Noir is an album that is focused on delivering powerful riffs and vocals while ignoring all the extraneous influences of old. This, as it turns out, is a double-edged sword that lends the album its greatest assets but also its most glaring weakness. On the plus-side, this is definitely an interesting change of pace for the band that features some of Fernando’s strongest vocals and some of the band’s best riffs, but sometimes it feels as if there just isn’t enough diversity. The songs all seem to be derived from the same general style, tones and tempos and it makes for an album that can feel just a bit too homogenous at times. The lack of diversity really is a minor complaint, though, as individual tracks are all very solid and memorable – it’s only over the course of the album that things might begin to feel slightly tedious.

Moonspell’s surprising decision to create an album full of streamlined blackened metal has turned out to be both good and bad. Overall, they’ve succeeded in creating a powerfully dark collection of metal songs that will be excellent in a live setting, but it has also led to a distinct lack of diversity (something that almost never occurred on previous releases). Despite the lack of variety, Alpha Noir still works very well due to the excellently crafted riffs and a top-notch vocal performance that has Fernando doing everything from guttural death growls to pitchy black metal rasps. In all actuality, Alpha Noir will probably be harder for longtime fans to accept than the casual listener because, to the former, the album will feel like it is ‘missing’ something while the latter will take it for what it is: a solid collection of no-frills metal that pulls from the darker realms of the genre.


Note: Apparently this is a double album, but the label only provided us with the first disc. The second disc is supposedly in the more traditional Moonspell style, but I cannot confirm this.



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user ratings (72)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Willie
Moderator
May 7th 2012



15774 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I suggest that anyone into black(ish) metal check out Moonspell's old side project: Daemonarch - Hermeticum (in addition to this, obviously).

My review of that rec: http://www.sputnikmusic.com/album/20991/Daemonarch-Hermeticum/

Digging: Teramaze - Esoteric Symbolism

BallsToTheWall
May 7th 2012



44164 Comments


Good review, sounds interesting.

Hawks
May 7th 2012



33352 Comments


Definitely need to hear this.

Dreamflight
May 7th 2012



1760 Comments


"Note: Apparently this is a double album, but the label only provided us with the first disc. The second disc is supposedly in the more traditional Moonspell style, but I cannot confirm this."

Form what i've heard it's more of a gothic rock sound, to contrast with Alpha's heaviness. But I still have to listen to this anyway.

Nice review. It's funny how PL and Moonspell careers go hand in hand, even if the sound is quite different. It's like a freakin' rollercoaster.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2012



7159 Comments


Change 'but it has also lead to' into 'but it has also led to'

Great review nonetheless. I may check this out. For blackened sludge metal, give a spin to Pervertor by Lord Mantis.

Digging: Triptykon - Melana Chasmata

Willie
Moderator
May 7th 2012



15774 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Form what i've heard it's more of a gothic rock sound, to contrast with Alpha's heaviness.

Nice review. It's funny how PL and Moonspell careers go hand in hand, even if the sound is quite different. It's like a freakin' rollercoaster.
Then I'm not too upset about missing it ;) There are a lot of bands from that time period that have been all over the place since their debut album. My Dying Bride and Samael come to mind, too.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2012



5607 Comments


I have only listened to Irreligious by these guys.

Could someone rec 2-3 albums by them that I need to pick with my eyes closed?

Digging: Mekong Delta - In A Mirror Darkly

Dreamflight
May 7th 2012



1760 Comments


"Then I'm not too upset about missing it ;) There are a lot of bands from that time period that have
been all over the place since their debut album. My Dying Bride and Samael come to mind, too."

Not familiar with Samael, but yea MDB also had their share of changes.

Voivod:

I'd rec you Wolfheart if you liked Irreligious. It's one of the first records ever to combine gothic
with black metal stuff, and it's usually a fan favourite.

Night Eternal and Memorial are also in the same vein, but more mature.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2012



5607 Comments


Thanks man.

Dreamflight
May 7th 2012



1760 Comments


Np dude. hope you'll like it.

zaruyache
May 7th 2012



4794 Comments


Good review pos'd. Oh wait.

This sounds like something I'd be interested in. Will check out later!

Digging: The Great Old Ones - Tekeli-Li

Willie
Moderator
May 7th 2012



15774 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Not familiar with Samael
Then you owe it to yourself to listen to the album Passage by Samael.

zaruyache
May 7th 2012



4794 Comments


Definitely listen to Passage.

Shuyin
May 7th 2012



10391 Comments


nice review, i should be checking this out soon.

Portugal! M/

Digging: All the Empires of the World - Sunscraper

Dreamflight
May 7th 2012



1760 Comments


"Then you owe it to yourself to listen to the album Passage by Samael."

Oh but is it more electro or black?

"Portugal! M/"

Hell yeah!!!

scissorlocked
May 7th 2012



3479 Comments


another back-to-the roots album...

will listen cause Moonspell is really dependable band - Memorial was great and Night Eternal had some killer songs

nice work as always Trey

Digging: Fantastic Mr Fox - Sketches

Hawks
May 7th 2012



33352 Comments


Shut the fuck up Baseline.

Willie
Moderator
May 7th 2012



15774 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oh but is it more electro or black?
Passage is definitely more metal.

another back-to-the roots album...
It's hard to call this a 'back to roots' album because they've never released anything like this. They've definitely stripped down to their core influences.

Dreamflight
May 7th 2012



1760 Comments


Ok sir, I'll check it then.

seedofnothing
May 7th 2012



3425 Comments


I don't know if I've ever liked these guys but I'll check this out. Good review sir.



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