Review Summary: The Butterfly Effect has Moonspell experimenting with more electronic influences and industrial metal, resulting in an inconsistent album that disappoints at some tracks but shines brightly at others.
The smallest differences in the initial conditions of a dynamic system determine the behavior and outcome of this system, making it nigh impossible to make predications on the longer run about such systems. In chaos theory, this phenomenon is called ‘the Butterfly Effect’. Moonspell’s fourth release – only a year after the unexpectedly experimental Sin/Pecado – draws its inspiration from this chaos theory, hence is named after the Butterfly Effect. Moonspell thread even deeper into experimental waters this time around, making it apparent that they have not finished with experimenting yet. While the experimentation worked out well for them on Sin/Pecado, will it also have the desired effect on The Butterfly Effect?
To be blunt: it doesn’t quite. Since the Butterfly Effect sees Moonspell experiencing no changes in line-up for the first time since the release of their first album Wolfheart one might suspect them to be comfortable with their sound and releasing an album that showcases this. However, on The Butterfly Effect Moonspell seem to be exploring new areas to find a sound they are content with, which unfortunately doesn’t work out as splendid as on Sin/Pecado. While Sin/Pecado rooted its sound in experimental gothic rock, The Butterfly Effect is highly influenced by industrial metal and electronic music and has them sounding a tad like bands such as Samael. While on paper this seems promising, to achieve a more industrial and artificial sound Moonspell had to compromise much of their gothic and emotional atmospheric elements. Since these immersive atmospheres that have the capability to drag listeners into a world of darkness and beauty are one of the prime qualities of Moonspell as a band this is an unfortunate trade-off. However, the bright point is that Moonspell does seem to have regained some of their earlier venom that is part of the legendary status of Wolfheart and Irreligious, making this album a lot more ‘metal’ than its predecessor, which is of course a reason for many Moonspell fans to rejoice. This is mainly caused by Fernando Ribeiro returning with his grunting during some of the choruses and he sounds more unhuman than ever.
The Butterfly Effect opens with “Soulsick”, a track guided by mechanical and heavy drumming with an unsettling and sinister atmosphere that ends with a furiously loud chorus that has Fernando Ribeiro utilize his screams besides his cleanly sung vocals. This track – and the fourth track “Lustmord” that is in many ways similar – show potential for the new industrial sound Moonspell embraced. However, this potential is not realized much of the remaining part of The Butterfly Effect that is made up of some industrial, futuristic mid-tempo songs that contain electrically sounding heavy riffs and has Fernando Ribeiro varying his vocals between whispering, singing and grunting deeply; such as “Selfabuse”, “I Am the Eternal Spectator”, “Soulitary Vice” and “Adaptables”. Moonspell shows their most experimental side on these tracks, which unfortunately doesn’t work out that well; most of these tracks are rather forgettable and lack the musical hooks, emotional tone and catchiness to truly captivate the listener. “Butterfly Fx” is the chosen song that was released as a single and for which a video was made, which is a track with an up-tempo – almost playful – drumbeat and an incredibly catchy chorus, which makes is altogether a pleasant but not all too impressive song. “Disappear Here” and “Can’t Bee” are two songs with a ballad-like nature, of which especially the latter is a true high point on this album. Somehow Moonspell regains on “Can’t Bee” their emotional flair they lack on most other songs on this album, with its beautifully sung verses that uses subtle and quiet instrumentals to set the tone for the climax that combines synths and guitars wonderfully during the solely musical choruses. The final two songs “Angelizer” and “Tired” before the totally unnecessary outro “K” are probably the two songs that will be embraced best by Moonspell fans. Both songs build up a dense and disquiet atmosphere that explodes in a ferocious chorus, and had Fernando screaming more venomously than ever before.
A small change in the approach might’ve made this album work a lot better than it does now, since the industrial approach does show amazing potential on songs such as “Can’t Bee”, “Angelizer” and “Tired”. Unfortunately The Butterfly Effect turned out a little too ambitious for its own good and has Moonspell trading in too much of their characteristic gothic sound for too little in return, making this an inconsistent album with both rather dull and forgettable moments as truly great ones. However, the good moments do outshine the bad ones, making the Butterfly Effect overall a decent though relatively speaking disappointing fourth release of this Portuguese band. It turned out that 1999 and the Butterfly Effect marked the end of Moonspell’s experimental period that lasted two albums, but how their return to form took shape in the end is a tale for another time.