Review Summary: The members of Moonspell get back into the black metal that first fueled their original offerings, and with great results.
The rumbling of what sounds like thunder, but it morphs into some kind of feedback, followed by a bass line and a few random drum sounds. The feedback slowly fades away and that’s when all hell breaks loose. Few might already know the history of Daemonarch
, but for those that don’t here is the brief version. Moonspell
started out as a Black Metal band that incorporated a lot of goth influence into their sound. By their third album they had shed almost all the metal influence in favor of the goth sound, but they still wanted an avenue to express the metal part of their roots; enter Daemonarch[. Daemonarch consists of the entire Moonspell lineup except for their drummer who was replicated by a drum machine for this album, and together they really did unleash hell.
From the opening feedback to the end of the closing song, Daemonarch create a very sinister and evil atmosphere throughout the entire album. There isn’t any nod to the goth or pop influences that are well known on most the Moonspell releases, just some very solid fast to mid-paced Black Metal. Also, the huge abundance of keyboards that these guys are known for have been almost entirely scrapped. When they are used they are only to give a little extra to the atmosphere being created by the guitars; they never take the lead role or drown out the guitar playing. If that’s the case and the guitar is carrying the song then the guitar playing better be damn good; and it is. The guitar playing on this album isn’t overly technical or mind blowing but it is very solid. They don’t play the wall of guitar fuzz that a lot of black metal bands are known for, nor do they play the melodic picking that some others in the genre draw from. Instead what they deliver are some very well written riffs that are as heavy and sinister as they are catchy. These riffs will stick in your head and they really do a great job of creating a lot of the atmosphere within each song.
As great as the guitar playing is, though, special mention must be given to the vocals of Fernando Ribeiro (calling his self Langsuyar again for this album). Fernando really gives the best performance of his entire career on this album. The black metal vocals that he was occasionally known for in Moonspell’s earlier albums sound more powerful and vicious then they ever did before. In addition to the black metal vocals he is already known for he has added a few more styles for this album. The main one used is a deep guttural growl more associated with American death metal, and he pulls it off great. Anyone who has heard his main band’s albums has to be wondering about the goth vocals that he loves to use, and I am happy to say that with one short exception on one song, they are no where to be found. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t any clean vocals on the album, because there are, but they are much more dark and menacing then what he usually does, and they are used sparingly. His clean vocals are very deep and almost spoken with a slight growl behind them which makes them sound very powerful when used. The closest example I can think of is the clean vocals used by David Vincent in a few songs on the Morbid Angel
When the album starts and the pounding drum beat of the first song, “Lex Talionis”, comes in it becomes very obvious that this isn’t going to be any second rate Moonspell album. It comes in with a fast drum beat (not as fast as what Emperor
are known for though), and after a few moments slows down while the evil sounding vocals of Fernando come in resembling the devil himself, at which point the song speeds up again, before becoming even faster by breaking into a blast beat and introducing Fernando’s new guttural death vocals. That’s something else that really makes this album stand out, the dynamics and variations within each song. We’re never forced to sit through just one speed or one vocal style through an entire song, there is enough variation within each song, and the album itself, to keep things fresh and interesting at all times. Another song of note is “Saniyaga” which starts out with a simple keyboard sound before breaking out with a high speed riff and more of Fernando’s black metal growls. The main part of the song is played at more of a mid-pace but between the riffs and Fernando’s vocals it comes off as one of the most sinister and evil songs on the album, but it isn’t the most evil sounding. That distinction goes to the song “Nine Angels”. This song is played at an almost doom pace (except for the fast part in the middle) starting out with a clean guitar and an ominous distorted guitar riff. When the song breaks in with Fernando’s vocals the sinister feeling just cannot be pushed away. Again, he sounds more pissed off and evil then in any album he’s ever done. Even though only a few songs were mentioned by name, they are all very good and solid, and none of them fail to continue to deliver the sinister atmosphere that began with the first song.
This album can safely be recommended to anyone who liked Moonspell’s first few albums only to be pushed away by their increasing use of goth and electronic influences. It should also appeal to most fans of the black metal style as this album is of very high quality. It successfully creates that dark and sinister atmosphere that most black metal attempts (and usually fails) to sustain, and does so with almost no use of keyboards. The playing is also top-notch with some very powerful and memorable riffs. If all of this is the case then why still only give it a 3.5" The reason for that is because I know the drum machine will put some people off even though it’s not really an issue, and the other reason this only gets a 3.5 is because there is nothing new here, nothing groundbreaking; it is just a near flawless recreation of what the genre is already known for.