Review Summary: Moonspell are back with their heaviest, most consistent black metal influenced album ever. If you've written off this band before, it's time to give them another chance.
Moonspell are a band that in my opinion are largely overrated. I mean, here is a group whose back catalog ranges from the laughably bad (Wolfheart
) to the painfully average (Darkness and Hope
) with few exceptions. In fact, the only reason I had held any hope for this album is because their last release, Memorial
, was one of those exceptions, even if it wasn’t phenomenal by any means. Soon after Memorial
the band re-recorded their earliest demos and their first EP displaying their black metal roots through a dark, aggressive nature that had long since gone dormant which only added to my hope that it would remind them of their potential; I am happy to say that it has.
This album is by far the heaviest, darkest and most well-written album they have ever released. It also marks the full return of their black metal roots with their gothic rock leanings only used sparingly. If you can imagine the intense, aggressive nature of Under Satanae
combined with the more mature song writing of Memorial
, mixed with the sinister vibe of their Daemonarch
side-project then you’ll be very close to what is presented here. The opening track is a perfect song to display what you can expect from this album. The riffs are forceful, yet memorable, the guitar melodies are ominous, and the keyboards never become overbearing or tasteless. The song also displays their increased penchant for dynamics, utilizing various speeds and volumes never becoming just another droning wall of noise.
As much as the music is responsible for the renewed aggression and energy, the biggest leap forward is through their vocalist, Fernando Ribiero. In addition to being the most aggressive song I can remember them ever releasing, “Moon in Mercury” is also the best song to display that leap. His vocals on that song are venomous, deep black metal growls that frequently drop to even lower registers becoming the guttural sounds more associated with death metal. The death metal influence in the vocals as well as the violent nature of his black metal vocals take every song they’re used on to a whole new level for the band. With all this talk of black and death metal, fans of their gothic rock mid-era may wonder if there is anything left in this band for them, and there is a little left.
There are only two songs on this album where black metal vocals aren’t the main style on the song, and those two songs also retain just the slightest bit of gothic rock influence that was so prevalent in their music for awhile. The most notable is the song “Scorpion Flower” due to the guest vocals of Anneke Van Giersbergen (Agua de Annique
, ex-The Gathering
). Moonspell didn’t tone down the dark vibe or heaviness of the song just because Anneke was singing on it though. The only concession they gave to her was a slight return of the catchy gothic rock melodies and a lack of black metal vocals, and it is very catchy. The other track, “Dreamless”, is similar in its structure except it is lacking the guest vocals, but it makes up for it with better melodies and a better atmosphere.
After having heard this album multiple times over the past few weeks I am still surprised by the renewed aggression and energy as well as the overall heaviness of it. I am even more surprised that there isn’t one thing that is laughably bad or cringe-inducing here. Instead we get an album that is consistent in its song writing, its dark atmosphere, its heavy riffs and classy solos, and its great death/black vocal style. This is the album for those that never thought that any Moonspell album was really all that great before Memorial
. It’s even an album that those that thought Memorial
was bad might enjoy. As for current fans, as long as your love isn’t placed strictly in their gothic rock era, you can get this album with confidence that you’re getting something enjoyable and of high quality.