Moonspell is a band that has been through a few different iterations of styles since their inception. What do I mean? Early on in their existence, they were more of a black or folk metal group and have morphed over time into their current gothic, dark metal sound. I have not been a fan of Moonspell for long and really only became a fan of them with their previous release Night Eternal. With new album Alpha Noir (and its companion Omega White, which I did not have a chance to review), released by Napalm Records, the band have created an incendiary, crushing, yet quite catchy album, although, from what I understand, Omega White will be more “atmospheric”. I liked Moonspell previously due to the epic nature of the songs on Night Eternal, a construct at which I think they really excelled. In Alpha Noir we have shorter, heavier songs that at times can be considered death, gothic, and even a classic rock feel every once in a while. It’s rare that I really enjoy an “extreme” band, but if Moonspell are in that camp, they are a band that I do get into.
Moonspell kick off Alpha Noir with Axis Mundi, the first of a number of killer tracks on the album. It’s dark and heavy with big fat riffs and pulsating drumming propelling the song, even some odd 7/4 time signature going on at the start and end of the song. Vocalist Fernando Ribeiro growls his way through most of the track, adding a bit of baritone singing late in the song. His harsh vocals are, for the most part, understandable. This is a great way to start the carnage! Next up is Lickanthrope, a song about werewolves and the first single from the album complete with video (see below). Nice bass work here, carrying the verses. Convincing “howling” by Ribeiro too, along with some atmospheric keyboard layers under the crushing metal. One of the best songs on the album. Versus is next, a kind of weird song, particularly in the construct of the verses. The classic rock influence is heard here in the guitar work, especially during the verse sections.
The title track is next, my personal favorite on the album. Heavy guitars, nice riffing and chords, especially during the chorus. Excellent leads. Driving drums with double bass. Creativity all around. Clean singing – growling vocals. I totally dig this song. The pace slows down a bit with Em Nome Do Medo (Portuguese for something like In the Name of Fear), a song I can’t figure out at all! Sounds German in places, Portuguese of course, and maybe some other languages mixed in. Sort of a doomy offering from the band. They kick it back into gear with Opera Carne, another driving tune with some definite classic rock guitar influence. Love is Blasphemy follows, a crushing, mid-paced song. Really great tune. Grandstand winds up the truly metal part of the album. Excellent bass and guitar work on the verses, then continuing during the chorus but layered with keyboards for depth. Growling and more clean singing by Ribeiro. Alpha Noir concludes with Sine Missione (translated as a gladiatorial fight to the death). It is an instrumental symphonic piece, yet still heavy. It seems like a sort of transition piece into Omega White.
Here is the video for Lickanthrope.
Alpha Noir is an outstanding “dark metal” album (or simply metal album) and one I foresee being in my regular music rotation for a while. I know there is a bit of controversy about Moonspell’s style changes over the years with some of their longtime fans, but all that is irrelevant to their current work. This album is a crushing collection of really good metal, displaying a number of different influences, and it is one I can confidently say to go out and get!
I hear the sound in a METAL way.