2015 is yet so prestine, and already it has been ravished by two killer albums, which my gut feeling tells me will be the best of the year! Napalm Death surpassed all expectations with their 15th studio album and now this; Portugal's prime music export, Moonspell, have topped their own efforts over the past decade and beat most of the competition in so doing.
I've basically had this thing for Moonspell since I first encountered them in 1995 during their trek with Morbid Angel and Immortal. They were a humble bunch who were excited about being on tour with Morbid and Immortal, and fact was that their 'Wolfheart' was fresh and different in a way that Immortal couldn't match at all and Morbid Angel barely fenced off with the mighty 'Domination' album.
Since then, Moonspell have explored many a pasture, moving from their black metal origins, to folky dark metal, to synthesised pop metal, to death metal. The recent efforts have seen the Portuguese exploring the more raw and hard side of themselves, something which they of course do effectively. I can't help thinking of Moonspell as southern Europe's answer to Paradise Lost; they couldn't care less what others think, and if they want to explore a Depeche Mode vibe, that's exactly what they do, or if they want to growl their hearts out, that's what will happen. Coincidentally, Paradise Lost is also a band I've always respected immensely.
We have reached a point in the life cycle of Moonspell where they need to explore the melodic, even pop dominated side of themselves again, just like they did on 'Sin/Pecado' in 1997. The result is an album that I can just keep listening to over and over again. Without actually losing heaviness, Ferdnando and his crew have created a masterpiece consisting of songs that combine the atmosphere of dark synthesizer pop and goth rock music from the 80s (think along the lines of Depeche Mode and Fields of the Nephilim) and that particular sound that Moonspell has, especially evoked by the singer's characteristic baryton. This time, Fernando for the most part sings with his clean voice, which, in my book at least, is one of Moonspell's strongest cards. A Dying Breed is the only song where he growls almost through the entire tune.
If I were to highlight a few songs, I'd mention these:
The title track, which is an upbeat, almost cheerful track with a beautiful string arrangement to begin with. This is replaced by a typical Moonspell guitar drive and a snarling vocal, which is then replaced by an extremely catchy clean vocal chorus. Diverse tune, and a real hit in my ears.
Domina is masterpiece of dark, melodic guitar rock, and it's totally catchy. It flows like a slow, but strong current.
The Last Of Us smells of Paradise Lost from the outset and then moves into something that reminds me of American hardrock from the 80s, but in a cool way. Dunno if I make sense, but I don't really care - it sounds fantastic!
The Future Is Dark is helped not only by a very catchy vocal phrasing, but also by a finely tuned string arrangement. Beautiful piece.
Boys and girls, if this is an indication of how 2015 is going to be, then it's going to be a marvellous year!