Moonspell

Rating: 90/100

Reviewed by: Thomas Nielsen, July '04
Label: Century Media
Style: Southern Deathstyle  

The Antidote

In 1996, I was one of the bookers of a small venue, and I was fortunate to meet a very humble and unassuming combo from Portugal who had just been honoured with the opportunity to support the almighty Morbid Angel and the furious Immortal on their European tour.

These six dark-haired and very shy characters snug around the venue and seemed to be amazed that we actually gave them food and drink and that someone wanted to listen to their music. Whispers in the corners said that they were a new hope of death/doom, but only when I came home the day after the gig and listened to the Wolfheart promo CD then bass-player Ares solemnly presented to me as a thank you, I realised how special these guys were and just how big their potential was.

Wolfheart was my favourite CD for months after that and it is still a disc I revisit often because of the fantastic fusion of folklore, rock’n’roll and doomy black metal.

The adventure had begun with the messy but promising folkloristic black metal CD Under the Moonspell from 1993 and continued after Wolfheart on Irreligious that came out later in 1996. The songs, however, did not quite have the same magic as they’d had on Wolfheart, but Irreligious was still an album that cemented the style of Moonspell and boosted sales for the bands, especially in their home country of Portugal where reports said that they had become virtual chart heroes.

1997’s Sin / Pecado was a very different matter, but not in a bad way. The sound on this CD was decidly more modern than its predecessors and parallels could be drawn to the experiments made by Paradise Lost in the UK. More pop entered the soundscape, but still with a heavy edge.

1999 saw the release of The Butterfly Effect. Again, the magic wasn’t quite as obvious as it had been on Wolfheart, but it did excel in classics such as the ultra-heavy tune “Soulsick” and the eerie “I am the Eternal Spectator”.

In 2000 I saw the band live in Copenhagen, an experience that made it apparent that this is a band that dares to be different. The stage set-up was dark and beautiful, the band dressed in carefully stylised rags and painted for the occasion. The self-confidence was a welcome difference from the people I had met four years before.

Darkness and Hope from 2001 was a somewhat disappointing experience. It never managed to capture my interest, perhaps because more or less all songs on the CD are written after the same recipe and becomes a sort of pop-doom-rock album.

It is a quite different matter with the band's latest album, The Antidote. The heaviness of opener “In and above Men” blew me away when the CD was put in the CD-player. The trademarks of Moonspell are all there: Ten songs with Fernando’s deep, doomy voice and charming Portu-English, this time with a decidedly more furious edge to it, the sheer solidity of the rhythm section, the simple riffing with the rock touch.

This time around, the band has been especially creative: the CD contains a complete set of short stories by writer José Luís Peixoto, and the artwork is nothing less than astonishing. According to the credits, the CD was made in collaboration between the writer and the band, and the result, one could argue, could easily make a precedence in the metal world. The result is simply more whole, more artistically complete than anything I’ve seen in a long time and it's a pleasure to listen to this varied mix of fairly straight forward southern (European) doom rock with double bass drum, to shift through the electronic pages of Peixoto’s dark words and to watch the great video for the catchy doomster “Everything Invaded”.

This CD is a must for fans of dark music and culture!