Every album that Moonspell releases explores a different facet of their Gothic Metal style, sometimes responding to the one before it in a constant tug-o-war between darkness and light. Their thirteenth album, Hermitage (Napalm Records), is no exception. In contrast to the grandiose symphonics of 2018’s 1755, the band opts for a scaled-back, atmospheric approach with more Prog influence thrown in than usual. It seems to invoke the band’s early vibe without going full throwback and also reminds me of Tiamat or Opeth in spots.
After a quarter of a century, what is there left for a band to do? If you are Moonspell, you put out a live three disk cd with accompanying three-hour long video that includes a documentary and three albums played in their entirety live. Vocalist Fernando Ribeiro, drummer Mike Gaspar, Pedro Paixao on keyboards, guitarist Ricardo Amorim, and bassist Aires Pereira present the epic Lisboa Under the Spell (Napalm Records). Continue reading
Gothic Metal is more associated with the fantasy genre, so it is perhaps unsurprising that Fernando Ribeiro is not often asked about his political views. A recent post on Moonspell’s website, listed things the band hates, one of which was German Chancellor Angela Murkel. We asked Fernando if he hoped that Portugal follows in the footsteps of Greece regarding the deficit?
“Portugal has been in a crisis, the social democratic government have made things very hard here. It is very hard for musicians in Portugal. We pay the highest tax charges in Europe, our civil rights are being questioned, this government changed all the processes and we feel we are digging deeper into the trench between the very rich and poor. The IMF (The International Money Fund) has imposed all these measures on us which are making things more difficult here. There are not enough beds in hospitals and the government wasted the money on submarines to keep us and the Greek’s in debt. I hope we get a government that does what the Greeks are trying to do because this deficit is crippling us. We don’t want to be caught by these vultures anymore.”
“We live a very intense life. Not just with the band, but keeping together families and things like that.” The deep, dulcet tones of Fernando Ribeiro are unmistakable, coated in this thick Portuguese accent, it is little wonder the forty year-old front man of Moonspell still attracts much attention from swooning nubiles. These days the Goth Metal lothario has a young son to raise which is perhaps a factor on the more mature direction Moonspell have adopted on new opus Extinct (Napalm Records). “We like to delve into the unknown. It is important to be creative when we feel inspired to do so. We had six months of touring left for Alpha Noir and Omega White, but we needed to write when we felt the need to express ourselves, to feed that hunger!”
One thing that immediately noticeable about Extinct is the concept is rooted in reality both on a global and personal scale. As Ribeiro explained, the concept came together relatively quickly. “We did not want to split our direction as we did on the preceding albums. The concept came out very early. I was thinking of extinction on a global scale which affects animals but also how human beings place a higher value on their own existence and will often sacrifice other species and the planet to serve our own selfish needs. Sonically, we have been influenced more by electronic music and used more clean vocals. It is a very desolate album.”
Extinct is indeed a dark affair, not least for the shocking image of a mutilated amputee which adorns the cover which is the work of Septicflesh bassist and frontman Spiros Antoniou a.k.a. Seth Siro Anton. “He worked on ‘Night Eternal’ for us.” Ribeiro mused on this comrade’s work. “We feel an affinity with Septic Flesh and look forward to touring with them this year. His work recalls that of Francis Bacon or Joel- Peter Witkin to me. ‘Extinct’ is an album about imperfections. That figure on the cover looks raped and mutilated but it is about the fear of what could happen and the damage that has been done. Amputee’s feel their limbs long after they have had them removed so it seemed to fit with the concept we had.”
In addition to its gruesome cover art, Extinct also has some of the most personal lyrics Fernando has ever penned. “Gothic metal has always been very fictional but we have gone through many changes in our lives. ‘The Future Is Dark’ is one song which exemplifies this. Jens and Pedro opened the studio up specially one night for me to do the vocals. It had been a difficult night at home for me and I wanted to get the lyrics on the track straight away.”
The track in question see’s Ribeiro addressing his son with the brooding chorus refrain ‘Without you there is no tomorrow’ it’s a touching moment. “Jens told me it was one of the best personal songs he ever recorded. He is a workaholic who never gave anyone a day off but he was a real team player and supportive of everything we did.”
Adding further depth to the seductive melodies on ‘Breathe (Until We Are No More)’ and ‘Medusalem’ is the use of a Turkish orchestra. “It was a big challenge to get them involved because they do not speak English nor I Turkish so we had to have a mediator in between! Portuguese music has always been influenced by the Arabic scales so we wanted to incorporate that. We didn’t go for these big Wagnerian arrangements most Metal bands use we wanted something more seductive.”
Another highlight is album closer ‘La Baphomette’, a track which sounds positively vaudevillian with its swing feel and elegant piano. “Our bass player Aires wrote this piece with the brass section but Pedro helped with the arrangement. When I listened to the melody I thought of Burlesque and Tom Waits – I love French poets like (Charles) Baudelaire. I was at the French quarter in New Orleans on our last tour and I wrote the lyrics about a burlesque dancer who evokes cosmic chaos. It is a very romantic song and a great way to end the album.”
WORDS BY ROSS BAKER
Despite heaps of plaudits and a sturdy career as metal stalwarts, Portuguese brooding metallers Moonspell have never quite achieved the huge acclaim and success (outside of their native country where they are a chart topping act) that they perhaps warrant. Certainly their latter day output surely has some mainstream appeal and accessibility, especially considering the worship that some Gothic metal bands (HIM being the prime example) have garnered. If any album of theirs should see them herald a wider audience then Extinct (Napalm) could well be that moment.
Certainly their most instant album to date, Extinct showcases the band’s finest elements to the full. Dark and melancholic in tone and subject matter but the hooks have an almost pop vibe to them, with some remnants of the pace and ferociousness of their black metal days, such as on album opener ‘Breathe (Until We Are No More)’, an anthem and potential rock club floor filler in the making. Fernando Ribeiro’s vocal displays are as luring and diverse as ever, veering from a seductive croon to a visceral bark with ease and fluidity.
The real ace in the hole is the Pedro Paixao’s atmospheric samples and piercing synths; adding a whole new dimension and tone to proceedings; exceptionally so on the likes of the title track where they steal the limelight with ease. There are even the faintest hints of a prog influence, shown on the eerie, piano led close ‘La Baphomette’.
Always a familiar name to some, especially those in the know, but now one that has all the qualities that scream out mainstream success, Moonspell should begin to hit the big time with Extinct if there is any justice. Bleak and full of despair yet anthemic and catchy as hell, with plentiful layering and nuances to find; a stunning work.
Finnish melodic deathsters Insomnium might as well consider The Underworld as their London home: the way the quartet is welcomed tonight is, as always, simply overwhelming to say the least. After a successful 2011 that saw them reaching their highest pick with their stunning fifth album One For Sorrow and a series of live appearances including the support role to mighty Paradise Lost and their headlining European tour in 2012, the squad is ready to strike again, opening for Moonspell. Nothing seems to be short of flawlessness with their set since the very first instance that vocalist and bassist Niilo Sevänen stomps on the stage, with his captivating confidence of a true frontman.Continue reading