March 9, 2015 Moonspell – Extinct (Album Review)
Twenty years ago, Portuguese Gothic Metal pioneers Moonspell released their first album, Wolfheart. Over the years the band’s sound has varied from album to album, and for their followers, every release seems like a surprising roller coaster ride through several Dark Rock theme parks. Since their early days of bumpy Black Metal sounds and vampire-romance vibes, the five-piece from Lisbon has changed dramatically in both sound and lyrical themes. Releases like the masterpiece Irreligious (1996) and more experimental outputs like Sin/Pecado (1998) and The Butterfly Effect (1999) made it clear that fans should always expect the unexpected, especially considering the band’s tendency to incorporate influences like Depeche Mode and Marilyn Manson in their creations. After drawing from the style that was popular during the Finnish Gothic-Metal boom with the Pop-tinged Darkness And Hope (2001) and The Antidote (2003), the band returned to rougher territory with the release of the Thrash-imbued Memorial (2006).
Despite the band’s unwillingness to settle into one genre, Moonspell has met with great success, winning an MTV Europe Music Award for Best Portuguese Act along with countless appearances on Portuguese and German album charts. With the release of Night Eternal in 2008, Moonspell ushered in a new era by mixing the styles they would adopted over their career, creating an eclectic sound that holds the listener’s interest, while still maintaining the tonal balance typical of the band’s sound. The 2012 double album Alpha Noir/Omega White offered heavier fare on the first disc, and on the second, again paid homage to the golden Gothic ages of Moonspell.
The band continues to change course with their eleventh studio album Extinct, set for release March 17th in North America through Austrian label Napalm Records. Again, with subtle variations in the band’s sound, this album is reminiscent of Moonspell’s Pop years. Thematically, it addresses that most mysterious of human conditions, death, dwelling on the ephemeral nature of human existence. The album was produced by well-known genre-producer Jens Bogren (Paradise Lost, Katatonia, Arch Enemy and many more) in Fascinating Street Studios/Sweden, and his influence is clear in the sound. Extinct starts with a straightforward Metal track, the powerful “Breathe (Until We Are No More),” followed by the title track, which continues in the same style. Unexpected Asian-influenced string arrangements in the opening track are conspicuous, and combine with skillfully executed Metal instrumentation to create an atmospheric opus sure to please the listener. Both opening songs peak with the impressive choruses of singer Fernando Ribeiro.
In contrast to the first two tracks, “Medusalem” is somewhat disappointing in that it overuses the aforementioned Asian string arrangements, but Moonspell immediately finds redemption with the next song, “Domina,” which features a relentless guitar melody reminiscent of Iron Maiden. Guitarists Ricardo Amorim and Pedro Paixao always give the compositions exactly what they need, whether that be heavy riffs, melodic dark wave strains, or emotional solos. Their expertise lends the album nuance which sets it apart from other outputs.
From this point Extinct gathers energy with the brilliant and perfectly arranged first single “The Last Of Us,” which takes the listener back to Darkness And Hope times with its grand hooks. The calmer electronic track “Malignia” leaves space to come down before Moonspell fills the rest of the album with the vast, melancholic melodies they’re known for. In the tracks “Funeral Bloom” and “A Dying Breed,” Ribeiro inserts a more aggressive vocal sound, which, with a hint of desperation, lends a more brutal, affecting, and creepy atmosphere to the songs. The influence of Sisters of Mercy is obvious on “The Future Is Dark,” which, in the best Darkwave manner, warms up to the experimental, swinging, and nonchalant “La Baphomette.” This track, which calls to mind “Der Spiegelmann” from Irreligious, closes the album in the French language.
Extinct, with its eclectic collection of tracks, should satisfy fans of any Moonspell era. With the exception of one track, Extinct is one of the most well-balanced outputs of Moonspell, punctuating their special position in the genre. After twenty-three years, it is clear that the band is still going strong, releasing powerful Dark Rock at its best. CrypticRock gives Moonspell’s Extinct 4 out of 5 stars.