Moonspell – “Extinct” (Napalm Records)
Moonspell are Portugal’s biggest metal band bar none. Formed over 20 years ago, they’ve evolved through different phases of black, doom and more recently dark metal in line with the changing metal landscape although not without a common dark theme running through all their albums. What’s made it work for these guys is rather than being compartmentalized into genres, they’ve learned to grow out and taken a little of everything by being avant-garde and a bit more courageous. It’s no better exemplified than on their last album “Alpha Noir / Omega White” which was a double release offering two contrasted styles reflective of night and day. On “Extinct” they almost seem to have gone back full circle into the realms of modern gothic rock. Again though, its not trademark goth but tries as always – and succeeding in my opinion – to push the boundaries out further again while keeping to the mainstay of being both melancholic and dark. With orchestral arrangements using cellos and pianos providing a rich atmosphere, along with the dark clanging new wave / goth guitars of Ricardo Amorim backed by Pedro Paixão’s textured keyboards, there’s some very, very stylish work accomplished here both in the suaver but also more savage moments on songs like ‘Domina’, ‘Funeral Bloom’ and ‘La Baphomette‘ with decadent, middle eastern soundscapes contrasting brilliantly with the harder and more straightforward rock elements. Across it all come Fernando Ribeiro’s vocals and these too are varied ranging from trademark goth baritone to melancholic wailing to a harsher, gruffer style all perfectly suited to whatever the song they are leading. Despite the complexity of the material and their all pervading darkness, Moonspell’s music is strangely accessible and very upbeat, hence their popularity as a live band and one able to appeal to different audiences appreciative that they are one step ahead of the rest, always resisting all genre boundaries!