Moonspell – “Hermitage” (Napalm Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Nearing their 30th anniversary, Portugal’s best known – and loved – gothic metal band Moonspell issue their 13th release in closing the circle on their careers as musicians. Gone are the days of promotional spiel, industry ratings and public accolades even though there have been many, not in the least their crowning achievement of being the first Portuguese metal band to have a record certified gold. These days, for founder vocalist Fernando Ribeiro and Moonspell, there are greater things, indeed the only things that now matter in the form of the music and their fans’ love of it. As such, “Hermitage” is aptly titled, a veritable cocoon in which the band can concentrate their focus on a singular goal – to produce the best possible music in reaching out spiritually to those who care about it the most to them. Without concept or influence, without politics or temptation, the 10 deep tracks here are an open-hearted invitation, without ties, to be shared and enjoyed whatever one’s beliefs or passions in whatever secret place, or hermitage is yours. Opening with ‘The Greater Good’, it’s a to be expected stylish mix of dark tranquillity meeting rocking gothica as the guitars of Ricardo Amorim and Pedro Paixão surge, strain, and wail out to Hugo Ribeiro’s hard-hitting drums while Aires Pereira’s bass flows along to Ribeiro’s baritones and occasional roars – classic Moonspell! Clanging in with melancholic melodies to herald the atmospheric bombast of Paixão’s massive synths, bountiful choral harmonies and Ribeiro’s soaring vocals on ‘The Hermit Saints’ contrast beautifully with Amorim’s flowing guitar to add in even more passion to this powerful epic piece that will long be held in your heart. As brooding as it builds in its moodiness, the initial ambiance on ‘Without Rule’ is soon shattered by Amorim’s heavy guitar tone and Pereira’s somber bass before releasing an ultra-catchy goth groove with Hugo’s superb percussion all over the song, whether filling in any gaps or adding even more muscle to the dark vibes of Ribeiro’s haunting tones. Masters of goth while adding their own Mediterranean touch, I don’t know how long Moonspell have got, but I for one will lament the passing of this great band whose work is amply evident on yet another superb release.