By Carl Begai
Moonspell have made a career out of pissing off every member of their fanbase at one time or another. Frontman Fernando Ribeiro wouldn’t have it any other way.
Originally heralded as fresh new black metal upstarts in 1995 with the release of their full length debut Wolfheart, the Portuguese outfit hit their stride a year later with the decidedly different (at the time) Irreligious album. Riding the wave started by Tiamat in 1994 with their Wildhoney record, Moonspell were embraced alongside Theatre Of Tragedy in a rise to fame as pioneers of the gothic metal scene in Europe, and later the world. A spastic run of countless copycat bands was launched that record labels were only too eager to snap up in a trend-heated feeding frenzy. Moonspell threw everyone a curve with the release of the commercially bent Sin/Pecado record in 1998, however, much to the chagrin of many an Irreligious-loving fan. It was the start of a tradition that has held true for 10 albums – dating back to Wolfheart – with Moonspell’s new outing Extinct coming off as a worthy successor to the Irreligious gothic metal throne.
It’s fair to say that nobody saw this coming.
“We share that feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen next with this band,” laughs Ribeiro. “I think that’s a good thing, and I think it’s become more of a valued thing to have in mind when you look at gothic metal. Gothic metal has been funneled into a formula with the female soprano vocals, the guy with the growls, and some guitars behind them. We’re not being openly critical about it but we always think there’s more to the gothic style of music. We just do whatever we think fits the style every time we make a new record. One of our intended goals has been never to compromise on our style or everything we stand for as songwriters.”
“We want to give people an alternative to the formula,” he adds. “I don’t know if people need it or not. The gothic fans are probably happy with what they have, but we’re not. We have a history and a repertoire to back us up and give us some authority because we made Irreligious when this style of music was coming up. People definitely connect Moonspell to the spirit of this style. Extinct has a lot to do with what Moonspell is in real life; who we are as people, what we read, who we listen to. That’s the dynamic of Moonspell, to embrace novelty and to agitate the waters (laughs).”
Which sums up both the Extinct album and Moonspell’s career in general.
“Some people have called the Extinct album Gothic Anno 2015 (laughs). I think it will be a divider amongst the fans. There are things on Extinct that go way beyond public judgement and that’s really important. Not just for me and for Moonspell, but for any band. That’s especially true after doing (previous double album) Alpha Noir/Omega White (2012) because those albums were an experiment in songwriting. It was quite obvious that a circle closed with those records and that we would come back to creating our atmospheres within each song. That was the only thought we had after doing Alpha/Omega.”
“I also think there are some leads from Alpha/Omega that can be followed which approached the gothic thing a bit more. We didn’t want to make anything complicated, we wanted a simple, emotional record that we felt how a true goth metal and dark rock record should sound. We definitely aimed for that on Extinct. We had a string of heavy albums like Memorial (2006), Night Eternal (2008) and Alpha Noir and I really liked that period because we were very keen into playing heavy, we were aggressive but dark and larger than life. With Extinct everything from that period is, in a way, put into question.”
It’s not hard to imagine Ribeiro sitting in a darkened studio, fingers steepled, an evil grin on his face as he listens to the new album imagining the chaos it’ll cause for some fans. He seems to love and live for polarizing people.
“Not this time (laughs). They just don’t know what to expect with Extinct, that’s all. We all felt really inspired to give our best for the album, and I don’t mean just the band. The director for the new video clip (‘Extinct’), our producer (Jens Bogren), everybody who was somehow involved in making Extinct something special and giving the fans some surprises. I was telling some of the actors when we were making the new video that it seems confusing people is the best way to go these days (laughs).”
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