The one constant in Moonspell’s career is that a new album will always piss off some of the band’s fans; fans that have most likely abandoned ship at some point only to return out of a mix of curiosity and loyalty. This has been the case since the 1997 release of the band’s breakthrough second record, Irreligious, when Moonspell traded in the black metal-isms of their 1995 debut album, Wolfheart, for a distinctive gothic metal sound that became the foundation of their career from that point forward. Even so, the band hasn’t been shy about messing around with their musical / metal dynamics and either twisting or straight up ignoring the “gothic” stamp they were branded with thanks to Irreligious. Their twelfth album, Hermitage, continues this tradition, and anyone who is a fan of Moonspell’s previous two albums are in for a shock. The straightforward goth metal of Extinct (2015) has been trimmed back and the monstrous tribal / symphonic attack of 1755 (2017) is gone, with Moonspell serving up a record that demands to absorbed rather than devoured. Credit or blame these latest changes, as always, on frontman Fernando Ribeiro, who is the self-proclaimed catalyst for the new musical direction on Hermitage.
“The first time I wrote down ‘hermitage’ as an idea was 2017,” says Ribeiro. “I have this mania or routine, or whatever you want to call it, that when we finish an album I’m already thinking about the next one. I don’t even know what will be going on in six months, never mind a year from now, but when I close a chapter I open a new one. Hermitage was an idea that struck me in 2017 because when I was thinking about the lyrical part of a new album, the poetic part, I was already looking at people social distancing. I got away from social networking because I think that awareness brought division, connectivity brought solitude, and people were stonewalling themselves without the imposition of a viral crisis. Our values are the exact opposite of what we are feeling. I don’t think people have ever felt so alone, there’s no sense of community, and one thing led to the other. I started reading about hermit saints, modern day hermits, and one of the things I learned that really inspired me was that contrary to what a lot of people think, hermits don’t go to the desert or to the mountains and mind their own business. Most often these old time hermit saints took a break from their community and then returned to hopefully improve it. On the other side, modern day hermits leave an oppressive society where they have to work to fit into the system. I felt very deeply that we should write an album about that because this is what’s happening in our world.”
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.” Continue reading BraveWords Interview: MOONSPELL – Worship Darkness In The Name Of Goth
Folks on this side of the music industry desk will tell you that the vast majority of press releases and band biographies are loaded with hollow bullshit. Many of these essays are too bloated with adjectives, mixed metaphors and blatant flavor-of-the-month ass-kissing to be taken seriously, often peppered with keywords and band names popular at the time and space in question, or yanked from a Wikipedia heavy metal page. These things raced through my head while scanning the bio for Moonspell’s newest outing, Alpha Noir, wondering out loud more than once if the newbie dweeb hired to write it had ever heard of the band before. Dropping names like Bathory and King Diamond as influences to describe an act hailed as one of the few and true remaining old school goth metal bands was absurd to the point of insulting.
Give Alpha Noir a spin and you’ll discover the description is dead on.
“I’ll let you in on a little secret,” frontman Fernando Ribeiro grins. “I tend to write those things myself. It’s not that I don’t trust someone else to do it, but I like to write and I think that sometimes the people at the record labels kind of miss the point. A lot of labels have many bands, and sometimes the people that write the press releases have to do it in a rush. I’d rather make things a bit more personal by doing it myself, so I’m glad you found everything in the press release to be true (laughs). With all the metaphors and poetry and personal notes that we put into the press releases, it’s good to know that people check out the new songs and realize that we’re not just blabbering and self-praising. We really tried to give people a clear view of what’s going on with Alpha Noir.” Continue reading BW&BK Interview: MOONSPELL – Into The Arena
I’m not a huge goth metal fan, even less of a goth rock supporter. On the metal end of things the vast majority of goth-ick bands seem more concerned with having a hot piece of ass on stage front and center than the music, paired up with a male counterpart who wishes he was Peter Steele (Note to Doodness: There can be only one). The black #1 rockers, meanwhile, get their yeah-yeahs off playing the same three Sisters Of Mercy chords over and over from album to album, pretending they’re rejects from an Anne Rice vampire epic. It worked for The 69 Eyes and HIM, of course it’ll work for them…
How bloody boring.
That isn’t to say that all bands out of the goth realm suck – and Jeez help me, there are some knockout women to be drooled over – but very few have bent my ear for more than a spin over the last several years. Image, it seems, takes precedence over substance. Very sad indeed, especially in light of the fact that the band who gave goth metal life beyond the underground have decided to call it quits. Continue reading The Day Goth Died — Closing Down The Theatre Of Tragedy