• ''The future is dark, it’s all that we’ve got'': A review of Moonspell's "Extinct"

    Dear readers of my blog,

    I'm proud to present you the exclusive review of one of my very favourite bands which is the Portuguese gothic metal quintet Moonspell. The band's new release "Extinct" is one of their very best efforts in their twenty-six year long career. Do yourself a favour and check it out. Once again, happy Easter to you all and enjoy the last hours of your holiday! 

     

    The Portuguese gothic metal quintet already comes around with its eleventh full length release entitled Extinct. Moonspell is one of the few bands of its genre that has survived the initital gothic metal trend in the mid and late nineties and which is still releasing high quality records which are selling well and they are still touring the world and will actually come to North America this spring with their Greek gothic and symphonic death metal colleagues Septicflesh and Swedish industrial gothic metal supergroup Deathstars. Septicflesh's bassist and vocalist Spiros Antoniou has also designed the three different cover artworks of Extinct. Despite their grizly looks, I really like the atmosphere they transmit even though Moonspell's new output is actually their catchiest and softest release in their long career.

     

    Moonspell's last output was the highly recommandable double-album Alpha Noir / Omega White which is a perfect introduction to the band. The Alpha Noir section remembers the band's earlier records between occult gothic metal with occasional black, death and even folk metal influences. Omega White recalls the band's calmer and softer gothic rock side with a few experimental and progressive gimmicks reminiscent of their records of the late nineties and the early years of the new millennium. Extinct clearly follows the lighter style of Omega White. The record can be described as a calm, epic and hypnotizing gothic rock masterpiece with versatile vocals and guitar play and a clever use of symphonic elements, lounge sounds and occasional Middle Eastern folk elements accentuated by an organic yet fittingly mellow production.

    This style works really well in the calmest and most relaxing tunes of the record featuring Middle Eastern folk elements. These influences are something new for the band. The dreamy and longing "Domina" can be described as a ballad where Fernando Ribeiro's clean vocals work best. The song features a versatile mystic guitar tone, gentle tribal drums and a few decently employed sound effects and soft choirs ressembling Middle Eastern folk elements and recalling bands such as Amaseffer, Myrath and Orphaned Land without copying them. This song makes me dream of walking through desert sands on my own and being at peace with the whole world. "Medusalem" accentuates these influences even further. Arabian folk chants start the track and some Middle Eastern folk sounds carried by the perfectly employed keyboards give the chorus an exotic touch of One Thousand and One Nights. Even Fernando Ribeiro imitates typical Arab vocal patterns and proves what a versatile vocalist he is. It would be a great idea for Moonspell to create an entire album in the style of "Medusalem" and "Domina". These two tracks have grown most on me as time went by.

    The small experiments don't stop there. Both "Malignia" and "Funeral Bloom" feature more symphonic elements than ever and also decently employed lounge sounds from the keyboards which give the songs an appeasing, elegant and hypnotizing tone. The clean vocals run down like wild honey while the occasional growls are shaking the listener up without disturbing the overall mystic tone of the tunes. These songs prove that this record features Fernando Ribeiro's most diversified and technically skilled vocal performance ever, the best and strongest use of keyboards on any of the band's releases and also a versatile guitar play with harmonious acoustic guitar passages, appeasing and hypnotizing riffs and a few short but highly emotional solos.

    "A Dying Breed" follows the same pattern but focuses even more on the symphonic elements giving the song an elegant and sophisticated touch. The ending is a litlle bit faster and heavier than usual and reminds us that Moonspell is supposed to be a metal band. "The Future Is Dark" rather accentuates the keyboard patterns and lounge sounds. The song is calm, dreamy and numbing and gives Fernando Ribeiro the occasion to shine once more with his versatile vocals while guitars and rhythm section are more in the background.

    The surprises still don't stop there as the band closes the record with the somewhat creepy vintage chanson "La Baphomette" which is entirely sung in French. This slightly jazz inspired track could have been played a century ago at Grand Guignol and Moulin Rouge. What a brilliant way to end a brilliant record.

    Now you might think that the other tracks aren't so great since I'm mentioning them last. That's wrong, I just kept the best for the end. The three tracks completing this album of the year candidate are actually the most accessible tracks on the release. The opener "Breathe (Until We Are No More)" starts with numbing vocals and guitar tones, evolves towards gloomy verses in the key of Sisters of the Mercy and erupts into a passionate and epic chorus with both clean vocals and powerful growls underlayered by elegant string passages. The atmospheric bridge features a hint at Middle Eastern folk passages. This track basically includes everything that makes this album so brilliant in only five and a half minutes. It's quite simple: If you like this song, you are going to adore the entire record. In my book, this is one of the very best openers if not the best opening track on a Moonspell album to date. The uplifting single "The Last Of Us" is an incredibly beautiful yet simple gothic rock track in the key of The 69 Eyes with dreamy guitar tones and atmospheric low vocals full of passion, sex appeal and soul. Even the rhythmic drum play convinces in this tune and fits with the rest. The last track to cover is the title song "Extinct" which has a slightly apocalyptic and dramatically epic feeling. It's maybe the heaviest song on the entire release. This is a song I immediately fell in love with and if I had to choose a favourite track on this quite perfect album, I would pick this one. From the pumping bass guitar and the vivid drum play over the emotional string passages and the outstanding extended guitar solo in the passionate middle section, I happen to admire each instrument in this song. From the bleak and heavy verses with emotional growls and low tuned instruments over the hopefully uplifting and darkly romantic chorus that makes you want to make love to the emotionally charged bridge, every song writing idea in this track perfectly works in compact four and a half minutes. Let's keep it short: If gothic metal always sounded like this, I wouldn't listen to anything else.

    This record might take a few spins to grow on you. After two or three spins I thought the record was very good when the obvious hits didn't let me go. Two spins later I realized this album has a clear guiding line and style and is really brilliant. Two more spins and I came to the conclusion that this is my first serious candidate for the album of the year when I discovered all the harmonious details in each track and let the overall atmosphere work on my heart, mind and soul. If you close your eyes and listen to this release with your headphones on in the dark without any disturbances, this record feels as good as a weeklong vacation in Portugal. If you like gothic rock and metal, this is your new bible. In fact, if you like original rock music in general, do yourself a favor and buy this album now. I recommand the regular edition though as the four bonus tracks are only different mixes and less inspired rehashes of several album tracks that might only lessen the brilliant overall impression of the regular release.

    Final verdict: 9.5 out of 10

    Please support the band by visiting the following site:

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/moonspellband

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