It's been two decades since Moonspell released their debut album and what many still hail as a gothic metal masterpiece, 'Wolfheart'. 2015 sees the band unleash what's set to become another masterwork in their canon of work and, arguably, their most consistent effort for many years. 'Extinct' incorporates everything that's ever been great about Moonspell all on one record and with a little expansion to their sonic canvas (such as the inclusion of a Turkish orchestra on select tracks). In essence, this is the definitive Moonspell album and one that's set to reassert not only their gothic metal mastery, but will re-establish what gothic metal is, and should be, conceived and perceived as. An overused tag for too many years, it's become tarnished with preconceptions of a particular image-based fashion and oft-imitated, generic sound. However, this bunch of Portuguese musicians, along with the subgenre's founders, Paradise Lost, have adhered to gothic metal's true idioms through their collective works, and 'Extinct' is no exception.
The songwriting on 'Extinct' is a predominant strength. Each and every song is a winner, be it in the context of the album's largely up-tempo impetus, or during the more down-tempo numbers such as 'Domina'. Everything's bound together by some seriously lush instrumentations that remain accessibly heavy on both a metal and rock level, including the occasional Sisters of Mercy worship, like with 'The Last of Us' - yep, their undying love of Sisters still shines through, but in the sense of a pastiched vibe more than overt mimicry. However, the intro to 'A Dying Breed' does sound very reminiscent of a melody central to Emilie Autumn's 'Swallow', although I'm sure that's pure coincidence. Frontman Fernando Ribeiro's vocals, clean and growled, also shine on the album. His growls are as good as they've ever been, although the resonant tones of his clean delivery are somehow a step above what he's previously achieved on any other Moonspell album. His voice has matured with age, I guess.
With Jens Bogren producing the album it does, of course, sound amazing. The layered instrumentations have enough of an organic sounding edge to eschew the over-produced sonics of many a modern metal record. This actually sounds like real people playing real music, but with just enough polish so as not to detract from such. And he's mixed everything to perfection; every instrument and voice is weighted so very well. Take 'Medusalem' as a prime example, particularly with the Turkish orchestra - it blends magnificently. And, talking of that particular song, the orchestral parts blend just as well on a compositional level with its Eastern sounding melodies supplemented nicely with some traditional Turkish instruments that attain those ever-interesting, quarter-tone intervals.
All in all, Moonspell have succeeded in crafting a near-perfect album that's sure to please fans old and new alike. The music's as exhilarating as it is captivating; an adroit fusion of metal, rock and gothic elements; and also lyrically astute with profound reflections and commentaries on themes of extinction, both metaphorical and literal. And, despite the darker elements at work throughout, it's actually, at core, an album characterised by an inherent optimism (even on a track titled 'The Future is Dark'!). Ultimately, Moonspell prove themselves far from extinct with this latest album; quite the contrary, they're alive and kicking in the most intoxicating of ways.
Review by Mark Holmes
9th March 2015
1) Breathe (Until We Are No More)
5) The Last of Us
7) Funeral Bloom
8) A Dying Breed
9) The Future is Dark
10) La Baphomette
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"In essence, this is the definitive Moonspell album and one that's set to reassert not only their gothic metal mastery, but will re-establish what gothic metal is, and should be, conceived and perceived as."