Some albums I’ve discovered writing for Lady Obscure Music Magazine just make me wonder how many veterans of the metal scene are there I’ve barely heard of. You know, those cases when the band exists for more than twenty years already, mercilessly rocking the metal world, and all I know about it is their name and country and maybe I’ve got faint idea about genre they’re playing, and that’s it. And when I finally give a listen to their material, not surprisingly, I’m being blown away more often than not. The Portuguese metal band Moonspell is definitely one of those cases, and when the promo of their latest, eleventh studio album called Extinct popped up in my mailbox, I decided to call dibs on it, to find out what is this all about. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest.
Extinct features ten tracks of mature, quality gothic metal. The mostly dark and ominous atmosphere is enhanced by Fernando Ribeiro’s deep low toned voice, which can be calm in one moment only to suddenly burst into the death metal screams on another. Ricardo Amorim and Pedro Paixão are both playing guitars and keyboards, weaving the aforementioned somber, dark mood and adding a considerable amount of melodic elements to it. Aires Pereira, who joined the band in 2007, plays the bass on Extinct, and the last but not least, Miguel Gaspar is killing it on drums.
The album is opened in an exceptionally strong way with Breathe (Until We Are No More), featuring a blend of keyboard orchestrations, some power metal riffs, soulful, drawling vocals and reckless screams, managing to combine all the elements together in a tight-sounding, powerful tune. The numerous pace changes are done flawlessly, and the switching between soft and harsh vocals is coming off convincing and natural. The simplicity of the chorus allows it to shine in both vocal variations, something the band certainly intended to achieve, thus being a certain evidence of an accomplished songwriting. All in all, a killer tune, and one of my favourites from the album straight away.
The title track, Extinct, strays away from the melodic approach since the very first second, going for more blunt and heavy sound, with the pounding death metal riffs and intense, relentless growls in the verses. Driven by those riffs, this tune is a powerhouse through and through. Medusalem, on the other hand, is heavily dependent on melodies; it can probably be classified as a mix of gothic and power metal. The oriental musical component adds a unique and welcome flavour to the song, enriching the track’s atmosphere, bringing its quality up a notch and making the tune into yet another standout on the record.
Domina offers a yet another decently executed immersion into gloominess, mainly achieved through the fluid clean electric guitar playing in the intro and verses. The steady, established flow is quite jarringly interrupted with a lofty chorus then, and as the result, the song doesn’t work all that well for me, seeming a bit out of place on the album. The next track, The Last of Us, takes a brief walk into some serious hard rock territory, showcasing an apparently quite uplifting side of Moonspell I haven’t heard previously on Extinct. Not to say it wasn’t a thoroughly fascinating and enjoyable thing though, just the opposite in fact. Now, Malignia brings us back from the happiness and joy, displaying us the picture that is too appropriate for the track’s title. The serene, flowing choruses bear an ominous stamp on them, and the song predictably explodes with yet another portion of inexorable screams, once again a fine addition to the song. From what I gather, the band pretty much mastered the usage of growls, and so far every track I’ve heard benefits severely from those harsh vocals, Malignia being no exception. The tune just builds up to some outburst, and when the growls break through, it makes for the satisfying experience.
Funeral Bloom follows next, once again bringing some significant dose of gothic metal to our doorstep, this time mixed with traces of hard rock reminiscent of The Last of Us, only darker and few times more atmospheric. The drums are quiet yet persistent, preparing us to something, but this song takes its sweet time to deliver. In fact, the growls are sparse here, and the rise of intensity is mostly achieved by the instrumental playing. For its four minutes in length, Funeral Bloom is truly one of the most memorable numbers on the album.
The Dying Breed starts off deceptively positive and hopeful, but if you took a look at this tune’s title, you won’t be misled when Fernando Ribeiro goes all death metal again with “We’re dying! We’ve fallen!” chorus line. Just like the title track, this track is the epitome of heaviness on the album, and just like the title track, the only safe spot here besides the intro is the guitar solo, which is relatively tame in its attitude. The Future is Dark once again embraces the somber atmosphere the band is so skilled in creating, this time without any screams, just the deep, clean vocals, ringing guitars, haunting drums and bass, the song captures the whole mood of the record in those five minutes. Like Breathe (Until We Are No More) had set the general direction and the level of expectations for the new Moonspell record, The Future is Dark once again stresses the band’s intensions, underlines the band’s position on the musical scene and successfully wraps up the album, giving a satisfactory closure to the record, contenting the most captious listeners and surpassing the expectations of some casual fans, like me. There is also a small obscure piece called La Baphomette, but I tend to consider it as the quirky outro instead of a full-fledged song; nevertheless, it’s still a pleasant little tune to listen to.
With the veteran bands like Moonspell, I usually try to compare their new work to their old classics, but since Extinct is the first album I’ve heard from them, I’m naturally unable to do it. But I’m sure that’s not for long, because Extinct offers almost all I could’ve wanted from the band. Adventurous melodies, unique atmosphere, explicit instrumental work and recognizable, gripping, memorable vocals, all this can be found on Extinct, and even more. I’m certainly going to discover some other gems in Moonspell discography now, and luckily for me, I’ll see them on a summer festival live in just a few days, and I’ll be sure to pick up some of their albums on merch stand. You know, it’s this feeling of discovering a new band with a vast, huge discography that is yet unexplored all over again, and after Extinct, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to it.