I have to admit that I am an avid fan of Moonspell and every time I heard that they would release a new album, I got really excited. This time was certainly not different. Throughout the years Moonspell have experimented a lot and changed their style many times; from their very first album, “Wolfheart”, to “Darkness and Hope”, to “Memorial”. It's been four years since Moonspell released the amazing “Night Eternal” and the band warned us to expect another change in their sound. "“Alpha Noir” is going to be Moonspell redefined", an album rockier, thrashier, less gloomy and more fun to play.
I was really interested to see how Moonspell would pull this off. It doesn't always prove wise for a gothic band to turn thrashy. When the hit-single, “Lickanthrope”, was out, I was a bit disappointed. It didn't sound good to my ears, maybe because it's far from the traditional Moonspell sound. But after a few listens this changed. So, let's see what “Alpha Noir” is all about.
I could say that “Alpha Noir” takes us back a bit to the “Irreligious” era, but with a heavier sound. Listening to all previous releases, the common thing between them was the strong gothic atmosphere, something that doesn't stand out that much now. Instead, extra attention was given to the guitars and drums. In this album you will find some very impressive, heavy riffs and solos, as well as remarkable drumming. The music itself balances between aggressive and dark, only to show you that “Alpha Noir” is truly a Moonspell release. But you will not find any female vocals here, or any electronics enhancing the sound. Even the keyboards are used very subtly. The songs are typically structured, far less intricate and deep and less theatrical. Something not necessarily negative, as Moonspell have done their best to create good songs and catchy as hell. In almost every song, the chorus is simple enough to remember after hearing it once or twice. As for Ribeiro's singing, the goth vocals have given their place to more throaty growls and black-ish rasps. His vocal performance is excellent.
The opening track “Axis Mundi” begins very impressively, with an epic intro; light keyboard work, drumming that is slowly building up and a driving riff before the baritone voice of Ribeiro comes in. Next comes “Lickanthrope” of course, the thrashiest track of the album. Nice bass lines, a few keyboard tunes in the chorus, and a Ribeiro who demonstrates his perfect howling! “Versus” and “Opera Carne” have awesome guitars and show some classic rock guitar influences. The title-track, on the other hand, is one of the heaviest songs and one of the highlights, with a cool bass intro and powerful riffing. “Em Nome Do Medo” (In The Name Of Fear) and “Love Is Blasphemy” drop the tempo a bit, but it is “Grandstand” that drew my attention right from the start. And I singled it out maybe because it is closer to the Moonspell we know, with a nice keyboard melody, some clean vocals and a crazy solo. “Alpha Noir” closes with “Sine Missione”, a beautiful instrumental track, which starts softly with an oboe melody and builds up slowly to a tremendous crescendo. “Sine Missione” offers a smooth ending to this album, but also serves as a bridge for the bonus stuff.
“Omega White” is a limited edition bonus disc. It is the alter ego of “Alpha Noir”. And being that, it is more atmospheric, more gothic, and closer to traditional Moonspell. Ribeiro doesn’t growl at all here, we hear only clean vocals, and here and there we can find some female vocals too. The guitars remain dynamic but there are more melodies in the music. “White Omega” and “Herodisiac” demonstrate that perfectly. “White Skies” and “New Tears Eve”, on the other hand, remind strongly of Type O Negative, mostly because of the way Ribeiro is singing. Following the recipe of “Alpha Noir”, the songs of this album are also very catchy, but they seem to lack in inspiration. I must say that this disappointed me, because Moonspell are masters of this genre and I had high expectations of this album, even if it is just bonus. As an atmospheric gothic metal album, it doesn’t reach the level of the previous ones. You can certainly find some good things, but it is nothing impressive. It wouldn’t stand on its own.
So, after many listens, I concluded that I really like “Alpha Noir”. Moonspell offered us what they promised, even if t can’t surpass its predecessor. The album is so energetic, that I believe it will be even greater when played live. If you are a long time Moonspell listener, give the album some time to reveal itself to you. If you are a casual listener, I am sure you will like it from the first riff. I am only sorry that I can’t say the same for “Omega White”. I guess it’s a good thing that it’s a bonus album and not an official one.
Label: Napalm Records
Fernando Ribeiro – Vocals
Ricardo Amorim – Guitar
Pedro Paixao – Guitar, Keyboards
Aires Pereira – Bass
Miguel Gaspar – Drums