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From the black metal inspired music of their first demos, to the heaviness of Wolfheart, from the acessible Sin/Pecado, to the gothic influenced Darkness and Hope... Yeah, Moonspell isn't one of those bands like Motörhead, that keep making similar music over and over again. They have changed their style countless times and, thanks to it, gathered a very varied fanbase around Europe. And guess what? With Memorial, the band changes again its sound. Indeed, the biggest difference between this and the other Moonspell records lies in the emphasis on the keyboard playing. The songs are more keyboard-driven and, although it works well sometimes (Memento Mori, Once It Was Ours), I still miss the guitar-driven tracks of, say, Irreligious.
And why are the songs so keyboard-driven? Because of the production, of course. Although all the instruments are audible (minus the bass, meh), the keyboards are WAY too loud.
Despite all the problems with the production, the guitar work is fine. Not great, not horrible, just fine. There are some pretty good riffs here and there, in fact. My biggest complaint about the guitar is, however, the lack of soloing. Ricardo Amorim had already proved that he is one hell of a guitar player; check out the solos of Everything Invaded and of the Mr.Crowley cover. So, I really don't understand why the band doesn't let him play a solo more often. It's a total waste of talent! However, he plays some relatively interesting acoustic guitar interludes on the record (Sons of Earth and Mare Nostrum) too. And what about the vocals? Brilliant, of course. Fernando Ribeiro is, undoubtely, one of my favourite singers ever. On this album, he growls on almost every song, but he doesn't use his clean voice many times, and that is a shame, as his clean voice is beautiful.
On the songwriting level, Memorial is a bit on the weak side. Moonspell adopted a simpler approach to the songwriting here, with almost every song following similar structures, which is a shame. Songs like Blood Tells and Memento Mori had potential, but they are too damn repetitive and don't really progress/go anywhere. They are just there.
After a short intro (In Memorian), we are lead into a journey of aggression; indeed, Finisterra is among the most brutal songs of the record (or perhaps, among the most brutal songs the band ever recorded), mainly thanks to the outstanding vocal performance and to the strong double bass attack.
There is also a fine breakdown on the track and its main riff is pretty catchy.
Memento Mori is listenable, containing calm and aggressive sections and, again, very good vocals.
After Sons of Earth, the atmospheric acoustic interlude (very reminiscent of Death's Voice of the Soul), we have four very similar songs (Upon the Blood of Men, Blood Tells, At the Image of Pain, Sanguine) that represent one of the biggest flaws of the album: the repetitive songwriting. Don't get me wrong; there are bands that know how to compose albums full of songs that follow the same structure, but with this record there are too much “cut and paste”. This may work well on some songs, but certainly doesn't work with these four tracks.
Luna features a duet between Fernando Ribeiro with a female singer, which, surprisingly doesn't work bad at all. This song had, actually, a huge sucess here in Portugal, and it was chosen to be the second Memorial single. About Best Forgotten, the last track... Disappointing. I mean, don't get me wrong, the song is, perhaps, the best of the album. When I saw the track lenght, I was surprised... 14 minutes! Wow, Moonspell composed an epic! Itt begins greatly, the first six minutes being very brutal, in the vein of the other tracks of the record. Then, surprisingly, all the musicians stop playing. Wow, “what a breakdown!” I thought, the first time I heard the tune.
10 seconds of silence, 20 seconds of silence, 30, 50, 1 minute, 1 minute and 30 seconds of silence, 1 minute and 40 seconds of silence, TWO MINUTES OF SILENCE, and then, surprise, surprise... A wolf begins to howl. Then, I thought that the band would start playing again at any moment but... Well, the rest of the song is just filled with more howls and some strange keyboard sounds. I tell you something, I'm sick of those atmospheric outros the modern bands like to put on their records. It was original in the beginning but not anymore, please, don't ever do this again, Moonspell.
Concluding, this album certainly has its moments, a good atmosphere and some amazing vocals and drum lines, but the over-use of the keyboards and the poor songwriting of some songs harm the whole listening experience. If you want to check out Moonspell, get the debut, Wolfheart, instead of this average record.
Best moments of the CD:
-beginning of Finisterra;
-the beautiful acoustic lines of Sons of Earth.
WORST MOMENT OF THE CD:
-the last, hm, EIGHT minutes of Best Forgotten.
We all know those phrases: "our heaviest, darkest album to date; a return to our roots, etc." and we also know how shallow they are, most of the time.
Moonspell tried to lure the former fan into believing that this album was the return to the glory of their early days, to the black metal/folk style they had back in the early 90s. Before the release of "Memorial", a ton of rumors were spread either by the band themselves or the avid fans praising this album before even a single song of it had been released. Of course, both phrases I depicted earlier were used in large amounts.
Back then I (for whatever reason) believed what people were saying and so I got my hands on "Memorial". The cover itself looked very "black metal-ish" in a stereotypical sense, so I thought that it could really be what I expected back then.
Now don't get me wrong here, so far it might have sounded as if I was a big Moonspell fan, but I am not. I do think that "Under the Moonspell" and "Wolfheart" are good albums; no masterpieces by any means, but good, solid black metal with a gothic touch. I hated what I heard off "Sin/Pecado" & "The Butterfly Effect" and didn't bother with any releases after those (the reviews I read spoke for themselves - not my style) but when I heard that "Memorial" was a return to their roots, I simply wanted to hear a solid, new black metal album (which is rather rare nowadays) and what I got was...well, entirely below my expectations.
None of the songs here are "aggressive", "harsh" or "expressive". Nothing is original either, I don't care if there is a lot of synth (which sounds like mid-era Dimmu Borgir-mud) or a mix of two harsh vocal styles, it has all been done before, and a lot better, I may add.
The core of the album is still the thousandth version of modern Cradle of Filth/Dimmu Borgir worship, albeit a bit heavier and more riff-oriented. Sure, the vocals ARE better and remind one of the better side of the band's past, but that's something that simply doesn't help much, considering the songwriting is almost a carbon-copy of any "modern black metal" act. It doesn't matter whether I'm listening to "Memento Mori" or "Finisterra" - the only difference between those two is their BPM count. Both feature an incredibly boring set of "riffs", consisting of a few notes played over and over again, with only a few slight variations once in a while (and no, I am not talking about the GOOD kind of repetition either) while remaining knee-deep in the modern "staccato monkey-groove" type of rhythm guitar playing (see - Dimmu Borgir on "Death Cult Armageddon").
I do have to admit that not everything is bad here, though; Fernando Ribero's vocals aren't bad at all, as they tend to do the job that the riffs can't - add variation to the songs. He doesn't excel in any of the two vocal styles he uses (deep growls, high-pitched, almost banshee-like wails) but he is definitely competent in what he does with his vocal chords (unlike the horribly misplaced, but of course mandatory female vocals).
Another positive point goes to the drummer, who indeed does provide a decent backbone for the songs. Of course, fitting to the style of music played, he does descent into modern Hellhammer-esque "half-assed is enough") kind of playing (mostly boring double-bass passages with almost no tom/cymbal work) once in a while, but overall, there is some effort that deserves some credit.
Still, I have to pick up that subject again; what is a metal album without a set of good riffs? It's like watching a play at the opera, starring Anna Netrebko - sure, there is lots of eye-candy, but the lack of tonal quality is devastating to that kind of event.
So in conclusion, this is nothing more than a painfully average modern "black" metal release that only barely manages to keep its head above the garbage line due to the good vocals and drum work.
Recommended to fans of Dimmu Borgir/Cradle of Filth/Old Man's Child. If you are looking for a good black metal album in the true sense of the term, look elsewhere.
Memorial is the 7th full length of the Portuguese band Moonspell. Since their demos to now Moonspell have played various genres of metal, starting with the raw black metal sound of their demos and first EP, to the folk/black LP, the gothic metal orientated Irreligious and after that even goth-rock, gothic/doom. The previous release, The Antidote, had even moments of melodic death, many ambient inserts. But even though they change their music style for every album, and to something different and (mostly) brilliant, the atmosphere of the albums remained the same. There is no way you can mistake Moonspell with other band, if you had listened to two or three of their albums. And with Memorial is the same – new music direction, new techniques, the same atmosphere. It is purely Moonspell, in a harsh packing.
How can be described the music on this album… I think that gothic/black sound ok, but the music shifts from goth-black to melodic death/doom all the time, “Finisterra” is a proof of that. And the gothic elements aren’t completely removed or just thrown in some places. There are still songs that are 100% goth metal, and there are some very brutal ones, but this album wont really fit to the fans of “Sin/Pecado”.
The baritone vocals are gone… Completely, there is clean singing in the album, but it isn’t Fernando Ribeiro’s powerful baritone, I hope that he didn’t loose it in screaming… So, there are the harsh vocals! One of the most evilish, and brutal ones I’ve ever heard. There are vocalists that sound like demons, like deranged mans (or are really deranged), but none can do it like Fernando Ribeiro. So much passion, so much pain, so much darkness, the vocals just crush you with their power. On songs like “Upon the Blood of Man” the vocal performance is so furious, its not as fast as in some early thrash bands (Slayer, Kreator), but after all, this is a death/black harsh style! And we have female vocals again, but nothing silly or emogoth sounding, just some spoken words, or singed along with Fernando.
So, “The Antidote” had it’s melodic death moments, what is the difference, is this just a harsher sounding album, development of songs like “In and above men” from the last album? Well, not. Yes, it is faster, thrashier, but the keyboards are always in the back, something, that “The Antidote” didn’t have. There is constant wall of haunting keyboards in the back, in the most of the cases you won’t here them consciously, but they are there and create much of the how atmosphere of the album. Also there is a violin in some of the tracks, nothing too special, but in mix with the harsh vocals it’s just brilliant.
The album also has 4 small instrumentals. What to say about them – brilliant… Helps you sink even deeper in the atmosphere of the album. I want to say, that this doesn’t sounds like “Wolfheart”, nor like the Daemonarch (their black metal project). Both of them were only black metal orientated, this, as I said before, shift between goth-black and melodic death/doom. So it’s something completely new for the sound of the band.
The songs: The first of them are mostly goth-black/death-doom, and after that starts the return of the gothic elements in the music. Songs like Sanguine and Luna are pure gothic metal, done the way, that it has to be done (like Paradise Lost’s "Gothic"!), and not the emogoth with much female vocals and the guitars somewhere in the back. Actually in this moment I don’t know of another gothic metal band with only male vocals, which exist to this moment…
The atmosphere: Well, if you have heard only one album of Moonspell you already have and idea what it is. But this time it’s more: darker, painful, aggressive, but without loosing the beauty and melancholy of the songs. If I have to compare it with other Moonspell album I would say that is closer to “Darkness and Hope”’s atmosphere then the other albums. There is even a glimpse of the perverted atmosphere (like “Under the Moonspell”), “Wolfheart”’s folk elements, but don’t expect industrial effects ( “Irreligious”, “Sin/Pecado”), they just don’t fit together… well, there is an ambient track in the end of the album, but this is more like “The Antidote”’s” “Lunar Still” track. So… the atmosphere is the best that a Moonspell album can offer this far, it’s just all that has been in one album. It’s “Memorial” after all! Remember.
I want to add one more thing. Before Memorial I never paid attention to Moonspell, I had heard “Darkness and Hope” and “Wolfheart”, but for me it was just another gothic band among the others. Please, don’t think that I am “the big Moonspell fan, who gives always excellent points to the band”, because I started to love the band with this album and after that I’d listened to all the other albums and found the difference between them, and liked the most of them. So, this is opinion of a metal fan, not a Moonspell fanatic.
So this is definitely album of 2006 by my opinion. It will please the fans of the extreme music, maybe will disappoint the fans of goth era Moonspell (but Luna will became their new anthem, I’m sure), but it’s really an album, that is hard to find in this era of emogoth and death/core bands. Who else makes this kind of music anymore? Well, no-one does it better then Moonspell. I give it 99%, because the absence of Fernando’s vampirish baritone is… well, absence.
Though an unfortunate amount of Moonspell's fanbase probably lost a great deal of faith in the band in the past decade, "Memorial" proves that our proudly-Lusitanian goth metal musicians are the best thing that's come from Portugal since Magellan.
Whereas previous albums had relied greatly on atmosphere and Pedro's keyboards not only to set the tone but even guide the music itself, "Memorial" is surprising in its sheer savagery as compared to the band's recent efforts. Synth and samples are used sparingly and tastefully but, while noticeable and enjoyable, certainly do not overpower the other instruments as was their wont on such generally reviled efforts as "Sin/Pecado." Perhaps indicative of this newfound energy is that, for the second album, Pedro is credited with rhythm guitar work as well as his usual keys.
While there is little doubt that he is the not the most technically gifted guitarist in music history, Ricardo Amorim's leads prove once again why he should not be written off as a copycat of Doug Marks's Metal Method series of instructional videos. He turns in performances that are not so much jaw-droppingly impressive as they are intelligently written and, in a counterpoint to the sheer ferocity of the album, somewhat understated, which contributes to the sense of longing that pervades "Memorial."
Moonspell certainly returned to their musical roots, incorporating a great deal of Mediterranic influences into their sound, which will likely make the listener recall the strange, if somewhat raw, "Under the Moonspell." One might even go so far as to consider "Memorial" something of a follow-up to that poorly-distributed debut: it is difficult to imagine that the instrumental "Mare Nostrum" was written without the intent of being a nod to "Chora Lusitania," and the fiercely prideful "Once It Was Ours!" and "Sanguine" recall the Southern Deathstyle of early Moonspell.
Of course, no review would be complete without mentioning vocalist Fernando Ribeiro's efforts, which are nothing short of his usual stellar work. Unlike the band's recent albums, Ribeiro's accented baritone is used only sparingly and is generally mixed lower in volume than normal. The only track on which his singing dominates is the familiar "Luna," which is as likely a recognition of their recent style as anything could be. For the most part, Ribeiro employs his throaty roar that lies somewhere between the usual black metal vox and death vocals, which yet again adds to the visceral appeal of the album.
Whether or not the band succeeds in reclaiming a great amount of its long-departed fanbase of their early efforts is immaterial: what matters now is that it seems Moonspell has finally found direction, and the various moving parts of "Memorial" work together beautifully to paint a portrait that is at once longing, proud, and savage. It is truly a work of art.
If you give up on Moonspell because you thought they abandon metal, I recommend you to listen to this one. No kidding this time.
Moonspell’s seventh full-length release is a concept album, but not in a usual way. There is not really a story here, but overall impression is a very tight and logically constructed album with a theme, which can be fully embraced by those, who remember the glory of early to mid 90s metal scene – with albums like Samael's “Ceremony of opposites”, Tiamat's "The Astral Sleep" or 1995 Moonspell’s full-length debut “Wolfheart”. This time Moonspell incorporates their early influences and translate them to their own, very emotional, yet still brutal style of atmospheric southern metal. Don’t be fooled with those references, though. The main thing, which connects all above albums with “Memorial” is attitude. While recreating the spirit of the past, they’ve managed to record an album, which still belongs to the modern days, and bring something new and fresh.
After a short mood-setting instrumental intro, time for apocalypse to begin. “Finisterra” is a pure sonic assault with its huge, meaty riff and furious double bass drumming. There’s actually a blast beat here!
Worth mentioning is also brutal vocal performance by Fernando Ribeiro, placing somewhere between death and black style. They sound very raw and vital on the whole album, and they are not overprocessed like on Daemonarch album (Moonspell’s black metal project). Speaking of vocals, Ribeiro’s usual semi-operatic baritone is nowhere to be found on this record. This one can surely shock some newer fans who prefer melancholic and soft incarnation of the band.
“Memento Mori” starting with alarming sound creeping from out of the darkness and slow things quite a bit; the song still remains forceful and aggressive with only occasional slower spine-chilling passages building the atmosphere of. This mixture is followed on the rest of the album with a few surprises here and there, which I recommend you to find out by yourself.
“Blood Tells” is a mid-tempo, southern style black metal anthem with great, rich riffage, memorable lyrics and huge chorus, played with soul, which puts classics like “Alma Mater” to shame, and I really mean it.
“Once It Was Ours” is a haunted track, with vocals ranging from creepy dark whispers to desperate growls accompanied by doomy gregorian chanting.
“Mare Nostrum” is a small gem – an instrumental piece, with Iberian style acoustic guitar and sounds of the wind in the background, giving it very southern feeling.
Last track, monumental “Best Forgotten” is a heavy, incredibly dark and evil-sounding epic piece of work clocking over 14 minutes. At the end it is evolving into simple but captivating keyboard outro, which reminds me in some way George Romero’s classic living dead movies soundtrack mixed with amazing samples of the forest at night – peaceful image of nature with wolves howling.
Moonspell’s musical circle is closed. “Memorial” leaves you in awe, curious what will be the next step in their path.
A few words about how it sounds. To make it short - damn powerful! This is Moonspell’s most honest, direct sounding album, and their heaviest effort since early EP “Under the Moonspell”. Keyboards are present, but they not dominate the album, leaving a space for solid riffing, which is the driving force of the album. Production is clear and dynamic and holds a necessary dose of rawness expected from a metal band to sound right. Return to the Woodhouse Studio was surely a right choice, and Waldemar Sorychta proved again, that he is the master in his work.
Time for final conclusion – “Memorial” is remarkable album from mature, talented band, and one of the best they ever made. Just listen to it and find yourself under the Moonspell.