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It is not my intention to repeat any of what was mentioned by other reviewers, for I agree with the most part of their findings, and to tell you the truth I'm listening this effort by Moonspell for the second time since its release.
Why? I dismissed this album altogether for thinking that Moonspell had become the sort of band that just couldn't put out new material that lived to the expectations of their (older) fans, given their popularity among younger listeners. Although I still believe this to be true, it was, nonetheless, an error to dismiss this album. Naturally, this is, perhaps, the best album that the Portuguese group has ever managed to create among their various efforts.
I was a very keen fan up until "The Butterfly Effect", the period when the band recurrently surprised their fans with refreshing genre-boundary-pushing, yet well crafted, -music. Coincidentally, or not, this moment of the band ended with Sérgio Crestana's departure following the release of "Darkness And Hope" in 2001.
The quality of their releases since then is debatable, except for this one. Obviously, this has to do with the reworking of their very early material - their best, imho, but whose recordings were not exactly up to the standards. Yet, that raw sound actually "made more sense" to me regarding the kind of groovy symphonic dark metal that they played back then.
While this sound production is a lot cleaner than "Under The Moonspell" (the only one that is admissible for comparison), I have to say it is perhaps the greatest flaw in this record. Personally, I just hate the "artificial punch" provided by this sort of dynamics processing in metal albums, but it's a sonority that Moonspell have embraced recently in all their releases, and they would not abandon it in this re-recording. Thus, you end up with amazing songs being over-produced as hell and with excessively shaped instruments that tire your hears even at low volumes.
Performance-wise, Ribeiro really delivers a truly awesome vocal performance here, only comparable to his work in Daemonarch's "Hermeticum", and all the band members deserve kudos for their tightness throughout these tracks. Just one thought about the female backing vocals, which worked out better in the original recording of "Under The Moonspell".
As for the album itself, you can clearly distinguish between "Under The Moonspell" and "Anno Satanae/Serpent Angel" tracks. The latter constituting the stronger moments in the whole album, although these are less characteristic of Moonspell's identity, as opposed to "Under The Moonspell" tracks, where one can clearly pick out the prevailing characteristics that made up much of their following releases. Still, it never works as a compilation album, despite the contrasting moods and atmospheres therein.
Rating this album is a difficult task. While the album, as a result, is not perfect, the songs in it come as close to perfection as anyone would manage to create along these lines of groovy dark metal and folk -ish atmospheric passages. Being perfectly honest, I still prefer the original recordings because this album's production ruins the listening experience for me, but I do not fail to recognise the astounding quality musicianship-wise in this re-recording.
I give it 85% (would be 99% with sensible sound production).
There are re-recordings of a lot of albums, by a lot of bands, each with different outcomes. Some are experiments, some are made just because the band has no current perspective in what to do next. Others are unnecessary, because the original recording is good enough or fits the time period well, yet again others, such as "Under Satanae" have made a huge leap and improvement from the original "Under the Moonspell" from back in 1994. There are many factors in why Moonspell have succeeded in refreshing their old material for well fitting into the new millennium. Here are some of them:
For the first part, the 1994 recording was raw, indeed, which is not necessarily a bad thing for most early band material. Every early release from an original band, who has drawn a lot of attention to themselves deserves attention and respect, as does the "grandfather" of Under Satanae. The only problem with the first recording was the dull sound and rather weak lyrics. The ideas, being great, were beefed up pretty well on this release, its sound reaching near crystal clarity.
The record itself, old or new, makes an attempt at combining western style classical music with
oriental musical elements, such as Arabic halftone chants, or a variety of exotic instruments most western people (including myself) never even heard of. Additionally, the heavy sound of Moonspell is also present. They have gone back to their roots, infusing their old unique black metal orientation with a lot of interesting aspects, such as the before mentioned, oriental folk music. The opener "Halla alle halla al rabka halla" is the perfect example for one of the many folk-infused intrumentals throughout the entire record (the others being "Interludium/Incantatum Oequinoctum" or "Chorai Lusitânia!", the latter not being re-recorded). The instrumentals tend to be short interludes between the other tracks that are full of energy and passion. Female vocals on some tracks range from being well-fitting to slightly displaced. Most of the time they accentuate Fernando's gutturals, but for the overall effort, they manage to represent the mystic atmosphere quite well.
The new recording turned out to be a far better execution than the first release of the material. With the enhanced sound, the record simply lives up better to its intention. This is not just a mere folk-heavy metal melting pot, but an experiment that turned up quite well. The music itself flows very nicely and walks a fine ridge between harsh and soft. While this turned out to be very appealing for most open minded fans or people who are into this sort of thing, the record is not completely flaw-free. There are some aspects which simply do not belong into a heavy metal album and can be quite annoying and disorientating. One of these aspects is the female/male moaning in "Opus Diabolicum". Keep the moaning out of heavy metal, for hell's sake! If they had cut out such nonsense, the album would have been a near-masterpiece. Another thing is the excessive use of whispering throughout some tracks, including "Opus Diabolicum" again, which could have been much better in getting to the point, rather than moaning and whispering. That's simply not lust.
Luckily, the rest of the album after that particular track, much to my convenience, the album continues in a more straightforward way, without much compromise. Tracks like "Goat on Fire" and "Serpent Angel" manage to get to the point much faster and in a more direct way than the others, standing out to represent what Moonspell are really made of.
The magic of Moonspell has been flowing through the astral planes for a good number of years, but not much of their demo-era matter is praised as a boost toward their current status. Before the legendary “Wolfheart,” there were a handful of EPs and demos released under the Moonspell moniker, but these items weren’t feeble attempts to sound evil; much rather flirting with perfection if anything. Several years have passed since then, yet a certain group of individuals never forgot where they originated and what gave them a launch in the beginning despite such a dramatic change over time: Moonspell themselves. To match the same energy of such a unique phase could only mean a second take at the folk-orientated black metal, and that’s what Portugal’s frontrunners decided to do with “Under Satanae,” but calling it a modern recreation would be grotesquely improper, because this is the work of legends. Other attempts to redo old material might fail for others, but Moonspell’s flawless twists on their pastime forges a re-recording effort of the ages; one that definitely sets the bar for the idea.
The acquired anthems resemble a strict foundation of spellbinding atmosphere along with the basic norms of black metal. A good thing about this distinct formula is the quintessential balance between majestic backgrounds and gritty traits of extremism such as tremolo picking and the whole ordeal. Of course, the riffing is generally submerged into chopping doom sections and beefy mid-paced rockers, which leaves a great channel of transition when Moonspell’s blackened attack desires a new body to possess. But still, the hidden keyboards probably play the biggest instrumental role due to the constant application of its flying properties; such involvement adds a boatload of pigmentation to the already-thriving endowment. As a whole, Moonspell’s exploitation of twisted black metal leaves an awe-inspiring set of excellence as the whole CD just gets better and better with each listen.
An institution of solid black metal gravity leaves several open holes in “Under Satanae” that are essentially filled with slick Middle Eastern folk sections. Like a snake prowling on a rat, mysterious acoustic Arabic licks lightly hover around the nimble metal assault, just waiting for the right moment to strike its way into the listener’s presence. Oddly enough, one could argue the percussion represents this feeling with its calculated hammering of the toms mixed with slicing patterns; almost a tribal feel, but that’s exactly the refreshment point. Such a strange addition to the body of black metal is absolutely perfect in every sense, and the execution of transcendental influences is infinitely sublime for Portugal’s finest. Nothing can refute the pure magic of the folk element and its utter jurisdiction as the nucleus of Moonspell’s prototypal black metal days.
However, “Under Satanae” is polished off nicely with Fernando Ribeiro’s riveting multi-chromatic vocal performance in which an assorted collection of styles are enforced and mastered. Ribeiro’s dominant approach is a strange operatic-grunting hybrid that appears just how it sounds: odd, but awesome nonetheless. Still, masculine clean vocals are usually connected into Moonspell’s circuit board on a rather frequent basis, and Ribeiro’s seductive tone paves a trail of nonstop enjoyment; especially for those interested in the goth-laden vocal styles. Typically, that’s about what to expect from Fernando, but crooked growls and deafening shrieks are both common and attractively applied in several stunning scenarios. Can he narrate? Yes, and it rules. How about screams? You bet your ass! Is he God? No, but I bet he’s pretty high on the food chain, if you know what I mean.
Moonspell's decision to recreate the union of folk influences with their esoteric blackened design was a most brilliant idea; "Under Satanae" is a nearly flawless re-recording effort. Musically, there are no issues at all, but the fact of the band’s ability to reface their past and master the same material years later is really a neat thing to witness. Obviously, anyone interested in the Moonspell faction should immediately get their hands on this, yet those unfamiliar with this mysterious squad are given one hell of an opportunity to check these guys out with “Under Satanae.” Don’t miss out on this!
I'm not going to use my usual bag of tricks to disguise my incompetence as a reviewer (humor, a brief history of the band, etc.). I'm just going to tell you that "Under Satanae" is a re-recording of Moonspell’s ancient works from "Under the Moonspell", "Anno Satanae", and their only track under the moniker Morbid God, "Serpent Angel". And it's fucking awesome.
Any devout Moonspell fan, such as myself, will tell you that they almost never repeat themselves between albums. The same goes for this one, except they almost never between SONGS in this one. Variety is the key word here folks. Moonspell has crafted and brought together an absolute hodge podge of an album, covering a huge amount of subjects, instruments, and even "cultural feels". I'll elaborate on that in the next paragraph.
The opening instrumental "Halla alle halla al rabka halla (Praeludium/Incantatum Solistitium)" is straight out of the middle east. It'll make you want to get up, strip to your birthday suit, and dance around a camp fire. This is all before the sudden appearance of the epic "Tenebrarum Oratorium (Andamento I/Erudit Compendyum)", with keys so majestic it would make a Bal-Sagoth fan take notice. Herein lies the beauty of the album. One minute you're dancing by a camp fire, the next you're in the deepest parts of a mysterious jungle preforming some weird ritual, then you're in stuck in a creepy bog surrounded by wolves, then suddenly a slithering acoustic chord takes you deep in the heart of Egypt. Exciting isn't it?
Every instrument in this album plays it's part. The drums are stronger here than in any Moonspell release in my opinion. They're tribal, swift, and crushing when they need to be. The guitars hold everything together very nicely and just about every song has a riff that will drive you into a savage, metal frenzy. The serpentine bass, while inaudible at some points, has an almost jazzy feel to it and has more than one shining moment. No matter what the mood or feel of the song, the instruments always conform to fit it. This includes Fernando Ribeiro's voice.
Wheather it's the shouting vocals in "Tenebrarum Oratorium (Andamento II/Erotic Compendyum)", the haunting croon of "Opus Diabolicum" (which could pass as doom metal), or his straight up black metal shrieking "Goat on Fire", his voice never fails to disappoint and is in absolute top form. His lyrics are fascinating as always and cover various occult topics, fitting the very "obscure" feel of the songs.
Overall I'd have to say that the "Anno Satanae" section of the album is the best. It's full of vitality, aggression, and fire. If you aren't headbanging by the first minute and a half of "Ancient Winter Goddess", there is something very wrong with you. It's almost as if Moonspell's 18 again, straight out of Bathory Worship Camp with that original passion that every band loses eventually. "Serpent Angel" is a remarkable closing track as well, wherein Fernando begs "Father Satan/Send the serpent" behind demonic choirs old school black metal riffing. It's a notable way to close such an experience.
This is a must for any Moonspell fan, new or old, who wants to see what the band was up to in the early days, or who wants to hear some classics injected with new life. This is also highly recommended for anyone who's looking for anything "different". Either way it's an album that's worthy of a look, no matter what kind of metal you're in to.
Moonspell contains few of the most talented musicians of the world, musicians that have the potential to vary their styles to great extents. This album is a re-recording of Moonspell's oldest work consisting of 1993 demo "Anno Satanae", 1994 EP "Under The Moonspell" and their oldest song which was recorded under the name of Morbid God, 1992 demo "Serpent Angel". The songs contain few elements of black metal combined with arabian musical elements (arabian folk), both of these elements are away from their conventional sound. These songs are slightly different from their original versions, the main difference is the production.
Fernando Ribeiro vocals are as good as they can get. Most of you will hear such strange instruments that'd be new to your ears, only those who are familiar with folk music will recongnize these instruments, these are the convential arabic instruments that are played in local festivals. The arabian musical elements are dominant in the songs, acoustic guitars have been used sometimes but the drumming is outstanding and have been played in the traditional heavy metal sense. Guitars are different, they tend to get real sharp and real soothing, there's so much versatility here, there are few real nice solos in "Tenebrarum Oratorium (Andamento II / Erotic Compendyum)". Keyboards along with few other melodic & symphonic instruments have been used immaculately.
The lyrics are relatively different, they contain confusion but depth and, therefore, it is difficult to get to the core and are in three different languages English, Portugese & Arabic. Different religions have been mentioned in the lyrics as well as various mythical deitites like "Lilith" etc, verses from Islamic prayer, darkness and north have also been discussed.
The songs are not as flashy as conventional folk metal but they sound epic in a strange sense, the weak moments are almost negligible. Its a sad thing that Moonspell changed their style and started to create music that was more approachable. The gothic & doom metal fans might find this sound a bit difficult to digest but if they try to listen it their maturity level will be raised. Its a must for old school extreme metal fans who enjoy diversity.