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One small step away from utter perfection - 85%

5thEmpire, December 25th, 2010

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).