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Something Growled in Portuguese - 82%

Twisted_Psychology, November 14th, 2017

Considering how Moonspell has always been more unique than most of their goth metal peers, it’s always pleasant to see when they aim for even more ambitious territory than their usual work. It’s especially true for 1755, their twelfth full-length album, which details a catastrophic earthquake that occurred in the band’s native Portugal that year and features lyrics delivered entirely in Portuguese. While this intriguing concept album avoids many of the traps associated with the format, it is still somewhat diminished by its execution.

Right off the bat, the biggest letdown on 1755 is the near absence of clean vocals. Sure the people like me who only speak American wouldn’t be able to understand the lyrics either way, but Fernando Ribeiro’s growls have always been rather monotonous and this is made even more apparent when his enjoyable deep croons are much less common. It’s especially questionable when you consider that the music is still pretty far removed from the band’s black metal roots.

There is also a prominent symphonic influence on here, resulting in a couple songs like the opening “Em Nome Do Medo” where strings and choral vocals are featured ahead of any metal guitar and drum work. Thankfully these elements are tastefully applied and even result in some exciting Kamelot-esque dynamics on the title track and “Evento.” One can also hear some cool Middle Eastern motifs through songs like “In Tremor Dei” or “Desastre,” a welcome idea that hasn’t been seen on a Moonspell album in at least fifteen years.

It feels petty to dock an album for its vocal performance, especially when the actual compositions are solid and the theme is cool, but a more balanced delivery would’ve gone a long way in making 1755 more effective. It’s still a decent album that will appeal to fans of Moonspell’s harsher side, but I feel that albums like Wolfheart and The Antidote were better at displaying the band’s more ambitious tendencies. The Swedish version of Sabaton’s Carolus Rex is still the leading go-to in the oddly specific genre of European metal bands detailing history in their native tongue.


Originally published at

Confusing start but great finish - 66%

kluseba, November 9th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Napalm Records (Limited edition, Digipak)

Portuguese gothic metal band Moonspell tried out quite a few things at once on twelfth studio record 1755. First of all, this is a conceptual record about the great Lisbon Earthquake and its negative and positive short- and long-term consequences. Secondly, this is the band's first album that only features Portuguese lyrics. Thirdly, this record can be considered a symphonic extreme metal album which relies on the massive use of choirs and orchestras. As if those things weren't enough, 1755 was originally supposed to be only an EP and evolved into a full length release, featuring a revamped version of ''Em Nome do Medo'' from the Alpha Noir / Omega White release five years earlier to open the album and a cover song of Os Paralamas do Sucesso's ''Lanterna dos Afogados'' to close the record. Even the bonus track for limited editions is everything but common since it's a Spanish version of the new song ''Desastre''.

One has to applaud the band for this courageous experiment, especially in times when many genre colleagues keep things safe and simple and the few experimental bands tend to get slammed from critics and fans alike. However, be forewarned. It takes quite some time for this album to open up and make sense. I disliked my first listening experience because this album doesn't have too much in common with any other Moonspell record. The second try was a little bit more positive as the album started to grow on me. After letting things sink in after a third try, I can say that 1755 has its strengths and weaknesses and is ultimately neither among the band's weakest efforts, nor among its strongest outputs. To be honest, it's overall a below average effort for a pioneer of the gothic metal genre.

Let's start with the positive points. First of all, the dramatic orchestral passages, the epic choirs and the few folk elements add a cinematic touch to the record that does its complex concept justice. The album certainly has an apocalyptic atmosphere. Secondly, the record positively recalls other experimental extreme metal bands like Melechesh for its mixture of vivid aggressiveness and intellectual progressiveness, Orphaned Land for its few Middle Eastern folk elements and tribal drums as well as Septicflesh for its massive use of classical elements. Fans of folk metal band Myrath and symphonic black metal band Dimmu Borgir might also be positively surprised about this release. Thirdly, the record's second half sounds appropriately balanced between new choral and orchestral elements and classic trademarks of the band such as variable vocals and haunting guitar melodies. It almost sounds as if the first half of the album were an experimental test for the band's new genre while the second half perfectly fusions old and new influences. ''1 de Novembro'' is the record's most vivid track with its galloping rhythms, the extremely playful and varied ''Ruinas'' might be the record's most diversified song and ''Todos os Santos'' is an apocalyptic epic that should have closed the album and which was rightfully chosen as first single because it represents the mixture of old and new soundscapes best and is also among the catchiest tunes on an otherwise complex release.

Here come the negative aspects. First of all, the omnipresent use of orchestral passages and pompous choirs is at times quite tiring. Several songs feel overloaded and sound much longer than they actually are. This is a phenomenon that can also be observed on recent Dimmu Borgir and Septicflesh albums. Less would have been so much more. This leads to the next problem. While the symphonic elements are omnipresent, the metal influences sound a lot less inspired than usual. Especially the first half of the album lacks emotional guitar solos, gripping and original riffs and interesting rhythm variations. Moonspell tries to spice things up with some tribal drum patterns or calmer instrumental breaks with more audible bass sounds here and there but these passages rarely sound coherent, consistent and integrated. It's not enough to show off the technical capabilities of the rhythm section for a few seconds, just to bury them under a wall of symphonic sounds right after. This leads us to another problem. The production is quite overloaded and loud. A more organic production with less instrumental tracks would have made the overall listening experience even more enjoyable. Another issue are the vocals, especially in the weaker first half of the album. Fernando Ribeiro is usually a quite diversified and skilled vocalist who can whisper, scream, shout, sing and speak in many different ways. Instead of varying his approaches, most of the album consists of his extreme metal screams and shouts. Gone are his haunting baritone clean vocals or his mysterious whispers and spoken word passages. The vocals sound quite one-dimensional. Finally, opening the record with a revamped version of ''Em Nome do Medo'' wasn't a bright idea. The aggressive and spooky original track was one of the highlights off Alpha Noir / Omega White. The new version has lost the uniqueness of the original and has instead become a quite pompous symphonic metal track that is more than a minute longer than the concise original track. It's impossible to not compare both versions and the original song is better from any point of view. Starting the record with such a revamped track fails to build up any momentum. Closing the record with another cover song isn't too brilliant either, especially since it doesn't do the dreamy original pop rock track justice but at least the band didn't copy itself here.

In the end, positive and negative elements are quite balanced on this album. 1755 is still an ambitious, entertaining and unique record but by Moonspell's standards, it sounds overlong, unbalanced and unusual. I think it would have been better to focus on the greatest tracks of this album and release an EP instead of a full length record. In the end, symphonic extreme metal fans, those interested in experimental, exotic and sophisticated metal albums as well as faithful Moonspell supporters should purchase this album. Occasional listeners might have quite some problems to digest this release. They should either arm themselves with a lot of patience or simply pass on this one. What could have been a highlight in Moonspell's career has turned out to be one of the band's most inconsistent releases.