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The Sins of the Wolf… Forgiven? - 58%

bayern, March 8th, 2018

I have to admit I mildly enjoyed this album here when it came out, largely under the influence of this girlfriend I had at the time, a gorgeous goth whose favourite bands were Sisters of Mercy, London after Midnight, Fields of the Nephilim… Depeche Mode and Camouflage as well. As our Portuguese friends were trying to embrace similar dark gothic wave… sorry, ways of execution on this “sinful” opus, they also became more than welcome in the family although, to tell the whole truth, I had to stifle at times rising waves of indignation when the memories of this grandiose “Wolfheart” started coming to the fore…

Each subsequent listen, however, left me more and more disenchanted as I couldn’t quite see why the guys had to go down that path, and how this could be even remotely considered a logical progress in view of the preceding “Irreligious”. The guys were obviously treading the sophistication, anti-aggression path already traversed by acts like The Gathering, Therion, Cemetary, Samael, Paradise Lost, etc., but at least these bands saw no urgent need in leaving the metal confines after just two instalments… as this was a scheme only too obvious here.

A major reason why the regular Moonspell fan would choose to stay with this album longer is “HandMadeGod”, a dark brooding masterpiece placed at the very beginning, a hypnotic cut made even more effective by Ribeiro’s subdued melancholic croon. A possible leftover from the preceding effort, it tries to mislead with its serious, doom-laden layout, but the listener is already aware of “2econd Skin”, released on a single as a flagship earlier, the psychedelic quasi-groovy goofer that (moon)spells change which becomes more radical with the relaxed Fields-tribute “Abysmo” and the dreamy nod to Depeche Mode “Magdalene”. Displays of more verve and muscle are inevitable, but it will take more than rock-ish takeouts from Paradise Lost’s “One Second” like “V.C. (Gloria Domini)” to stop the instilling passive/regressive romanticism, especially with acid electronic variations (“EuroticA”) and idyllic ballads (“Mute”, “The Hanged Man”) amply provided. The mentioned opener simply can’t find its match anywhere the listener spotting some hope in the bouncy semi-industrialisms of “Dekadance”, and possibly in the more officiant, more complex veneer of “Let the Children Cum to Me...”.

No, there won’t be any children coming to this party, not the ones born of the wolf anyway. Ribeiro and Co. simply dance their way through the motions here, ruminating over the prospects of how to become faithful Sisters or Depeche followers without driving away all the “metal wolves” already recruited for their cause. Metal wasn’t so strongly on the menu anymore with dark wave and gothic rock wanting a bigger share from it, their crowd-pleasing aesthetics easily pricking the previously formed ironclad layer. The slight resistance to those, as audible from the opening cut time and again, is far from convincing, more of belated echoes from the previous album than any conscious attempts at more aggressive performance.

Well, such decelaration worked for Paradise Lost (and other outfits), for crying out loud, both commercially and successfully; so why not for Moonspell… That was the mentality acquired for the next outing, released less than a year later, which followed down this experimental path the delivery becoming marginally rowdier due to the added noisier, industrial flavour. Not much to stir the dormant wolfheart, unfortunately, this instalment being another failed attempt at commercialism which took the band some time to shake off as vestiges of its detrimental shadow were still hovering over “Darkness & Hope”. The very appropriately-titled “The Antidote” finally managed to bring things back on track, a much better dark metal opus that wasn’t exactly a second creative peak, but at least put an end to the guys’ aspirations towards becoming Portugal’s prime gothic rock/wave providers.

Not the most unpardonable aberration on the scene, the album here is more of a miscalculated stretch out to the mainstream than a downright flop, and it wasn’t probably such a big offense having in mind what was going on on the metal circuit at the time, the “death”, “doom” and “black” tags disappearing swiftly from any stylistic definitions, giving way to “post”, “dark”, “gothic”, “symphonic” and even “rock”. And, consistency has been settled as the anticipation norm on the band’s more recent repertoire… maybe it’s time to forgive them this (un) deadly sin…