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A captivating conundrum - 93%

MetalDeity, May 28th, 2014

It is quite uncommon and uncanny to encounter such a balanced, well-rounded hybrid of two separate and polar subgenres of metal, namely black and gothic, both with different concerns and criteria: one stressing the beauty and romance, the other thriving in filth and flirting with the Devil.When they are occasionally reconciled, the effect can be of great impact and consequence, and so it seems to be the case here, as Moonspell with their first album have most masterfully and aptly rendered the distinctions and tensions obsolete and have molded a perfectly profound and pristine experience.

Doused in synthesizers and dressed in somewhat abstruse, autochthonous vocalization, the album is itself a succession of motifs and material that is very inclined to explore and venture into the dark lore and more occult and outre dimension to the entire romantic fascination and history buffery.As expected, there is a plethora of keyboards, and the band members' panache for the orchestral and classical does not terminate here, as the vocals kick in, in every variation and seasoning, from the more harsh rasps midway through „Alma Mater“, through the slightly more present and prevailing baritone singing of Ribeiro, to some backing female falsettos that perkily pop up („Love Crimes“,"An Erotic Alchemy") every now and then, giving the music richer texture and tonality.The keyboards are actually not cheesy and overdone, serving only as a momentary respite, or, occasionally a well-placed interlude („Lua d'inverno“), that seams together otherwise unconnected, distinct musical segments, with streams of melancholy, majesty and moroseness .The riffs tend to hesitate between the more plodding, picturesque and illustrative of the murky and mystical atmosphere to the occasional outburst and effusion of a tremelo-picked stricture and spite.The drumming is mid-paced and often comprised of syncopated, more jaunty parts, individualistic and independent somewhat of the main flow of the guitars, but giving them enough breathing room or providing them with more material and components to waft over.The bass, considering this is still in theory a black metal release, contains a miraculously high degree of presence, and for this I compliment the musicians.

Speaking of the more esoteric and enigmatic offerings in the metal history, aside from the few more recent bands bringing avant-jazz, math rock and post-hardcore insights and illuminations into the black metal, I can hardly remember a more peculiar and pivotal attempting of populating the medium with more diversity and substance. This is not a classic, it is a canon, a non-circumnavigable release that must reach the ear of any serious and seasoned metal fan, even if they decide it is not to their preference. Abstruse and arcane, bemusing and bewildering, and scintillating with subterranean beauty and celestial grandeur and glamor, it is only rare that one is introduced to such magnificence. 93/100