Review: Moonspell – Hermitage

It has almost been 30 years since the first Moonspell was cast. The first three albums were, in several ways, mind blowing and opened different ways of looking at the metal genre. The very first mini-album, Under the Moonspell, gave us an insight of occult metal, mixed with Arabian sounds and atmospheres. Brutal, exciting, even erotic but also classical. After this first one, Wolfheart was presented and made clear that there was more beauty in this group. Classics of this album are still welcome songs at live performances. With the third outcome Moonspell put themselves for ever in the metal charts. Irreligious was interesting in lots of ways. Though less brutal and far more accessible, it remained an exotic, dark album that dared to provoke.

After that however, the music became less and less metal and lost some of its intenseness. With The Butterfly Effect, the band lost me, although with every new album I am curious what the new outcome would be. It was always a surprise, some nicer than others.

One of their last albums, Extinct, made me really appreciate the band again. A nice combination of dark metal, with songs that were almost radiofriendly, but still sharp as a knife.

Leader of the wolfpack, Fernando Ribeiro, says about this album that the band is very much aware that they have entered the winter of their career. No longer leading, but still very able to express their feelings in music. I like it when a band can honestly say that they are over their career-top. It does not mean that their music is lame, but it does make clear that the younger generation has taken up the lead. Listening to this new album, it is hard to tell whether Fernando is right or not.

Opening song The Greater Good is a song that fits in the Irreligious tradition. Balancing on the brim of pop and metal, but when the harsh vocals kick in it is easy to say where it belongs! Common Prayers takes on the same feeling, though the use of Hammond-organ sounds is very refreshing!

All or Nothing, a song that is described by Fernando as one of the deepest and most heart-breaking songs, seems very tame to me. Almost a love-ballad without any sharp edges and it lasts for over seven minutes!

Hermitage rocks our asses off, again, in a positive way. And then Entitlement, by far the loudest, but surely one of the most exciting songs. The use of instruments is amazing in building a suspense. It sounds like a mixture of Faith No More and the classic Moonspell albums. The background vocals could use some tabasco though. And basically, for Solitarian the description is more or less equal. Apoptheghmata is for me one of the best songs, again the use of Hammond organ gives extra atmosphere to the song and it just sounds as a well worked out song.

Did Fernando say they were not leading anymore? Until this point I would say he is absolutely right… but then the surprise pack kicks in! Without Rule, together with closing song City Quitter, show the future of what Moonspell could be. No rules, no set styles, just interesting sounds, a mix of trippy guitar, different vocal use. I almost forgot that I was listening to Moonspell. ‘Never too close, never too far, without rule we are!’. I think I like Moonspell best without rules 😉

Here you can also read our earlier interview with Moonspell’s Fernando Ribeiro.

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