Sunday Old School: Moonspell
So far this year, the Sunday Old School column has certainly been living up to the ambition of covering more bands from around the world, having for the first time featured bands from Greece (Rotting Christ,) Poland (Behemoth and Vader) and Belgium (Channel Zero) and so this week, we continue our global metal excavating by looking at a Portuguese band for the first time, one of the finest examples of gothic metal, Moonspell. Moonspell were formed in 1989 in Amadora, located in the North of Lisboa, initially under the moniker, Morbid God. In 1992, the group decided to change their name and got to work on new material, which they released in 1994 as part of their debut EP, "Under the Moonspell." The EP proved popular in the metal underground and impressed executives at Century Media Records enough that they offered the band a six album deal. It wasn’t long before the band had recorded their first full length effort, which was released in April 1995 under the title, "Wolfheart" and was considerably more in line with black metal than the gothic vibe which they would become known for.
Although the album was somewhat ignored by the metal media, it allowed the group to embark on a tour of Europe, during which guitarist, Mantus left the band, to be replaced by Ricardo Amorim. A new guitarist also meant a new style for Moonspell, who quickly adopted a gothic approach to their music, which they showcased on their sophomore album, "Irreligious," released in 1996. The album was a landmark for the band not only in terms of style change, but also their first single and music video for the song, "Opium," as well as some other Moonspell classics such as "Awake" and "Full Moon Madness," which has become the standard final song at the majority of Moonspell concerts. In addition to these personal successes, the band also found some commercial achievement when the record sold over ten thousand copies in their native Portugal. However, as with the cycle for "Wolfheart," the band would soon find themselves departing with another member, this time with bass player, Ares, whose fallout with the group was bad enough that lawsuits were soon brought into the mix.
Sergio Crestana was brought in as the new bass player and made his recording debut with the band on the 1998 album, "Sin/Pecado," whose title played on the Portuguese word for without "sin," while the word "pecado," translates into English as "sin." It was noticeably more experimental than the previous two records and featured another single in the form of, "2econd Sin." A fourth album, "The Butterfly Effect," followed only a year later and continued further with the musical experiments, this time bringing in a heavy dose of industrial metal and electronic influences. Perhaps as to be expected, the album received some poor reviews from the metal press, who were less than impressed by outside influences Moonspell has introduced to their audience.
Despite the backlash they received for "The Butterfly Effect," the band was soon to find themselves in the international charts when they released "Darkness and Hope" in 2001, which peaked on the German album chart at number 79. The record spawned a single and music video for the song, "Nocturna," while three bonus tracks were also recorded for different regions, including a cover of the Ozzy Osbourne staple, "Mr. Crowley" for the North American market and one of the Joy Division classic, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" for South American fans.
The success continued when the band released, "The Antidote" in 2003, which earned the group some of the best reviews of their career and allowed them to tour in more areas around the world, as well as increasing their presence in their home country by appearing at the Rock in Rio Lisbon festival. They also gained some attention for their cover of the jazz song, "I'll See You in my Dreams" for the Portuguese zombie film of the same name. Another music video was created, this time for the song, "Everything Invaded" and Moonspell found themselves peaking at number four on the Portuguese albums chart.
It seemed that the group were now ready for a new step and so signed to German label, SPV/Steamhammer Records, though they brought back a figure of their past in the guise of producer, Waldemar Sorychta who had worked on their first three albums. Sorychta also handled bass duties for the record, which was released in 2006 under the title, "Memorial." It was certainly a special album for the band, as it topped the Portuguese charts in its first week of release and was eventually certified Gold, making Moonspell the first Portuguese band to achieve this accomplishment. Not only did "Memorial" perform well commercially, but critics were pleased with the heavier direction too.
Moonspell capitilised on this success the following year by re-releasing "Memorial," this time with a bonus DVD which featured live footage and the album’s music videos for "Luna" and "Finisterra." They also released their first compilation album in June of that year entitled, "The Great Silver Eye," as well as a collection of re-recorded songs, "Under Satanæ" four months later. However, what many fans were clearly waiting for was a new album of original material, which they got in 2008, after the band spent time in Denmark working with producer, Tue Madsen.
"Night Eternal" was the album in question and almost certainly did not disappoint fans, both old and new, or critics who were impressed with the last outing, with many giving the record excellent reviews. "Night Eternal" boasted a guest appearance from Anneke van Giersbergen, formerly of The Gathering on the lead single, "Scorpion Flower," for which she also appeared in the accompanying music video. The band then found themselves as part of several big name tours, including the "Blackest of the Black" tour with Danzig and Dimmu Borgir, as well as hitting the road with Cradle of Filth and Gorgoroth as part of the Darkest Tour: Filthfest, before teaming up with Cradle of Filth again for the second Filthfest, which this time included Turisas.
Moonspell then received a rare honour for a heavy metal band, when they immortalised in Portugal on a postage stamp which featured the cover of their first album, "Wolfheart," as part of the country’s attempts to recognise the crowning moments in Portuguese rock and metal music. That same month, the band announced that they were working on a new album, describing it as their darkest and sexiest to date. It finally arrived two years later through their new label, Napalm Records in the form of a double album entitled, "Alpha Noir/Omega White" The "Alpha Noir" side represented their passion for old school thrash bands such as Onslaught and Testament, while the "Omega White" record featured a sound more kin to their second album, "Irreligious." It received generally positive reviews and the band has been promoting the record on the road since, which they will continue to do this Summer as they bound across Europe, appearing at several festivals and demonstrating the hunger and talent that made them one of the best metal bands to ever emerge from Portugal.
Moonspell - "Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)"
Moonspell - "Opium"
Moonspell - "2econd Skin"
Moonspell - "Nocturna"
Moonspell - "Everything Invaded"
Moonspell - "Finisterra"
Moonspell - "Night Eternal"
Moonspell - "Lickanthrope"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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