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Moonspell - "Memorial" (CD)

Moonspell - "Memorial" CD cover image

"Memorial" track listing:

01. In Memoriam
02. Finisterra
03. Memento Mori
04. Sons Of Earth
05. Blood Tells
06. Upon The Blood Of Men
07. At The Image Of Pain
08. Sanguine
09. Proliferation
10. Once It Was Ours!
11. Mare Nostrum
12. Luna
13. Best Forgotten

Reviewed by on May 6, 2006

"Portugal’s greatest metal export are sure to turn the heads of both their fans and critics alike with Memorial."

Moonspell must be out to prove something. Twelve years, seven albums and two EP’s into their career and they’ve released their most rich and textured offering to date. The band have completely forsaken the industrial undertones of previous records, favoring a lush and dramatic soundscape that calls to mind Type O Negative’s “Bloody Kisses” and “October Rust”. Long time producer Waldemar Sorychta (Lacuna Coil, Tiamat) forges Moonspell’s sound into something so polished and sharp it should be recognized as deadly. The end result is an epic and moody record, that manages to be relentless while demonstrating restraint.

Album opener “In Memoriam” is a suspense generating machine. Seemingly innocent synths guide the listener down an increasingly foreboding path where roaring guitars and propulsive drums ambush the unprepared. This grand introduction bleeds into “Finisterra”, which charges forward with double kick drums pummeling and the furious bellowing of vocalist Fernando Ribeiro. A chilling guitar interlude serves to build the tension further before the song stomps itself out with a final chorus. Violent instrumentation and creepy atmospherics return on “Memento Mori” but the delivery is a world apart from “Finisterra”. Ribeiro implements his patented vampiric croon backed by chiming guitars that circle overhead. When the chorus arrives, faux-pipe organs sound like a wailing train bearing down on the listener. “Sons of Earth” is a haunting acoustic instrumental punctuated by a guitar solo that Kirk Hammett should have devised in 1986. Crunchy riffing and cascading bass lines assault the listener on the accusatory and catchy “Blood Tells”. The albums most thrashy number “Upon the Blood of Men”; boasts searing guitar leads, a frightening breakdown and a multifaceted song structure. “Sanguine’s” loud/quiet dynamics and vampire imagery, make for an unsettling love song. Ribeiro croons of an intimate but conflicted romance and screams of madness, breeding and oceans of blood. “Luna” is a melodic masterpiece that steers away from the albums normally frantic pace, only succumbing to a single high intensity bridge. Ribeiro gives his strongest clean singing performance on this song backed by beautiful female vocal harmonies. “Best Forgotten” is an epic behemoth that brings a sense of closure to a tumultuous album.

Cutting to the chase, Memorial is likely to be on my shortlist for metal album of 2006. It carries some of the melodic elegance of Moonspell’s 2001 album Darkness and Hope but brings with it an invigorating gothic doom presence. The album is decidedly heavy standing next to their last two albums and is also surprisingly glossy. Occasionally Ribeiro’s vocals get buried by the kick drums and the low end of the guitars but otherwise production quality is impressive. Portugal’s greatest metal export are sure to turn the heads of both their fans and critics alike with Memorial.

Highs: Brilliant pacing, grim atmospherics, alternately hostile and contemplative vocals and masterful use of synthesizers. Best instrumental segues I’ve heard in ages.

Lows: Mild and infrequent production flaws. Vocals could be a bit more varied.

Bottom line: A Gothic-Doom masterwork. Fans of the genre should already own this, non-fans should strongly consider it.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)