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Moonspell - "Alpha Noir" (CD)

Moonspell - "Alpha Noir" CD cover image

"Alpha Noir" track listing:

1. Axis Mundi (4:56)
2. Lickanthrope (3:49)
3. Versus (4:39)
4. Alpha Noir (4:30)
5. Em Nome Do Medo (4:27)
6. Opera Carne (3:52)
7. Love is Blasphemy (4:31)
8. Grandstand (4:53)
9. Sine Missione (4:57)

Reviewed by on April 27, 2012

"'Alpha Noir' has everything that keeps fans riding the Moonspell train through the decades, and longtime followers won’t be disappointed in the album as a whole, even if it’s not quite as memorable, focused, or epic as 'Night Eternal.'"

Four years after the phenomenal and career-defining “Night Eternal,” it’s finally time for another bout of multi-genred metal that plunges deep into the darkness of goth from long running act Moonspell. There’s been a lot of buildup around this new album, with anticipation finally overflowing last year and prompting the band to admit it was playing a “seduction game” by teasing the fan base as long as possible. So was all the waiting worth it? Absolutely yes, “Alpha Noir” is unquestionably a strong album, although it doesn’t quite live up to the standard set by its predecessor.

Moonspell has gone through a fair share of style changes between albums – having been around for 20 years now, how could the band possibly stay the same? – as albums like “Darkness and Hope” sound quite different from “Memorial,” and “Night Eternal” is light years away from debut “Wolfheart.” Even with the inevitable changes, there have always been core commonalities between the albums, like front man Fernando Ribeiro’s readily identifiable Portuguese accent and the presence of a strong Gothic atmosphere.

Months before the album’s release, a statement was issued that “Alpha Noir” would be Moonspell redefined, noting the album would have the “rockiest and thrashiest” riffs ever heard from the band. For once a press release actually hit the nail on the head and genuinely reflected how a new album would sound, which doesn’t happen often. These songs certainly are more groovy and thrashy than recent Moonspell output, as well as less serious and gloomy than the last album.

It seems like after “Night Eternal,” a very thematic album that had a consistently unified vision, the gothic saints from Moonspell wanted something a little less structured and more fun to play. That change brings tidings both good and bad, however. All the theatrics and focus on theme, basically all of the major flavor from the last album, have been surgically cut out. These tracks are less intricate and deep, and essentially lay all of their cards on the table: everything is up front on the surface and what you see is what you get.

“Versus” hits an interesting balance between old and new, with a highly catchy theme that’s still plenty heavy. Despite the cringe-worthy name and unfortunate lyrics, “Lickanthrope” is also a solid Moonspell track, with all the right keyboard sounds mixing into the Gothic-laced extreme metal. The album ends on an instrumental track that changes gears from the rest of the songs, having a bit of an Autumns Eyes or even Dimmu Borgir feel with its symphonic and cinematic style that throws in creepy, movie-style keyboard work.

“Alpha Noir” has everything that keeps fans riding the Moonspell train through the decades, and longtime followers won’t be disappointed in the album as a whole, even if it’s not quite as memorable, focused, or epic as “Night Eternal.”

Highs: Nice balance between heavy and catchy, an atmospheric instrumental closing track, and plenty of Moonspell's trademark Gothic/extreme blend.

Lows: "Alpha Noir" lacks unity and cohesion and is more a collection of tracks than an album.

Bottom line: More standout Gothic metal from the Portuguese masters of the genre, although unfortunately this one isn't quite as mindblowing as the last album.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 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)