Moonspell - Extinct - (9/10)
Published on April 1, 2015
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Lisbon-based Moonspell have been one of these bands that constantly evolve and change, from their folk influenced black metal of their beginnings over their gothic metal phase, the inclusion of electronics, the return to gothic metal fused together with death and black metal and so on. Not all of the adjustments were met with the same level of enthusiasm by the fans, but ultimately the band stayed one thing after all: Moonspell. One contributing factor could be the unusual stability in the band’s line-up, with three founding members still in the line-up after going on 23 years of existence.
Extinct, their eleventh album, continues down the same direction that the band had been walking down the past couple of years, but takes some influences from earlier excursions to include into their Lusitanian style mix, like some more poppy gothic rock elements, which actually had caused quite some pre-release stir, since the first single “The Last of Us” and then also the beginning of opener “Breathe (Until We Are No More)” feature this fairly prominently and led many fans to believe that the Portuguese were headed back to the days of a The Butterfly Effect, arguably the least favourably received album of the band to date.
Within the album context, though, things look a little differently and show yet another facet of the band within its chosen spectrum, a little less of the black metal influence and a bit more leaning towards the gothic metal spectrum again with extended use of keyboards, like the already mentioned “Breathe (Until We Are No More)”, which sees its only real heaviness in Fernando Ribeiro’s growls in the chorus and some more intense moments, but other than that the reduced heaviness works to introduce the listener to the new album and its overall more melodic direction. The title track adds a little more crunch to the guitars and its growled verse, but then unleashes this ultra melodic and irresistible chorus that automatically draws you in. And this is where Moonspell’s experience and talent really shines through, by making the songs so damn good that even potentially negatively viewed elements don’t matter anymore.
And there even is a little throwback all the way back to the Anno Satanæ and Wolfheart releases in “Medusalem”, which brings back the Arabic melodies (not the heaviness, though), just embedded into a song that straddles the line between gothic rock and gothic metal, but it is these melodies that leave their firm imprint on the track. Despite the reduced overall heaviness and more reliance on melodies and clear vocals, Extinct never drifts off into shallow waters, because the quality of the compositions is what propels the album forward, even though it is a welcome element to hear some of Ribeiro’s trademark growls as in the chorus of “A Dying Breed”, which have not lost any of their power and are as distinct of a Moonspell element as his deep, clear voice.
Fans are used to expecting different facets of Moonspell on their albums and Extinct is no different. While still being distinctly Moonspell, it has a lighter, more melodic emphasis than the last few albums and even though some fans will take offense in the reduced heaviness, the album features some of the best and most emotional melodies in the Portuguese history to date. While at first it might seem too much of a lightweight, repeated listens will allow the songs to expand and reveal all details, making it a gothic metal highlight of 2015 and it is good to see that even after 23 years the quintet still avoids standstill, even if it means to pick up part of the past in order to move on!