Some reviews almost write themselves, while others make you stare at a blank screen and/or piece of paper countless times while listening to the album. Having been a huge fan of Portuguese MOONSPELL ever since their phenomenal “Wolfheart” album (minus their slump in the middle with “Sin/Pecado” and “The Butterfly Effect”, which left me cold), I thought that it should not be such a big challenge to come up with a good, usable review. Hah, think again! “Night Eternal” is one of those reviews that are more a child of labour than immediate free-flow...
Anywho, if you do not count “Under Satanae”, which basically is their first regular EP “Under The Moonspell” with demo songs, then “Night Eternal” is the overall eighth studio album of the Lusitanian warriors and they continue down the path of the past album “Memorial”, which saw them take a turn towards a little heavier and more aggressive material, a bit less Gothic, but once more they are not just merely content with re-creating what they had done before, but this time around the keyboards took a little step backwards, giving way a little more towards the guitars.
“At Tragic Heights” is not an intro, even though its beginning could very well serve as one live, as we get tons of atmosphere and also some spoken word, before the song itself builds up from this atmosphere, symphonic, epic, but at the same powerful and epic, complete with Fernando Ribeiro’s characteristic dark and menacing growl, making for big cinema and setting an exclamation mark right at the beginning and there is no letting up after. The title-track is sharp and to the point, with an even more brooding atmosphere, but also a surprising solo that MOONSPELL haven’t used that often, but at the same time the staccato guitars give the song a hammer-like quality that will intoxicate your blood stream with the viral poison the Portuguese are such masters in concocting.
“Shadow Sun” starts out calmer and less intense, but then all hell breaks loose and we are treated to a barrage of guitars and drums, while Fernando’s voice sounds genuinely irate, I can only imagine what he sounds like, if someone really pisses him off... So this song lives off the counterplay of these two extremes, before “Scorpion Flower” gears down a little, bringing a far more melodic and melancholic side to the fore, together with guest vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen (AGUA DE ANNIQUE, ex-THE GATHERING), whose duet with Fernando, who for the first time offers us his unmistakable clear voice on this track, has emotional depth that only few bands can rival, even though this technically is a Gothic Metal song, it doesn’t have any of the sappiness that many other bands get entrapped in, beautiful!
And if you now feel all comfortable and lulled in, “Moon In Mercury” has other plans for you, because this track resembles more of a battering ram than a lush afternoon in the park, here Fernando delivers ferocious growls and the whole song is straight, heavy and driving, before it offers symphonics towards the end, I know that I usually do not like to go through an album song by song, but if things are so varied and dynamic, I feel that if I left anything out, I would miss something integral to the album, so bite me! But I’ll see what I can do about it.
Well, “Hers Is The Twilight” shows the balance between beauty and the beast, while “Dreamless (Lucifer And Lilith)” offers more melody again, which sometimes almost reminds me a little of KATATONIA, while “Spring Of Rage” alternates between emotional and melancholic passages and powerful double-bass eruptions, creating this very MOONSPELL-typical set of dynamics before on the closing track “First Light” MOONSPELL unleash their whole arsenal at the listener (and that doesn’t mean that the three unmentioned tracks are just stale fodder for the ears). Setting out with a nice acoustic guitar (which reprise throughout the song), while later on we get clear vocals, the powerful roar, a female choir, symphonic keyboards, but everything (again) without getting sappy.
The sound is voluminous, powerful and clear, which probably can to a good part attributed to Danish know wizard Tue Madsen, who has wrapped many a recording into such a behemoth of a production and it is befitting the grandeur and size of the compositions contained. And MOONSPELL continue to feed the flame by avoiding staying stuck in a rut, if that is welcomed by all the fans is very doubtful, but at least they are making the effort and in my opinion it more than pays off, one hell of an album (no pun intended)!
(Online November 19, 2008)