With their 2001 album "Darkness And Hope" the sound of Portuguese MOONSPELL finally took up the "darkness" and gave us "hope", so the title without a doubt was well chosen. Now the Lustianians are back with "The Antidote" and the progression that could be seen in the previous album is continued on their sixth complete longplayer.
Simplified "The Antidote" combines the style of "Darkness And Hope" with elements from "Irreligious" and even a bit "Wolfheart", but without copying themselves, which is the fascinating skill of the quartet. What stands above all on this album without a doubt is intensity, the Portuguese definitely are one of the most intense bands that I know, drawing this from their very own structures and the inimitable vocals of Fernando Ribeiro.
At times MOONSPELL have added quite a brick to their sound again, with crunching guitars, powerful drums and more often Fernando's pretty unique Death/Black voice, which you really recognise among hundreds, everything elements that could be find on the previous albums only partly or not at all. A step back forward, which has done the band sound a lot of good, integrating earlier elements into the new sound, so to say re-inventing themselves, if you want.
"From Lowering Skies" is an excellent example for this old/new formula, very intense and mighty, with a lot of atmosphere, especially the chorus is very intense and brooding, a rack that I would already now call one of the band's classics. Here we find some elements that had marked MOONSPELL on earlier masterpieces already, like the rhythmic drums of Mike Gaspar, the very varied vocals of Fernando Ribeiro and also the mood of the songs, very strong track. In crass contrast we then get "Everything Invaded", which has a KATATONIA-like touch, especially in the beginning and also the following "The Southern Deathstyle", in which the band sounds heavier than in a long, long time.
The very catchy Gothic Metal with acoustic passages of "The Antidote" (the song, not the album) clearly shows that they have not taken the easy way and just recorded a "Irreligious Part 2", but co-integrated the newly found visions and influences of the past albums, to make sure that there is no stand still or even regression. Maybe even albums such as "Sin/Pecado" or "The Butterfly Effect" had to be made, so MOONSPELL could make an album like this one again, who knows…
"Capricorn At Her Feet" is another outstanding track, altogether slow-paced, with mostly the dark, clear vocals, but in the chorus with somewhat almost choir-like vocals (not a real choir, just sounds like one still), very melancholic and intense. Overall the second half of the album is less heavy than the first one, which comes out most in the vocals and drums, they are far more Gothic Metal than the rest, but still they are pure MOONSPELL, also qualitatively, especially "Crystal Gazing" is truly excellent, again with high intensity and towards the end a lot of power, damn good!
Ever since their beginnings, MOONSPELL have been a band that were more than "just" music, but where also the lyrics play a very important role. This has not changed on "The Antidote", at times the lyrics almost get philosophical and metaphorical, so one thing you definitely cannot say about MOONSPELL, that they process shallow and banal stuff. The aspiring, young Portuguese author José Luis Peixoto even got inspired by the album in a way that he wrote a novel based on it, cool thing!
In my opinion "The Antidote" cannot fully compete with the two classics "Wolfheart" and "Irreligious", for that the few elements that the band has retained from its more experimental times are a bit too bulky for my ears, but still I can attest without any second thought that this the best MOONSPELL album since "Irreligious" and that means quite something, doesn't it? Who had written off MOONSPELL after "Sin/Pecado" and "The Butterfly Effect" already and loves their early works (like myself), should still give "The Antidote" a chance, because they never had been so close to their best works ever since! (Online October 14, 2003)