After the brilliant "Wolfheart" I seriously awaited the release of the second complete album of my favourite Portuguese Metalians of MOONSPELL. On the tour with CREMATORY, THE GATHERING and SECRET DISCOVERY I had been able to listen to the new song "Mephisto", which whetted my appetite even more. And then I finally held it in my hands: "Irreligious"...
With a strangely colourful cover, the Portuguese showed themselves matured, changed, but not a tad less brilliant. After a very good intro (consisting of dark keyboards and an equally dark, almost Gregorian-like, male choir) they start out with the best-known MOONSPELL-song after "Alma Mater": "Opium". Not even three minutes long (there also is a very interesting video for it!), it is an energetic and gripping song, which lives off the tension between rhythmic intensity and straight, gripping passages, together with the characteristic vocal-variation of Fernando Ribeiro (no pseudonyms anymore!), a brilliant beginning!
"Awake" starts with soft, clean guitars, a vocal-sample from a movie and calm, deep vocals in the background and then shows itself very atmospheric in measured tempo, while the following "A Taste Of Eternity" comes flying with its double-bass and heavy guitars, but also very atmospheric with grand melody-lines, using the unique voice of Ribeiro to its very best, another classic in the already long line of great MOONSPELL-songs.
After this "Ruin & Misery" is showcasing the atmospheric side of the Portuguese band again, with intense vocals and "A Poisoned Gift" bears a quite Gothic touch in itself, even though the chorus is a good bit heavier and intense. After the dark (almost-)instrumental "Subversion" "Raven Claws" is the almost official sequel to "Vampiria" from the "Wolfheart"-album. Completely sung with a clear voice, with female support, it again is a pure Gothic Metal-song, which rises in intensity, heaviness and tempo towards the end.
Then we have the song that I already knew from the gig, "Mephisto", on the one hand quite calm, yet on the other with a very powerful and intense chorus, which builds a good tension through the contrast to the verse. The strangely titled "Herr Spiegelmann" starts out with carnival-music, then quickly turning into a song that would not have been out of place on "Wolfheart", very intense, powerful Gothic Black Metal with strong melodies, varied song-structure and great vocals!
And the end is made up by another song standing in the tradition of their last album, quite measured and atmospheric, with dreamy guitars, partly sung in Portuguese (no, not the guitars!): "Full Moon Madness" (almost the title-track before going for "Irreligious"). Again with varied vocals, very dynamic structure and an intense (you see that this word this strongly connected to MOONSPELL) atmosphere...
Altogether MOONSPELL sounded more mature on "Irreligious", in some way less heavy, but at the same time more intense and to a certain point a bit more mass-compatible. Still a brilliant album, which to date is one of the genre's highlights. "Wolfheart" most probably will remain my favourite MOONSPELL-album forever, mainly because it had been my first step into this world, but "Irreligious" also receives an all-out purchase-recommendation!