Moonspell - Memorial
Gothic Black Metal
14 songs (64:53)
Release year: 2006
Moonspell, SPV
Reviewed by Ken
Album of the month

Moonspell have come a long way in their almost-20-year career. Formed in 1989 under the name Morbid God they were then a black metal band and released one demo. Following that same path—and going by a new name—Moonspell unleashed their own brand of folkloric, gothic-influenced black metal in 1993 with their first and only demo, Anno Satanae. The demo featured five songs, three true songs and an intro and outro, two of these songs were featured on a 7-inch release the next year. It wasn’t until the band released their Under The Moonspell EP that we saw glimpses of the band they were to become, although this EP is an oddity in their discography, not quite black metal, but not quite gothic, either. It’s a very strange mix of Middle Eastern rhythms, a symphonic and orchestral soundscape with black metal and cleanly-sung male vocals, female vocals and choirs. You’ll hear mention from other would-be reviewers (read: lazy, ignorant reviewers) that Memorial is an album that harkens back to the Under The Moonspell EP, but that is a comparison about as odd as the EP itself.

For those that have followed this band has seen them go through phases over the course of their career. Wolfheart and Irreligious had more of the black metal sound from the early days of the band mixed with a slight to heavy lean—which varied from song to song—towards the gothic end of things; Sin/Pecado was more experimental and more gothic still, while The Butterfly Effect was slightly heavier, but far more experimental with a slight industrial swagger; Darkness And Hope saw the band revisiting the heavier gothic style that was on Irreligious, but without much of the heaviness, and The Antidote took that to a slightly heavier plateau, but not quite reaching the black metal realm of their early material. In 1998 four of the main band members at the time released an album called Hermeticum under the name Daemonarch; a full-on black metal assault, it’s an album more closely related to the Morbid God/Moonspell black metal-era than anything Moonspell has done from Wolfheart on. If you take the black metal brutality of Hermeticum and the slight gothic touch of Wolfheart you’ll find yourself with a recipe for Memorial.

Though The Antidote was heavier than Darkness And Hope, Memorial doesn’t take the next logical evolutionary step, it comes in leaps and bounds. The gothic elements are there, but in limited amounts compared to previous albums, as are some modest symphonic moments. Gone, however, is the dominance of Fernando Ribeiro’s clean vocals, the funereal gloom that permeated past releases, all but replaced here by his snarling black metal growl. This is by far Moonspell’s heaviest album to date. The album begins with the first of four short instrumentals, this one being “In Memoriam,” an orchestral affair with some heavy guitar supported by lush keyboards. The first real song out the gate is the first single, “Finisterra,” a blistering gothic black metal masterpiece. The beginning riff is a little misleading as it doesn’t start out all that heavy, but slowly the double-bass kicks in and once the verse begins there’s little room to doubt the intentions of the band on this album: fast, death metal-like riffing, blast beats and a sickening black metal roar. The song is punctuated by a catchy one-line chorus, repeated. “Momento Mori” follows and begins with a run through the chorus, which is a little slower than “Finisterra,” but still heavy; it also features the clean vocals of old during the slow verse. Instrumental number two is up next in the form of “Sons Of The Earth,” a short acoustic number rounded out by an electric solo; each instrumental follows a similar path of just being a nice interlude, not really standing strong as a single song, but being a great bridge between songs when listening from beginning to end.

The album continues in crushing fashion from heavy, fast-paced epics like “Upon The Blood Of Men,” mid-paced numbers like “Blood Tells” and “At The Image Of Pain,” and more traditional Moonspell pieces like “Sanguine” and “Once It Was Ours!.” One of the standout tracks is probably the most different, “Luna” starts with a groovy, keyboard-laced riff that leads to one of the few slow, clean-vocal verses, the chorus soars with some outstanding vocal work by Brigit Zacher, once again working with the band after a few years absence—she also sings on Wolfheart, Irreligious and Sin/Pecado. The song takes a departure from the sound of the rest of the album, but never hinders the flow. Depending on what version you have the album will either end with “Best Forgotten” or “Atlantic,” the bonus track; both are heavy numbers with slower verses, each excellent. All versions of the album have a secret track after the last song, nothing worth writing about, just some samples and keyboard.

I’ve heard a lot of people say they lost interest in the band when they abandoned more of the heavy, black metal influence for the gothic sound, around the Irreligious period. To those people I suggest they give this album a listen as this album is, like I mentioned, far heavier than anything they’ve released since Anno Satanae. For those who continued to follow the band will no doubt find this album to be one of the best the band has ever released and those who have never heard the band will find this to be a killer starting point. It must be noted that the almighty and underrated Waldemar Sorchyta once again places his flawless production stamp upon a Moonspell album; the man is a killer musician (Grip Inc., Despair) and an outstanding producer that sadly, like with his bands, doesn’t seem to get the recognition he deserves. He also played bass on this album.

Moonspell have once again managed to release a stunning album of gothic metal, this time with a surprising black metal magnetism, not unheard of for the band, but definitely unexpected at this point in their career. If you’re a fan, this album is required; if not, or if you once were a fan, it’s well worth at least checking out.

MP3: Finisterra (Real Audio Stream)

VIDEO: Finisterra (“Making Of,” Real Video Stream)

Note: In time these links will likely becoming outdated.

Killing Songs :
Finisterra, Momento Mori, Luna, Blood Tells, Upon The Blood Of Men and Atlantic
Ken quoted 95 / 100
Other albums by Moonspell that we have reviewed:
Moonspell - Hermitage reviewed by Goat and quoted 60 / 100
Moonspell - Extinct reviewed by Andy and quoted 81 / 100
Moonspell - Omega White reviewed by Cory and quoted 86 / 100
Moonspell - Alpha Noir reviewed by Cory and quoted 73 / 100
Moonspell - Night Eternal reviewed by Goat and quoted 89 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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