Moonspell
Alpha Noir/Omega White

Over the years Moonspell have packaged their gothic, lycanthropic atmosphere into many different forms, from deathy black metal to radio rock to electronic metal and back again. Over the recent few albums they’ve settled into a rhythm of making heavy, violent metal albums with the huge and dramatic orchestration of the more radio-friendly stuff layered over the top. For their new release they decided to split the ideas up into one very aggressive album and one that’s much more relaxed. I’ll talk first about the heavier one, Alpha Noir.

The approach Moonspell take on this first disc is sort of similar to the last two albums, Memorial and Night Eternal, in that it’s more focused on guitars than keyboards and overwhelmingly Fernando Ribeiro’s harsh vocals as opposed to his bassy croon. However it pushes even more in that direction, really relying on the riffs to glue the songs together and only uses keyboards in key moments to inject a little bit of pomp.

Does it work? Well, mostly, but Moonspell are not really known as brilliant riff smiths. Ricardo Amorim is a very solid guitarist but I’m not sure that putting the album in his hands to this degree was a great idea, just like letting keyboardist Pedro Paixão have so much control over The Butterfly Effect ultimately didn’t pan out. Moonspell really are a band that’s more the sum of their parts in that regard.

Things start out really great with “Axis Mundi” and “Lickanthrope,” a one-two punch of pummeling songs that keep the gothic mood in place, but then “Versus” is a disturbingly weak collection of extremely monotonous riffs and recycled structural ideas. The pre-chorus riff is annoyingly similar to that of “Lickanthrope,” the song that comes right before it. That’s just lazy.

The next few songs are all individually good, but don’t have enough individual character to distinguish them from one another. It isn’t until second-to-last track “Grandstand” that things really start to feel alive again. Its marching, ominous riffs have the unrelenting feel of a freight train, and everything just sort of comes together perfectly like a good Moonspell song should. I just wish the entire album were like that. The album wraps up with “Sine Mission,” a long, instrumental outro that begins like a Cradle of Filth orchestral interlude but then builds into an evil metal stomp.

Alpha Noir is definitely worth owning for fans like me but I have difficulty imagining that a random metalhead off the street will find the simple riffs and pedestrian song structures all that compelling. The album was supposedly inspired by thrash bands like Testament, Onslaught, and Artillery. I’m not hearing it.

The second of the two albums, Omega White, is more similar to the mellower albums of the late 90s and early 2000s. The band described it as being a return to the style of Irreligious, but I feel that it’s more of a cross between Sin / Pecado and Darkness and Hope, though lacking the former’s electronic elements. The first impression I get from opener “Whiteomega” is that the band seems far more comfortable with a more orchestrated, dramatic approach, and honestly it’s on this sort of material that they’ve always shined. The keyboards fill the songs and the vocals are exclusively of the clean variety. “Fireseason” is an excellent example of their success in this style, building from acoustic verses into huge gothic choruses, with a perfect guitar solo on top. “White Skies” and “Sacrificial” are the most heavy, pounding songs on the album but they don’t come close to the aggression of anything on Alpha Noir.

“New Tears Eve” sounds so much like the material on Darkness and Hope that it made me go back and listen to that album, certain that I’d heard the song before. And then “Incantrix” sounds incredibly like Type O Negative for a minute and a half, before going off in its own direction. Much of the material on Omega White is naggingly familiar like that; it doesn’t have quite as much of its own character as I would like, but it’s just executed so well that it doesn’t really matter.

The two albums are packaged simply under the name Alpha Noir, with Omega White being treated as a bonus disc in the deluxe edition. This concerns me a little bit, as Omega White is stronger than its counterpart and I’d hate to see it left out of any future editions. Moonspell is best when they combine their heavy and gothic elements, and although this is an overall solid release, it just sacrifices too much to keep those components separate. And the inclusion of filler material to pad out the track lists is a good indication that the two albums probably should have been cut down a little and combined into one. I don’t normally make a big deal about artwork, but this release has the most awful, random-debris photoshopping I’ve seen in a while. The artwork is by the same guy who did the cover for Night Eternal, which was pretty great. How the hell do you turn around and screw up so badly the second time around? At some point somebody should have looked closer and said, “This is really bad. Let’s change it.”

But that’s sort of a motif with these albums. None of the music is even remotely as catastrophically awful as the artwork but there are too many areas where the people involved should have realized they were on the wrong track. The material is there for a great release but it’s just too diluted. Oh well, at least I’ll be getting a lot of mileage out of Omega White.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Andrew Young
June 11th, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    yeah wow, that second cover suuuucks.


  2. Commented by: peridot

    Both covers suck, but the one for Omega White is epically bad.


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