Moonspell - Hermitage
Napalm Records
Gothic Rock/Metal
10 songs (52:24)
Release year: 2021
Moonspell, Napalm Records
Reviewed by Goat

The twelfth full-length from Portuguese metal institution Moonspell finds the band in a reflective mood. It's far less flamboyant and theatrical than certain previous albums, moving away from past grandiose gothic anthems such as Scorpion Flower towards a more modern/progressive style, not a million miles away from Evergrey territory. Which has mixed results, making Hermitage an uneven album with real highs and lows. When at their best Moonspell produce genuinely magical songs; the dreamy Entitlement with its psychedelic rock overtones one example, using Fernando Ribeiro's heartfelt clean singing to great effect atop a nicely 80s gothic backing. He's one of the band's strongest elements throughout, his singing giving the music an emotional intensity that may otherwise be lacking. And he is more than an asset to the strongest material here like doomy highlight All or Nothing, something between recent Katatonia and Pink Floyd's more languid moments instrumentally but given a genuine soulfulness thanks to Ribeiro's performance...

And yet, he can also be a hindrance. The general laid-back and stripped-down nature of the instrumentation here can be compelling but can also sound weary and exhausted, such as on opener The Greater Good. Ribeiro is the best thing about it initially, yet the song drags almost immediately with a lack of energy and a completely unconvincing shift into harsh vocals towards the end is awkward at best. You don't want to point to age as a factor; Ribeiro is not yet 50 and besides, plenty of older metallers are still capable of stressing their vocal chords out! And of course, Moonspell have always had a charming touch of roughness to their heaviest moments. Yet it's also undeniable that when harsh vocals pop up on Hermitage it's a bad sign - the downright clunky title track one huge example, sounding like something Paradise Lost would have deliberately left off an album decades ago, a pleasant guitar solo a sole point in its favour.

Throughout inspiration does seem lacking, with even relatively decent moments like Common Prayers having the vibe of a sub-Katatonian relic, again from decades ago. Instrumental interlude Solitarian is downright boring, outro City Quitter not much better despite hinting at a more interesting piano-backed, ambient sound. And the decision to make the production so dense and airless is especially odd, making the album sound dated immediately. Overall, Hermitage feels like an attempt at a mature release from a band growing old gracefully, and you can see the skeleton of this in cuts like the aforementioned All or Nothing or later highlight Without Rule, an initially odd but with time excellent piece, reminiscent of Melvins thanks to the droning and grooving riffs and bellowed vocals. It's alternatively beautiful and catchy in a swinging sort of way, very different from recent output from bands that operate in similar gothic territory like, duh, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride. Of course, it succeeds due to being entirely in keeping with Moonspell's unique aura and personality while experimenting with their sound, and as a whole Hermitage could have used much more of this. There are moments to like across the album, all in all, but Moonspell can and have done much better.

Killing Songs :
All or Nothing, Entitlement, Without Rule
Goat quoted 60 / 100
Other albums by Moonspell that we have reviewed:
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
Moonspell - Memorial reviewed by Ken and quoted 95 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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