Moonspell - Alpha Noir
Napalm Records
Gothic Metal
9 songs (40:34)
Release year: 2012
Moonspell, Napalm Records
Reviewed by Cory

With four years having passed since the gothic monster that was Night Eternal, Portugal’s Moonspell return to the metal arena with Alpha Noir/Omega White, an ambitious double album. Fernando Ribeiro and company are nothing if not dedicated to following their own path, critics be damned (and rightfully so). It is unfortunate that the promo release only features Alpha Noir, meaning that I am essentially only getting half the story so to speak, and thus can only draw a partial conclusion to how I feel about the project as a whole. While it certainly stands on its own, Alpha Noir lacks certain elements that I have always valued in Moonspell that seem to be covered more extensively in Omega White (judging from the press release), and so I am hesitant to review one without the other but given the situation that is what I am doing. Just keep in mind that there is more to discover.

Alpha Noir has been described as an “incendiary album” while Omega White is said to be “pure atmosphere and shadow”. Having listened to Alpha Noir numerous times now, I would agree whole heartedly with that statement. It is certainly the most straight forward album that I have heard from Moonspell. It is harsh, abrupt, and at times hits with the force of a sledgehammer to the face, yet I also found it to be lacking in the atmosphere found in their other works, particularly my favorite The Antidote. Instead they opt to play a gothic thrash hybrid, keeping songs relatively short (by their standards) and to the point without much embellishment. Riffs are fairly simple, with leads being used sparingly but to good effect. Press releases have cited Bathory, King Diamond, Onslaught, early Metallica, Testament, and Artillery as influences for Alpha Noir, which shows when listening to it. Unfortunately in doing so Moonspell have underplayed themselves, creating an album that basically sounds like they are going through the motions more often than not. It is the atmosphere that has always set Moonspell apart; their ability to create tension and emotional complexities that compel the listener to dig deeper into the music. Alpha Noir features too few of those moments. Particularly missed are Fernando's clean vocals. He spends the majority of his time in his death growls, and while I enjoy them I have always thought his greatest strength is his clean vocals. Few can match Fernando in emotional conveyance, and I don't get much of that here.

The songs themselves are a mixed bag. Axis Mundi opens the album strongly with a tension building chant/drum sequence, but I feel it is overshadowed by just how much better At Tragic Heights accomplished the same thing on Night Eternal. Lickanthrope(the customary nod to wolves) and Versus are decent, but only just so. It was not until the title track that I felt things finally caught up with my expectations. Probably the strongest song on the album, it bears a kick ass riff that leads into a chant worthy chorus that is still stuck in my head. Em Nome Do Medo is the more traditional Moonspell here, and another standout due to its slower pace and more dynamic feel. The album dips back down into decent territory with Opera Carne before closing out with three strong songs in the excellent Love is Blasphemy, Grandstand, and oddly enough perhaps the most musically engaging tune Sine Missione (an instrumental).

While the tone of this review is critical, I want to stress that Alpha Noir is not a bad album at all. It is quite good, and easily worth any Moonspell fan’s time. However I feel that it falls short of the heights this band has already achieved, and lacks some of the elements that I most appreciate in their music. Perhaps my perspective will change once I get my hands on Omega White, but until that time I am left with a good Moonspell album, but a disappointing one none the less.

Killing Songs :
Alpha Noir, Love is Blasphemy, Sine Missione
Cory quoted 73 / 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 - 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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