Moonspell - Peeling the Second Skin
By: David E. Gehlke
Far and away the biggest Portuguese metal band, Moonspell's career arc has been that of two initial quick bursts (1995's Wolfheart and 96's Irreligious) and slow, steady growth. The sheen of their early Goth metal era has given away to a bristling hard metal attack, best personified in albums like 2006's Memorial and 2008's Night Eternal. This year's Alpha Noir (their first for Napalm Records) has a similar style and approach, as itís basted in the bandís ultra-aggressive Goth angle, further augmented by singer Fernando Ribeiroís ever-imposing rasp. While itís not the shimmering, melody-driven foray of years past, it is another deadly shard from a band who has remained rather useful and viable.
Ribeiro has long been the bandís spokesman and as evidenced by our discussion below, the towering frontman isnít one to mince words, especially when it comes to topical matters relating to Moonspellís previous output (including the much-debated Sin/Pecado), their North American touring runs, and their status in their home country, where jealously apparently runs rampant. Onward we goÖ
Blistering.com: You made quite the statement by saying that Alpha Noir is the ďmost exciting, sexiest, darkest, and catchiest stuff weíve written in ages.Ē Itís not like Night Eternal was no slouch, but what prompted you to say this?
Fernando Ribeiro: We have a bulletproof belief in our music and we are not afraid of being vocal about that. Sometimes we get carried on, but make no mistake that we are our worst critics. I think we never released a slouch album; sometimes our albums were met with a slouch response. That cannot be controlled. All we can do is to back our press release quotes with a strong concept, quality music, an open invitation to novelty, to an experience that can you take you further into our songs. What prompted us to say so was that belief, nothing else. We have nothing to gain from people who believe we are big-headed or arrogant but also we cannot always pretend to be modest when you have a fire burning from the inside.
Blistering.com: How does it feel to be on Napalm Records? Theyíre your third label home, but all things considered, they seem to be a perfect for Moonspell.
Ribeiro: Our history is quite a match, no doubts about that. We both started as underground black metallers with a need to expand, pretty much fuelled by the early 90ís in European metal, a quite effervescent period when many of todayís greats were born like Opeth, Samael, Paradise Lost or Tiamat. Weíre both still in time to write our own little page on all this commotion, them with their releases, ours with records such as Wolfheart or Irreligious. Itís only right we join forces after 20 years. I am very positive about this collaboration. Napalm is trying to prove their name on the scene and we identify with that spirit, since we are far away from being one of those bands that do not have to fight for a space in the scene. Itís a war out there and is good to be armed with a strong collection of songs and an enthusiastic label to take them to the people.
Blistering.com: Four years in between albums is the longest youíve gone. What kept Moonspell away from the studio during this time?
Ribeiro: Memorial and Night Eternal were albums that brought a lot back into our life. We started to have more and more gigs since Memorialís release and we quite never stopped touring since 2007. What we knew is that we needed to give back something into our songwriting, so immediately we decided to take more time, do more songs and try to perfect them as much as we could. The compromise was that every break we had from the road we would be on studio practicing, writing, spending time together. There was not a lot of vacations or personal time in these last four years but in the end, we think we came up with better music and as a better band.
Blistering.com: Going into the recording of Alpha Noir, what was the mindset? From my first few listens, the album feels more direct, yet it has tons of layers. Itís very multi-faceted. It feels like youíve managed to strike a balance between your early period (i.e. Irreligious) and some of your more recent works. Did you do any looking back to old releases when composing the material for the new album?
Ribeiro: Most of it was done in our rehearsal studio where we invested and transformed into a recording studio. That bought us a lot of time and comfort and I think that shows on the record. We did the drums in Denmark with Tue Madsen and he also flew to Portugal for the setup and some recordings. We also had another producer involved when we arranged the album and it was a true task force we had to do this one. They were both very excited about the concept of so many songs and layers and the wish to get a powerful sound, but less dense/more direct, as all the Alpha Noir songs and lyrics were showing signs that they would work better with a more alive atmosphere. But the band was more involved than ever on the production of this one, especially Pedro Paix„o, our keyboard and guitar player.
A band does not need to look to the other albums or the past as they are always all around us and belong to our daily life. And no fan lets us forget about that. We are at ease with our past, but our ideas are straight when we set ourselves into doing a new album. We have no pretension of recreating the first or the second album, as it is impossible. And itís not the band, the crowds and the whole scene has changed. Fans are always more suspicious and sometimes cynical than willing. Thatís the Internet and the exposure to stuff that is very rarely musical or artistic but rather social or polemic. As a band who wrote those nowadays labeled as ďclassicsĒ from European metal, our relationship with them is mostly musical and of gratitude for both great and hard times. So it is obvious that musical reminiscences from those times come up, here and there, after all they are our templates. One thing is for sure we wanted to sound as together and enthusiastic as we did when we first came up on the scene, like a fresh, new thing but none of our albums, Alpha Noir or Omega White are sequels to anything.