Review: Moonspell - Alpha Noir/Omega White

Band: Moonspell
Album: "Alpha Noir/Omega White"
Style: Gothic Metal
Release date: 2012-04-27
Origin: Portugal

Tracklist "Alpha Noir":
1. Axis Mundi
2. Lickanthrope
3. Versus
4. Alpha Noir
5. Em Nome Do Medo
6. Opera Carne
7. Love is Blasphemy
8. Grandstand
9. Sine Missione

Tracklist "Omega White":
1. Whiteomega
2. White Skies
3. Fireseason
4. New Tears Eve
5. Herodisiac
6. Incantatrix
7. Sacrificial
8. A Greater Darkness

Ah, Moonspell. I cannot recall how many times I've listened to your incredible debutalbum "Wolfheart" or how dissapointed I was when you released "The Butterfly Effect" in 1999. Still, I've bought all your records (I actually have two copies of both "Wolfheart" and it's follow-up "Irreligious"), singles and DVD's and I still class you as one of the best gothic metal bands in all time. But as I said, they have betrayed me before - and not just one time either - but I've always been able to forgive them and find at least some redeeming quality on all of their records. From the initial disappointment that "The Butterfly Effect" was - I found soothing in "Can't Bee", "Soulitary Vice" and "Disappear Here". The follow-ups "Darkness and Hope" and "The Antidote" were even more tedious, but they were saved by songs such as "Nocturna", "Devilred", "In and Above Men" and "From Lowering Skies". Then in 2006 came "Memorial" as a nod to the past and a way more aggressive approach. This I really enjoyed. Their last record - 2008's "Night Eternal" - felt more shaky and not so thought-through all the time.

Which brings us to 2012 and the double effort of "Alpha Noir" (more aggressive and harsh vocals) and "Omega White" (more keyboards, softer songs and clean vocals). To begin with, I think that this is a really weird move, since Moonspell always have been about the dynamics between the soft and the aggressive and between black metal screams and deep, dark clean vocals. It makes no sense to divide all this onto two records and knowing that before I immersed myself in these two records, I was very, very scared - to say the least - that this would be something of a suck-fest.

With "Axis Mundi", it all starts very traditional when it comes to Moonspell. It's midtempo, semi-aggressive and a very small amount of clean vocals. But the song does not stick out in any way and this was exactly what I was afraid of. Next up is the song they made a ridiculous video to - "Lickanthrope". The inital wolf howls sent a chill down my spine as I remembered classics such as "Wolves From the Fog" and "Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)". But soon it all keeps crumbling down into a boring pseudo-aggressive goth metal song with no clear aim or direction.
Come on you darn Portuguese! We've heard this so many times before!

"Alpha Noir" continues on this path. Boring mid-tempo with very little dynamics and keyboards. "Versus" and the title track are both downright embarrassing attempts of a pop song with harsh vocals. The Portuguese "Em Nome Do Medo" is a nod in the right direction and reminds a bit about some of their later (honest) works. The incredibly embarrassingly titled "Love is Blasphemy" is also a faint light in an otherwise pitch-black cavern of mediocre goth metal songs.
Remember when the band managed to write such great, atmospheric and dynamic songs such as "Love Crimes", "Vampiria", "An Erotic Alchemy", "Ruin and Misery", "Mephisto", "Vulture Culture" and "Let the Children Cum to me..."? Why wont they do that anymore?

Ricardo, Miguel, Fernando, Aires & Pedro
On to the second disc "Omega White" then. I was hoping that the band would have taken the path along some of the softer songs from "Sin/Pecado" such as "handmadeGod", "Mute" and "Eurotica". I get this to some point, but not as much as I would have wanted. For instance, the opening song "Whiteomega" sounds exactly like "Scorpion Flower" from "Night Eternal" - only with another layer of vocalist Fernando's voice instead of Anneke Van Giersbergen's (of The Gathering-fame). Oh, how I hate this particular style of singing that Fernando has adopted during the last years. Stick to what you were doing in 1998 please!

"White Skies" has a bit faster tempo to it and it's actually a relief after the disappointing first track. The female vocals that pops up here and there adds an extra touch of atmosphere and is easily the best track so far (counting both records).

Third song "Fireseason" gives us more of Fernando's "new" vocal style and although the music itself sometimes is quite mediocre - the vocals fits the song quite good. And although it is another dissappointment the first time your hear it - it actually grows quite a lot over time. Next up is a dedication to the deceased Peter Steele from Type O Negative and it sounds exactly like them. Since I've never been a big fan of said band, I don't care particular much for "New Tears Eve" (enough corny song titles already!).

On the record goes with semi-boring goth metal songs which are slow in tempo and not an ounce of aggression. But then comes the last song "A Greater Darkness" with it's incredibly beautiful violins, subtle piano and Fernando's classic broken English pronunciation. It also has a catchy chorus which only makes me sad that the rest of the record didn't sound like this.

All in all, I stand by the fact that it was extremely idiotic to make two records which sound so different when it comes to aggression, keyboards and vocals. And as I mentioned earlier, they lost so much dynamics and atmosphere with this move. If they had deleted half of these 17 songs and focused more on dynamics on the ones that remained - they would have ended up with a much more satisfying result. I can understand that the band wanted to try a new move after 8 full-length records and 19 years into their career and some of their earlier experiments have been interesting. And although "Em Nome Do Medo", "Love is Blasphemy", "White Skies", "Fireseason" and "A Greater Darkness" are above mediocre, it still feels like a huge let-down when you are greeted with 17 songs and only a handful of them are approved. The thing that makes me angry is that I know that these guys can do so much better, since they aren't stuck in any old wheels of confusion.


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