Originally written by Tim Pigeon
Like a musical representation of Barry Bonds, Moonspell only get thicker and heavier with age, as if injected with vigor. Nearly vanished are the monotone clean vocals that may have made them more “goth”, but turned me off. Instead, these Portuguese veterans have cranked up the aggression, with Fernando relying more on a raw, pained bark.
“Finisterra” starts off the show with an intoxicating riff, underpinned by driving drumwork. Tremolo picking and blastbeat drumming frame a powerful verse section, while the great main riff comes back for the chorus. This is a classic case of putting your best foot forward. “Memento Mori” follows, and is a return to a more mid-paced style, including bringing back those low, almost-whispered clean vocals. Pedro’s keyboards give a bit of a haunted-house feel to the song. They return to the dark and heavy with “Upon the Blood of Men”, featuring well-placed backing sounds of ominous choral voices (think Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna”).
Those are the high points, there are a few compositions that never really take flight. “Sanguine” and “Blood Tells” are two examples that stand out, not because they are bad songs, but they just aren’t all that compelling. Not heavy enough, or not intriguingly odd. “Once It Was Ours” is one of the strange songs that strikes a chord, with alarming keys that sound like horns, and a bouncy pace during the verses. There are also a couple of instrumental intermissions thrown in; “Mare Nostrum” being the best.
I didn’t really care for a couple of the albums that Moonspell released before The Antidote, but since that 2003 album, I’ve enjoyed the direction they’ve been taking. They’re not afraid to get heavy, while creating some interesting slower stuff with a bit of a gothic edge. Memorial is a continuation of the direction they were heading on The Antidote, so if you liked that album, odds are high that you’ll like this as well.