Moonspell – Alpha Noir Review

Moonspell has weathered a number of things in their long career. Not unlike many other bands that found popularity in the mid-90s, they weathered a period of artistic experimentation that fragmented their fan base, and they have subsequently weathered inexplicable apathy despite rising out of that era in strong form. They may not have the legacy or depth of bands with similar career arcs such as Paradise Lost, but they certainly deserve to be considered among their peers. There is plenty of virtue in being very metal and consistently solid, and on Alpha Noir, Moonspell remains that rejuvenated force they announced themselves as with 2003’s The Antidote.

Alpha Noir sees the band exploring similar territory to their work on Memorial and Night Eternal, playing catchy and slightly gothy semi-extreme metal, carried as always by Fernando Ribeiro’s undeniably charismatic vocal presence. His performance is that much more important here, as Alpha Noir is even more single-minded than its immediate predecessors. Nearly every track has a typical rock structure, anchored by forward momentum, plenty of hooks, and memorable choruses. In fact, if the album has one flaw, it’s that very few tracks stand out as highlights. The title track, with its varying verses (the second one showing off Fernando’s extra vampiric Peter Steele side) and massive chorus is one of the few that really stands out. But on the flipside, there isn’t a poor tune in the bunch either.

Like albums by their somewhat-but-not-really-likeminded peers, Alpha Noir is a sheen machine. Despite the relative simplicity of much of the music, riffs are played with a clinical, near industrial precision. The balance, mixing, and choice of tones are also all polished to a level that will make your most ardent studio snob friends pleased. A substantial but not overwhelming amount of textures and layering also help to give the album a subtle atmosphere, mostly through the employment of strings (keyboards) and lots of simple but essential lead guitar lines. These are the little touches that help the album maintain its entertainment value despite being relatively shallow, and the touches that have helped to keep Moonspell around so long and will likely continue to do so.

Alpha Noir is far from the minor classic that Wolfheart was, and it doesn’t have as many rippin’ highlights as Memorial, but it is yet another solid and wholly rockin’ album in Moonspell’s great run over the better part of the last decade. They will likely never again blow anyone’s socks off, but they’re as dependable as about any veteran act when it comes to producing this kind of catchy almost-extremeness, and undoubtedly deserve a tad more credit than they usually get.

Posted by Zach Duvall

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; Obnoxious overuser of baseball metaphors.

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