After ten albums (nine for those that don’t count Under Satanæ as an original release), each new Moonspell album leaves me in a state of “ummmm,” “hmmmm,” and “interesting.” Moonspell have always been one of those bands that are easily recognizable, yet unpredictable. After releasing the blackened-goth masterpiece Wolfheart, they ever so slightly transitioned to the classic Moonspell sound of Irreligious. From there, they floundered slightly in some weird experimentation [Sin/Pecado and The Butterfly Effect] before a return-to-form via the somber Darkness and Hope and even more so with the well-balanced gothicism of The Antidote. These Portuguese goth kings then expanded on their Type O Negative/Tiamat sound with some unique curveballs á la Memorial and the so-so 2008 release, Night Eternal; both showcasing an increase in orchestration and an overall epic feel. After nearly three years since the accessibly heavy two-disc (if you ended up purchasing the two discs) Alpha Noir outing, Moonspell follows with their eleventh album and another change in direction. As always, after nearly a dozen spins of Extinct, I’m still stuck thinking “huh…” I guess some things never change.
So, let me make it clear from the start. Extinct is still Moonspell and it’s still solid. Even with subtle changes to their sound over the years, they consistently put out solid material (even though I think their last more-than-solid album was 2003’s The Antidote). Opener “Breathe (Until We Are No More)” has everything you could want from a Moonspell song. Maybe a touch poppy, the bass-led verse explodes into a massive chorus of Ribeiro’s signature rasps, heavy riffing, and all the Orphaned Land-scaping and orchestral grandeur that you could ask for. More here than on previous releases, Moonspell utilizes orchestral passages in the realm of Dimmu Borgir’s Death Cult Armageddon; sitting in the back until it’s asked to the front to give an overpowering flourish before returning to its seat. It works well in the chorus of the opener and “A Dying Breed” but its S&M similarities at the end of the title track are a bit too much for my taste.
Along with the melodies and emotion common to the band, you will find much of the Type O Negative gothiness fans have come to love. Check out the groovy verses of songs like “Medusalem” and “Funeral Bloom” for Ribeiro’s clean, baritone voice as they suck you into a Peter Steele time warp. As expected, Ribeiro spends most of the album transitioning between his Steele-like cleans and signature depressive crooning, while reserving his harsher range for ultimate impact on heavier tracks. The chorus of the aforementioned “Breathe…” wouldn’t be the same without those harsh vox. Likewise, his mix of harsh/clean vox in “Funeral Bloom” and his crushing rasp in the chorus of “A Dying Breed” make these tracks some of the most memorable on the album.
Not to be outshined by Night Eternal’s “Scorpion Flower,” Moonspell offers up a couple ballads here in the form of “Domina” and “The Future Is Dark.” Gothy, dark, depressing; these tracks have it all for fans looking to shed tears after a shitty day at work. The latter of the two is more effective in terms of current Moonspell ballads and is one of the highlights of the record. Other songs that fill up the dead spots include the bizarre, upbeat “The Last of Us” and the strange closer, “La Baphomette.” Starting with a riff taken straight from Volbeat, “The Last of Us” is an overly poppy ride that feels out of place on Extinct. On the other hand, the three-minute creeper that is “La Baphomette” consists of piano and some jazzy cymbal work, with Ribeiro giving it his best Tom Waits impression. After a catchy “la la la” chorus, this 45-minute journey comes to an end.
Production-wise, Jens Bogren did a fine job balancing all the instrumentation; bringing vocals, keys, and the orchestra forward and then back to get the most out of each. The DR score is not surprising to me but as with all cases, I would have loved to hear the layers of atmosphere open up more and feel less of the brickwalling on the chunky riffs and frenetic solos. Overall, Moonspell has thrown in another set of twists and turns to surprise me. In the end, it’s the “huh,” “hmmmm,” and “ha,” that keeps me coming back with each new release.