Album Review – Moonspell / Hermitage (2021)

Portugal’s own Dark Metal institution returns with their thirteenth full-length album, offering us all a revolutionary and epic journey through the darkest days of human existence.

Portugal’s own Dark Metal institution Moonspell is approaching their 30th anniversary more ambitious and stronger than ever, and in order to proper celebrate such important milestone there’s nothing better than savoring each and every track from their newest opus, entitled Hermitage, the thirteenth studio album in their undisputed career. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Jaime Gomez Arellano (Paradise Lost, Ghost, Sólstafir) at Orgone Studios and featuring a stylish artwork by Latvian artist Arthur Berzinsh, Hermitage is not only the follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2017 album 1755 and their 2015 masterpiece Extinct, but it’s also a revolutionary, wonderfully intuitive and epic journey through the darkest days of human existence masterfully crafted by frontman Fernando Ribeiro, guitarist Ricardo Amorim, keyboardist Pedro Paixão, bassist Aires Pereira and newcomer Hugo Ribeiro on drums, as well as a testament to what they’ve always loved the most, which is honest, emotional metal that binds us even in the darkest times.

Just like the soundtrack to a dark thriller, the opening track The Greater Good will already mesmerize your senses, with the thunderous bass jabs by Aires and the massive beats by Hugo adding heaviness to such atmospheric tune, whereas sheer poetry flows from Fernando’s words (“So close to me, as tight as you can be / Inside the cell / The voice within, the desert wind / Calls out our name / So close, so close”) in Common Prayers, another captivating Gothic Metal aria by Moonspell where Ricardo and Aires are on absolute fire with their stringed weapons, not to mention the epic keys by Pedro. In All or Nothing, the guitars by Ricardo exhale passion and harmony nonstop in a beautiful display of Dark and Melancholic Metal that will please all fans of Moonspell’s most Gothic side, while Fernando is flawless as usual on vocals; and back to a more visceral and atmospheric sonority we’re treated to the dense Hermitage, with Fernando roaring the song’s epic lyrics (“In the circle of life and sin / On this day of apocalypse / On our way to hermitage / It’s the return to innocence”) while Hugo pounds his drums mercilessly. Then the cryptic bass sounds by Aires are intertwined with the classic keys by Pedro in Entitlement, a very melodic tune blending elements from Gothic and Progressive Metal, therefore sounding very experimental at times, with Ricardo taking the lead with his soulful riffs and solos.

It’s time for a fully instrumental voyage through the realms of darkness in the form of Solitarian, offering our ears classic, crying guitars, delicate keys and tribal beats, working as an interlude for the piercing The Hermit Saints, a headbanging extravaganza where all band members are in absolute sync, generating that classy trademark sound found in their latest albums. Moreover, Fernando’s anguished vocals are effectively supported by all background elements, resulting in a lecture in Dark Metal. In Apophthegmata we face an enfolding and smooth start, evolving into a massive sonority where Ricardo and Aires are once again unstoppable with their axes while Hugo showcases all his skills and potency behind his drums and Pedro keeps the ambience as sinister as it can be with his keys; whereas the quintet offers us fans over seven minutes of magnificent Dark Metal titled Without Rule, where the music remains ethereal but at the same time heavy and sharp from start to finish, with Fernando leading his bandmates into the unknown, flowing into the cinematic Black Metal-inspired outro City Quitter, putting a beyond atmospheric conclusion to such multi-layered album. Not only that, if you purchase the superb mediabook or limited deluxe box set versions of Hermitage, you’ll get as a beyond amazing bonus track the song Darkness in Paradise, Moonspell’s cover version for Candlemass’ classic tune from their 1988 album Ancient Dreams (check out the original version HERE), and let me tell you that their tribute to one of the pillars of Doom Metal is just as imposing as the original song, with Fernando stealing the spotlight with his Stygian vocals.

You can enjoy Hermitage in its entirety on Spotify, but this album is so detailed, enfolding and captivating that I highly recommend you purchase a copy of it to add it to your collection of dark and melancholic albums from Moonspell’s BandCamp page or webstore (where you can by the way find the special mediabook edition), or simply click HERE for all locations where you can buy or stream this precious gem of contemporary Dark Metal. Needless to say, don’t forget to follow Moonspell on Facebook and on Instagram to keep up to date with all things surrounding one of the most important metal bands of the European scene. As soon as this pandemic is over, we’ll all be able to leave our hermitages, including the guys from Moonspell, and we’ll finally be able to meet them again on stage to stun us all with the impressive creations of their newborn spawn.

Best moments of the album: Common Prayers, Hermitage, The Hermit Saints and Apophthegmata.

Worst moments of the album: Solitarian.

Released in 2021 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. The Greater Good 5:04
2. Common Prayers 4:08
3. All or Nothing 7:22
4. Hermitage 4:43
5. Entitlement 6:16
6. Solitarian 4:07
7. The Hermit Saints 4:22
8. Apophthegmata 5:41
9. Without Rule 7:42
10. City Quitter (Outro) 2:59

Mediabook/Limited Deluxe Box Set bonus track
11. Darkness in Paradise (Candlemass cover) 7:10

Band members
Fernando Ribeiro – vocals
Ricardo Amorim – guitars
Pedro Paixão – keyboards, samples, programming
Aires Pereira – bass
Hugo Ribeiro – drums

Album Review – Paradise Lost / Obsidian (2020)

The overlords of doom return with another majestic album, exploring the unknown and opening new horizons with their awe-inspiring music.

Still reigning supreme as the overlords of doom after over three decades on the road, Halifax, England-based Doom Metal act Paradise Lost never gets tired of stunning us all with their refined hybrid of old school Doom and Death Metal with 80’s and contemporary Gothic Metal and Rock, proving why they’ve maintained their relevance in the world of heavy music without disappointing their loyal fans not even once in their vast career. Now in 2020 it’s time for frontman Nick Holmes, guitarists Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, bassist Steve Edmondson and drummer Waltteri Väyrynen to darken the skies once again with Obsidian, their sixteenth studio album and the follow-up to their latest releases Medusa, from 2017, and The Plague Within, released in 2015. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Orgone Studios, with additional recordings done at Black Planet, and featuring a cryptic artwork by British artist Adrian Baxter, Obsidian might not be considered a classic yet like Gothic, Icon or Draconian Times, but I’m sure the album will reach its deserved cult status soon based on the amazing quality of the music found throughout its 47 astonishing minutes (plus the extra 10 minutes from the deluxe edition).

The gorgeous guest violin by Spanish musician Alicia Nurho adds a touch of finesse to the opening track Darker Thoughts, led by the always enfolding, deep vocals by Nick, sounding utterly grandiose, epic and doomed, and with Waltteri displaying all his refined skills behind his drum set. Then in Fall from Grace the band keeps slamming our heads mercilessly with their crushing riffage and damned beats, all led by Nick’s obscure roars while Steve makes the earth rumble with his bass (not to mention Greg’s hypnotizing solo), whereas Steve kicks off the 80’s-inspired dark tune titled Ghosts, enhanced by a brilliant performance by Nick with his Stygian vocals while his bandmates bring endless groove and electricity to the song from start to finish. And bringing forward contemplative lyrics that reek of modern-day poetry (“I’m tired of dreams, I’m tired of almost everything / Dreams deceive and living never lasts. / Too tired to sleep, denial of grief awakes my sins / Too weak to breathe, from living in deaths hands”), The Devil Embraced is another lesson in Gothic and Doom Metal spearheaded by Waltteri’s classic drums and the strident riffs by both Greg and Aaron.

Ominous sounds embellish the ambience in the also somber and heavy-as-hell Forsaken, where Nick is once again flawless on vocals supported by the slashing guitars by Greg and Aaron, while Steve and Waltteri sound absolutely thunderous with their respective instruments. After such dense tune, it’s time to bang our heads in darkness to the sound of Serenity, a hammering fusion of Doom and Death Metal tailored for admirers of the genre, also presenting some welcome breaks and variations, tons of progressiveness and the always macabre roars by Nick, followed by Ending Days, where Alicia returns with her gentle violin while the band gets back to a more serene and melancholic vibe, showcasing all their versatility and talent. Furthermore, the impact of the guitars and drums combined to the overall result is majestic, which can also be said about Hope Dies Young, featuring backing vocals by American singer Heather Mackintosh (Tapping the Vein), a very pleasant and enfolding sonority, and another round of their unique and stylish lyrics (“How could you know? / As pure as driven snow / Through a winter of descent / The splintered argument / Such a withering lament / Hopes will die young / Hopes will die young now”). The last song of the regular version of Obsidian, titled Ravenghast, brings to our ears a classic Paradise Lost sound, reminding me of some of their old school compositions from Draconian Times, with the level of heaviness and melancholy being beautifully insane while Waltteri blasts his drums in the best Doom Metal way possible and Nick fires his deep, demonic growls. If you decide to purchase the deluxe edition of Obsidian you’ll face the bonus tracks Hear the Night and Defiler, both very solid and classy Doom Metal compositions presenting all the elements we learned to love form the band’s distinguished music, making it totally worth the investment.

I guess I don’t need to ask you to take a good listen at Obsidian in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, especially if you’re a diehard fan of the band, and of course don’t forget to keep the fires of doom burning by purchasing your copy of the album by clicking HERE, and to follow Paradise Lost on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. If you search for the meaning of “obsidian” online, you’ll find out it’s a volcanic glass that’s supposed to be truth-enhancing, a strongly protective stone which forms a shield against negativity, blocking psychic attack and absorbing negative energies from the environment. Obsidian draws out mental stress and tension, stimulating growth on all levels, urging exploration of the unknown and opening new horizons. There couldn’t be a better representation of the new album by Paradise Lost, as their brand new opus is indeed a work-of-art perfect for heightening our senses and opening our minds and hearts for the glory of doom.

Best moments of the album: Darker Thoughts, Ghosts, Serenity and Ravenghast.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Darker Thoughts 5:46
2. Fall from Grace 5:42
3. Ghosts 4:35
4. The Devil Embraced 6:08
5. Forsaken 4:30
6. Serenity 4:46
7. Ending Days 4:36
8. Hope Dies Young 4:02
9. Ravenghast 5:30

Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
10. Hear the Night 5:34
11. Defiler 4:45

Band members
Nick Holmes – vocals
Greg Mackintosh – lead & rhythm guitar
Aaron Aedy – rhythm guitar
Steve Edmondson – bass
Waltteri Väyrynen – drums

Guest musicians
Alicia Nurho – violin on “Darker Thoughts” and “Ending Days”
Heather Mackintosh – backing vocals on “Hopes Die Young”