Album Review: Moonspell – Under The Moonspell


Album Review: Moonspell – Under The Moonspell
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

Before Portugal’s Moonspell became that nation’s most gothic and doom-laden export, they existed as a formidable black metal outfit, called Morbid God, from 1989 to 1992, when they adopted the moniker by which they are known today.

This three-disc collection collates three of Moospell’s darkest moments into a single package, showing the origins of the band and their sound. The first platter is Anno Satanae, the band’s five-track demo from 1993 and includes Serpent Angel and its B-side The Fever from the Morbid God days.

Bookended by a call to prayer intro and a piano-led climax, the demo portion of Anno Satanae is very much an amalgam of death metal and the shoots of the growing black metal scene. Goat on Fire feels more rooted in the first wave of the black metal genre, more orchestral in intent than the blazing triplets of the second wave and with more of a death metal vocal from Fernando Ribero – then called Langsuyar. Ancient Winter Goddess follows much the same path, with a folky acoustic section, which lends the track a naïve quality. The rawest Anno gets is on Wolves from the Fog, which signposts the incoming black metal maelstrom through frenzied guitar and a Mayhem-vocal delivery; though the song’s introduction attempts to build atmosphere, it is hampered by sounding too close to Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge intro not to raise a smile.

Added to this release is the early 7” of Serpent Angel, which begins like part of the original Amityville theme and quicky turns into something blazing with sinister guitars and huge in its ambition. The flip side, The Fever is a droning progression with foul, barely audible whispers acting as vocals.

A year later and the EP, Under the Moonspell would emerge, five more tracks expanding on the ideas of Anno Satanae. The middle-eastern call to prayer of Allah Akbar! La Allah Ella Allah! (Praeludium Incantatum Solstitium) begins the journey, giving way to the three part suite, Andamento.

Album Review: Moonspell – Under The Moonspell

Clocking in at a combined seventeen-minutes, or so, Moonspell can be heard flexing their creative muscles and incorporating the lessons learnt into a wide, more comprehensive piece. Tenebrarum Oratorium I signifies those lofty ambitions immediately through the use of grand orhestration, additional horns and a tortured female voice, lending it an Into the Pandemonium feel. Tenebrarum Oratorium II drinks from the same well as Dani Filth as the same influences for early Cradle of Filth can be heard writ-large here, with the added use of acoustic folk instruments and more eastern vibes.

Climaxing with Opus Diabolicum, a more direct series of guitar chugs with the flourishes evident, but kept to a minimum. Just as with its predecessors, this one concludes with a piano-led outro in the form of Chorai Lusitania! (Epilogus Incantatam Maresia), foreshadowing Igorrr’s furture preocupation with the Baroque.

In 2007, Moonspell re-entered the studio and re-recorded both the EP and demo under the guise of Under Satanae, in a joining of the two titles. A new introduction, Halla alle halla al rabka halla (praeludium incantatum solistitum) was created and a new version of Chorai Lusitania! The Andamento suite has been upgraded and is the beneficiary of the band’s experience over the intervening decade or more. The sound is fuller, the flourishes more prominent and the musicianship more befitting Moonspell of the late noughties. You could even make the argument that the years of being away from their black metal selves has imbued the band’s sensibilities with their more gothic aspects.

The Anno Satanae tracks’ makeover is very much to their improvement, the death metal vibes of Goat on Fire and Ancient Winter Goddess are stripped back and the intended evil is allowed to eek through. Sadly, Wolves from the Fog no longer has the Stonehenge intro.

Which version you prefer is purely subjective, but both show a different side of the band and ably demonstrate Moonspell weren’t always only about broken hearts and lush, bombastic tunes. They have their dark side too.

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