By Carl Begai
Folks on this side of the music industry desk will tell you that the vast majority of press releases and band biographies are loaded with hollow bullshit. Many of these essays are too bloated with adjectives, mixed metaphors and blatant flavor-of-the-month ass-kissing to be taken seriously, often peppered with keywords and band names popular at the time and space in question, or yanked from a Wikipedia heavy metal page. These things raced through my head while scanning the bio for MOONSPELL’s newest outing, Alpha Noir, wondering out loud more than once if the newbie dweeb hired to write it had ever heard of the band before. Dropping names like BATHORY and KING DIAMOND as influences to describe an act hailed as one of the few and true remaining old school goth metal bands was absurd to the point of insulting.
Give Alpha Noir a spin and you’ll discover the description is dead on.
“I’ll let you in on a little secret,” frontman Fernando Ribeiro grins. “I tend to write those things myself. It's not that I don't trust someone else to do it, but I like to write and I think that sometimes the people at the record labels kind of miss the point. A lot of labels have many bands, and sometimes the people that write the press releases have to do it in a rush. I'd rather make things a bit more personal by doing it myself, so I'm glad you found everything in the press release to be true (laughs). With all the metaphors and poetry and personal notes that we put into the press releases, it's good to know that people check out the new songs and realize that we’re not just blabbering and self-praising. We really tried to give people a clear view of what's going on with Alpha Noir.”
For fans of Moonspell’s previous efforts such as Night Eternal (2008), Darkness And Hope (2001), or the legendary Irreligious (1996), actually hearing strains of Bathory and King Diamond within new songs like ‘Opera Carne’ and ‘Lickanthrope’ is downright disconcerting. Moonspell is supposed to be a goth band.
“You know your metal,” Ribeiro laughs, unapologetic for the scare.
In actual fact, Alpha Noir is two albums in one, splitting the Moonspell personality down the middle. Where Alpha Noir is full-on metal – because no other label does it justice – the gothic stamp is definitely on the second part, dubbed Omega White. The package as a whole continues the band’s tradition of diversifying themselves with each release, but there was no way anyone could have expected Moonspell to go as far as they have in both shedding their gothic sound and embracing it simultaneously.
“This probably isn’t the logical sequel to Memorial (2006) and Night Eternal,” Ribeiro agrees. “I think there are some really intense headbanging moments on Alpha Noir, but like every Moonspell album we treated this one very seriously. When we put a new album out we have to consider the novelty of it at all times, which has to do with the fact that Moonspell was born in the underground at a time when metal was really expanding. The bands and the fans were willing to take chances with new music. As that metal scene has gotten older, sometimes I find it hard to be surprised by new bands. I think that there’s a restlessness or something that can’t be predicted that is a characteristic of Moonspell.”
“If you go back to Wolfheart (1995), that was an album that nobody expected,” he point out. “There were influences from TYPE O NEGATIVE, SAMAEL and TIAMAT, but in the end Moonspell always managed to add some twists wrote some new pages. That’s especially true of Wolfheart and Irreligious, and we haven’t lost that spirit. All the changes we’ve made are motivated by the very reasons the band was born. We were born inside a metal scene that was really all over the place, and I think that’s the reason why we’ll always find surprise elements for our music. There’s a romance and a seduction in not knowing what to expect, and that will always be a feature of any album we make.”
Alpha Noir / Omega White (as it’s officially known, depending on who you talk to) is particularly surprising given that last album, Night Eternal, was quite short at only nine songs and 45 minutes. Ribeiro went on record with BW&BK stating at the time that he preferred keeping albums short and compact.
“The two main mindframes evolved when we set ourselves to do this new album, and we didn’t know at the beginning it would end up being two,” he reveals. “We were touring and we needed more time to write, which is why it’s been four years since Night Eternal. We knew we needed more time and that we wanted to write more material. With regards to having a short, compact, and straight to the point record, we wanted Alpha Noir / Omega White to be a musical experience and not just an album. Everybody told us it was a crazy idea because we live in the world of iTunes, where everybody buys one song here and one song there, but I have to be honest, I’m too old to be a part of this world now (laughs).”
“This time around we wanted to take a deep breath, take a step back, and take a big picture. You can never get the family together for a picture, so this was the time to get all the elements of Moonspell into that picture, which meant going as far as making two albums at once. The songs we did for the first demo were made four years ago, and they were the ones that set the idea for Alpha Noir and Omega White. We had three songs – ‘Lickanthrope’, ‘Love Is Blasphemy’ and ‘White Omega’ – knew instantly that we liked both styles. We didn’t want to make an album like Night Eternal or Memorial, which were journeys between those two worlds for 45 or 50 minutes. We wanted these two worlds to have their own oxygen.”
Ribeiro breaks down the albums as he sees them in simple terms…
“It’s always about the human factor. Sometimes the fans think we are thinking more like entrepreneurs than musicians, and that’s not the case. Alpha Noir was quite a natural thing for us. It’s an angry album, it picks up influences that like Bathory and CELTIC FROST, and we added new elements that brought the album more alive, I think. Omega White is, if nothing else, our answer and our selfish desire after doing three albums that were more intense. We felt there was something missing… a missing link between Irreligious and now.”
“The album isn’t really directed at any specific generation,” he adds. “It’s dedicated to the good taste that every generation must have (laughs).”
Regardless off Omega White’s inclusion on the back of Alpha Noir, the simple fact is that plenty of metal fans that dismissed Moonspell as being a prissy goth band are listening with a new set of ears thanks to Alpha Noir’s old school metal approach. It’s done a decent job of distancing the band from their goth roots in the eyes of some people. And yet, Omega White’s existence is a clear message that Moonspell is nowhere near done with that aspect of their personality.
“When you hit your 30s and you evolve into your 40s, as I am doing now at 37, two things can happen to you,” says Ribeiro. “Either you cut yourself off from what you were and become someone else, or you start to cherish the stuff you liked as a teenager a lot more. You definitely feel more at ease with yourself in that second case. Alpha Noir and Omega White are very honest albums because we’re very much at ease with what and who we are. I love old school metal like Artillery, TESTAMENT and ANNIHILATOR, but I’m not afraid of the dark metal and gothic metal stamps. When people call Moonspell a gothic band, they’re probably paying us a compliment.”
“Alpha Noir is all about picking your weapons and going to the arena, or going to the mountain to scream,” Ribeiro finishes. It’s a very ‘be yourself’ thing.”