MOONSPELL - Worship Darkness In The Name Of Goth
March 17, 2015, 8 years ago
Moonspell have made a career out of pissing off every member of their fanbase at one time or another. Frontman Fernando Ribeiro wouldn't have it any other way.
Originally heralded as fresh new black metal upstarts in 1995 with the release of their full length debut Wolfheart, the Portuguese outfit hit their stride a year later with the decidedly different (at the time) Irreligious album. Riding the wave started by Tiamat in 1994 with their Wildhoney record, Moonspell were embraced alongside Theatre Of Tragedy in a rise to fame as pioneers of the gothic metal scene in Europe, and later the world. A spastic run of countless copycat bands was launched that record labels were only too eager to snap up in a trend-heated feeding frenzy. Moonspell threw everyone a curve with the release of the commercially bent Sin/Pecado record in 1998, however, much to the chagrin of many an Irreligious-loving fan. It was the start of a tradition that has held true for 10 albums - dating back to Wolfheart - with Moonspell's new outing Extinct coming off as a worthy successor to the Irreligious gothic metal throne.
It's fair to say that nobody saw this coming."We share that feeling of not knowing what's going to happen next with this band," laughs Ribeiro. "I think that's a good thing, and I think it's become more of a valued thing to have in mind when you look at gothic metal. Gothic metal has been funneled into a formula with the female soprano vocals, the guy with the growls, and some guitars behind them. We're not being openly critical about it but we always think there's more to the gothic style of music. We just do whatever we think fits the style every time we make a new record. One of our intended goals has been never to compromise on our style or everything we stand for as songwriters."
"We want to give people an alternative to the formula," he adds. "I don't know if people need it or not. The gothic fans are probably happy with what they have, but we're not. We have a history and a repertoire to back us up and give us some authority because we made Irreligious when this style of music was coming up. People definitely connect Moonspell to the spirit of this style. Extinct has a lot to do with what Moonspell is in real life; who we are as people, what we read, who we listen to. That's the dynamic of Moonspell, to embrace novelty and to agitate the waters (laughs)."
Which sums up both the Extinct album and Moonspell's career in general."Some people have called the Extinct album Gothic Anno 2015 (laughs). I think it will be a divider amongst the fans. There are things on Extinct that go way beyond public judgement and that's really important. Not just for me and for Moonspell, but for any band. That's especially true after doing (previous double album) Alpha Noir/Omega White (2012) because those albums were an experiment in songwriting. It was quite obvious that a circle closed with those records and that we would come back to creating our atmospheres within each song. That was the only thought we had after doing Alpha/Omega."
"I also think there are some leads from Alpha/Omega that can be followed which approached the gothic thing a bit more. We didn't want to make anything complicated, we wanted a simple, emotional record that we felt how a true goth metal and dark rock record should sound. We definitely aimed for that on Extinct. We had a string of heavy albums like Memorial (2006), Night Eternal (2008) and Alpha Noir and I really liked that period because we were very keen into playing heavy, we were aggressive but dark and larger than life. With Extinct everything from that period is, in a way, put into question."
It's not hard to imagine Ribeiro sitting in a darkened studio, fingers steepled, an evil grin on his face as he listens to the new album imagining the chaos it'll cause for some fans. He seems to love and live for polarizing people.
"Not this time (laughs). They just don't know what to expect with Extinct, that's all. We all felt really inspired to give our best for the album, and I don't mean just the band. The director for the new video clip ('Extinct'), our producer (Jens Bogren), everybody who was somehow involved in making Extinct something special and giving the fans some surprises. I was telling some of the actors when we were making the new video that it seems confusing people is the best way to go these days (laughs)."
Ribeiro elaborates:"When I went to the guys in the band and suggested we start working on the new album, it probably wasn't the right time. We had offers to tour Asia because we've been trying to expand over there, but I had a story for an album and an urgency to tell it. There were questions about why we were doing things this way and I don't think there was a rational response. When you don't have a rational response to something like that, I think the project becomes a little bit more human"
"It's not so much a case of me liking to polarize people; I think that people are sometimes stuck in one place. Sometimes when I read interviews with other musicians it's rare that they go back to what's important. They talk about touring, cover artwork, songwriting, so many things that are business as usual in an interview. For me it's important to talk about the first spark that led to making an album. For Moonspell that spark is the need to tell a story, like mending something that we've done wrong or going through a sleepless night, or the death of a friend. It's fuel that comes from life. Sometimes it might come from fiction; it depends on the album. I think it's a great to bring challenge back into a scene that concentrates on things like vampires and werewolves and pirates and treasure chests. Extinct might be the right album for people who have had enough of that. In that respect Extinct will be a surprise to people."
In comparison to Moonspell's now infamous Alpha Noir/Omega White double album - an even split of full-on metal and atmospheric goth-isms - Extinct is perhaps a step back in that it comes off as a more simplistic production. It's no less ambitious a project according to Ribeiro, and in fact more demanding for the band in terms of the way they chose to make it."It was done on a day-to-day basis, so it was quite intense," he explains. "We spent a lot of time recording Alpha/Omega - I'd be at the studio talking and smoking, go back inside and do some vocals, go have another smoke - and when I reflected on it I knew that wasn't the way I wanted to do Extinct. Making this album took everyone out of their comfort zone, and because of that I feel it really has that human touch. We were in the practice studio every day, there weren't a lot of WeTransfer links being sent back and forth or Skype talks. We really worked as a band and not as one guy in a studio somewhere and two other guys somewhere else. I'm not saying that process doesn't work, but that's not the path we wanted to take. Working this way for Extinct was very intense and Moonspell was moving at a speed we haven't for quite some time. It was very good for us to do things this way."
Looking back on the 20+ year rollercoaster ride for everyone invested in the Moonspell legacy, Ribeiro admits he's never entertained the possibility of the band running out of track. There was no end in sight when they started it still isn't a concern."I think Moonspell has all the characteristics of being impossible," Ribeiro says without batting an eye. "Coming from Portugal, making this kind of music that's full of mood swings, pissing people off with our music... there's a strange dynamic in Moonspell that both attracts and repels people. We've never hit it as big as people might think. We're still a struggling band that has to work at filling the venues, so this is not a walk on a beautiful and open boulevard. We have a fan community that we've built on our own image and now we have to deal with what's good and bad about it. To be honest, Moonspell keeps me so busy and involved that I never have the time to do that kind of check-up on our career. It's not up to us, really. We have to leave that to the fans."