Do you know what I really had to get used to? A Moonspell disk all in Portuguese – with some Latin thrown in for good measure. But then, it fits the theme, doesn’t it? The record tells a story of the massive 1755 earthquake that ravaged Lisbon that same year. And – believe it or not – this still resonates with parts of the Portuguese population to this day. As to the RockmusicRaider sprawling officescape, we do like a theme-based album any time of the day. Because – usually – those get us the juiciest metal dishes to taste from.
You need to give the band credit too: Each new Moonspell album comes with a different flavor to feed on their Dark and Gothic Metal urges. Just take the ghoulish, quiet menace in the excellent Night Eternal. Or the more lukewarm and less stellar approach to Darwinian machinations in Extinct. If anything, 1755 resembles the work done in earlier eons by the metal masters from Portugal. Yet the album does feel a trifle more experimental perhaps, with less of the vile mainstream to please the crowd. If mainstream is a word we can (or should) actually use with Fernando Ribeiro‘s crew.
For this record the band attempts to convey the feelings and undercurrents of a natural disaster of epic proportions that happened many moons ago. And it is this mountain of emotions that Moonspell managed to transmit pretty well. To do this they moved over to Symphonic Metal territory with stringent use (or overuse) of an orchestra. This makes them sound like the evil sibling of Epica on steroids, but without ever losing sight of their Gothic Metal roots. Pretty smart that, by any means.
Now to start an album with a re-issue of a previously released track is debatable to say the least. And truly, a metal version of the first track Em Nome Do Medo (in the name of fear) already featured on their 2012 edition Alpha Noir. This is indeed questionable, but at the same time exceedingly well chosen. First, the track fits the theme perfectly. Then, specifically the dark and foreboding symphonic robe they clad the track in this time is remarkable.
Thus the intro nicely opens the gate to a painting of smoke and fiery destruction in a city in total uproar. The first track is not the only sin on this album, by the way. Moonspell also had the guts to sound off with their own rendition of Os Paralamas’ Lanterna dos Afogados. Originally a pop song, they nail it pretty well. Complete with typical menacing beats and one of the very few solos on the album.
Moonspell‘s knack for the dramatic and emotional theatrics serves 1755 very well. This comes to the forefront when they really open fire with In Tremor Dei featuring guest vocalist Paulo Bragança. Or the cello-infested undercurrents of Desastre with its typical Moonspell sound kicking in a bit later.
The excellent drum work on 1755 really strikes me every time I fire the album up. Abanão gorges with percussion and choir used to advantage to convey a feeling of drama and terror. Their ability to supplement all these symphonics with heavy, meaty riffs really adds to the overall atmosphere of doom. Interestingly, the solos are scarce on this album, albeit Todos Os Santos sports a short, but juicy one.
The relatively short airtimes of the tracks further add to this sense of pageantry. This leads to a crisp pace that invigorates the whole production and generates some important urgency. To drive this home further, the typical Moonspell-ish clean lead vocals pretty much left the building. If anything is clear voice on 1755, then it is pretty much in shouted form, some choirs notwithstanding. On the downside, Ribeiro‘s growls drone on somewhat monotonously and sounds often drown in a sea of orchestral elements. And this – sometimes – lets the record lose some of its luster and drama the band worked so hard to build.
So, let’s wrap this up.
I admit that – at first – the album did not impress me much. The reason being that only tidbits and short blurbs registered at the beginning. Yet, Moonspell created an epic piece of work best consumed in one piece. 1755 sports a coherent theme-based story that is intriguing and dramatic. Yet at the same time of exquisite complexity that will demand the full attention of the listener.
The band deserves significant credit for new ways chosen to demonstrate emotion and a feeling of doom. On top, they did this without losing their own trademark sound Moonspell fans appreciate so much. So, kudos – good album. And if you feel the ground tremble when listening to this record of terror then this is quite alright. After all, this is what the story is all about.