Do you know what I like about Moonspell? They always deliver something new on every record. I often think back to the quietly aggressive desperation on Extinct or the delicious menace on Night Eternal.1) 1755 was a bit more touchy, yet the idea to do an album in Portuguese without clear vocals was quite a feat. Because, earthquake centuries ago, you know.
Insinuations and rumors have it that the band may not continue for much longer. And that’s not necessarily something I fancy to hear. Because this band’s dark and melancholy ways have very much become part of RMR’s metal diet. Yet again, the members of the band definitely are not 20 years old anymore, and it shows in more ways than one.2) So, in a way, it may well be that Hermitage is a sign of the times for this band.
I am not sure if you are aware of Fado and its often-used theme of Saudade in Portugal. In short, it nourishes the melancholy soul of the Portuguese nation through a feeling of universal melancholy. A national trait has been going on for centuries.
Now, Moonspell and their newest record project some sort of a metal version of that concept. A dark and truly gothic concoction of reflective and almost doomy poses that sometimes confused us. Because on one hand, you get a certain acid harshness in The Greater Good or – again – in Common Prayers. On the other, I sorely missed the aggressive stance that should be prevalent on much of the rest of the album.
The growls don’t really cut it anymore, either. We have seen better and – for sure – juicier displays from Fernando Ribeiro in his heyday. And there’s no real menace or – at least – some powerful energy that would make you go for seconds. In comparison, the aforementioned Night Eternal – for instance – sports this foggy threat that is always apparent, but never palpable. A facet that will draw you to it like a bear to honey. Yet on this new edition, nada.
True, Hermitage will send you pleasant groove galore at certain moments. An unctuous flow of Gothic Metal that is quite endearing with Ribeiro‘s comfortable crooning to go with it. Yet – suddenly – the band starts noodling about the soundscape almost to a point of no return. Which – again – risks to kill the beast. All or Nothing, are you listening?
Things get worse still once those fillers like Solitarian start to hit the tracklist. Instrumentals can indeed be a very good addition to a successful album. Yet, this track that sits – smack – at mid-point of the record sounded like the background music at Granny’s afternoon cocktail party.3)
Also, the more noodly tracks often feature a pretty nice progression which can – indeed – be a plus. Yet, if you serve weak tea in the first place, a few spoons of sugar will not fix a thing. They will only turn your beverage into an overly sweet mess. And this is what often happened on this record, metaphorically speaking. Even the short forays into terrain where prog likes to thrive did not really fix the fundamental flaws of this record.
It is thus a good thing that songs like The Hermit Saints suddenly barge in with a refreshing new dash that we should have had more of. Odd shouted vocals notwithstanding, this carefully constructed piece made us sit up straight. As always, great songwriting yields results. This track is a pretty cool mix of harsh vs. clear vocals that meets a pretty distinct prog flavor.
Ultimately, Hermitage is a mixed bag of metal and not-so-metal goodies. Some sort of a rollercoaster of reasonably roasted alloy and weaker gothically tainted mid-tempo to slow-motion pieces. Moonspell indeed delivered a relatively crisp record with a very wobbly mid-section and some loose ends that these folks should have tied way better into the mix.
And we deplore the loss of that bristly fierce stance that the band took on former records. This proud and almost bellicose energy that so juicily permeated everything. And don’t get me wrong, we don’t bemoan the change of direction or style. That’s what artists do, and rightly so.
Yet, if a change is made, it needs to dazzle or – at least – truly impress the audience, and – sadly – Hermitage failed to do this. And that left the RMR crew strangely dissatisfied with Moonspell‘s latest record.
Get dat tune: