Under the Moonspell(Adipocere - 1994)
A lot more black metal in this first (EP) release of theirs. But also their most immature. Basically gimmick metal in my opinion. Silly. Annoying untalented song writing. They tried to use many folkish components and melodies here that seem to be just thrown in most of the time. Except for a few good moments and glimpses of their future success, there is nothing here for me at all. One advantage to this album is the higher raw and brutal factor rather than the slick, crooning, gothic sound they grew with later, but this, unfortunately, only emphasizes the emptiness. The vocals are typically of many types and timbres, but even on this more aggressive album, most of them seem silly to me. ...so much variety, so little music.
Wolfheart(Century Media - 1995)
Enter gothic sounds and moods with a much better production. The music has a shape to it this time, with much improved arrangements and composition. As with the following release ('Irreligious') however, the vocals effectively ruin the album. They ultimately vary from scattered black metal growls, to simple, clean male vocals, to operatic or spoken female voices, and everything in between. The majority are of the forced, crooning, bass style that I abhor though, and they sound the most forced on this album. I can compare them to Cradle of Filth in the sense that the music is good, or full of potential, but the vocals and attitude are extremely immature, silly and annoying. As opposed to Irreligious, the guitars are still dominant here, and the music is heavier and more metal than commercially gothic. The lively keyboards are present though, as are the ethnic elements (less than before). I must have listened to this album a dozen times and I always find myself cringing one minute and enjoying myself the next. This one is considered to be their best by most people but I must disagree. The music is at times, extremely good and original, but I am not that hard up for good music to force myself to suffer under these vocals. It's a shame, really.
Irreligious(Century Media - 1996)
After hearing so much praise for this album, I got very disappointed at first. I forced myself to listen to this about 7 times before deciding. The main problems for me are the vocal arrangements as well as the vocal interpretations by the singer. Most striked me as extremely immature and annoying. The low, clean vocals he uses most of the time here are a forced, Peter Steele wannabee bass that make me cringe. The music itself however, has its really good parts and its boring parts, but overall it grew on me after a few listens. It is gothic metal but of a unique type with loads of keyboards and effects that contribute to the sound. Sometimes sensual, sometimes darkly spiritual, the songs change in between varying heavy moods, yet are always gothic bordering on commercial. There are still heavy sections with strong guitar riffing, but all the elements of the music blend together without any instrument dominating the song. After I learned to ignore and tolerate the vocals as much as possible, I found this album quite fascinating instrumentally, but it is very close to the 'for sale' pile.
Second Skin EP(Century Media - 1997)
4 tracks + a live EP with 7 tracks. I'm not sure where the live tracks were released. Two versions of one new song (Second Skin), a new version of Erotic Alchemy and a cover of Depeche Mode - Sacred. Yup that's right, Depeche Mode. All you metal purists can wash your hands off this band as well as they have now turned into a heavier version of D.M. If you like D.M. though you should like this new sound of theirs which personally, I think suits them. I have always thought that Moonspell had immature pop-ish attitudes even in their extreme moments mainly or completely due to the vocalist. Anyways, the new song is pretty good if you like this style of music although it's very commercial. Rock guitars, lots of synths, strong bass and mostly clean baritone vocals and a little gothic sound. The Erotic Alchemy track is a completely butchered version a la Depeche Mode again - a lot of rock guitar has been added and atmospheric synths giving this a darker but commercial sound. The Depeche Mode cover is too faithful to be interesting and it's rather weak. The second version of Second Skin is the video edit - rather pointless. I usually avoid 95% of live albums and the tracks here have nothing special to offer in my opinion and are rather weak for a live recording - I expect a lot more energy. Most of them are tracks off of Irreligious. The Alma Mater recording is superb though.
Another band that will probably settle down in commercial hell and get their creativity ripped out. Their forthcoming LP might be good, but only in a commercial way. Lets see if they surprise us...
Sin Pecado(Century Media - 1998)
I really wanted to call this album a piece of crap and review it as such, but the fact is that it has its good points. First an overall review: Moonspell have actually matured with this album and found a sound that matches them well although it is a far cry from what they started with. I would call this a heavier version of Depeche Mode with distorted guitars. The sound is full and warm with a heavy electronic sound (keyboards, effects and even drums sometimes) yet still accompanied by plenty of guitar. Up until now, my biggest gripe with this band was with the vocalist, but on this album he has improved somewhat. Now 99% clean, his bass doesn't sound as forced as before, and he sings more naturally rather than forcing it. I still think he drones though and lacks charisma, but this can set an appropriate moody tone for the music. The guitars, although sparser now, play a crucial role here. The technique is superb and they lend a heavier and welcome release from the over-produced electronica. But yet again, all the instruments and elements in their music are merged very well, all contributing to one full sound. As for the songs themselves, they vary a lot and should be reviewed one by one, but instead I shall summarize. They range from heavily guitar laden tracks with atmospheric, gothic keyboards, to slow, dreamy and dark moody ones, to electronic and techno-tinged gothic songs. Of course some are better than others and this is after all, a commercial album. I can't recommend this to metal fans, but those of you with some tastes in the electronic and gothic rock genres should give this a spin. The most similar album is Type O's 'October Rust'. A mediocre release.