Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review: Moonspell - Alpha Noir - Omega White (2012)

Moonspell [ Website | Facebook | ReverbNation ]
Alpha Noir - Omega White

Moonspell - Alpha Noir
Arguably the most significant metal band to emerge from Portugal, Moonspell has worked through a number of stylistic shifts over their twenty-year career. Originating as a fairly straightforward black metal outfit with a penchant for atmospheric compositions, Moonspell morphed into a primarily Gothic metal entity replete with baritone vocals and haunting synth effects. Recent work from the Portuguese powerhouse has seen the Gothic trappings - particularly the vocals - scaled back while the more extreme elements heard on the early albums take center stage. Across the band's body of work, though, the songs have always been on a rather majestic scale derived from skillful exploitation of keyboard melodies and varying guitar tones. With Alpha Noir - Omega White, Moonspell looks to push the songwriting envelope even further and deliver a two-disc pilgrimage of gargantuan proportions. Unfortunately, Napalm Records did the music media a disservice by allowing access only to the first installment, Alpha Noir, so I'm unable to comment on how the brutality of the first disc is said to be contrasted by the beauty of the second.

So the focus of this review is instead solely on Alpha Noir, nine songs that fit in closely with Moonspell's previous couple of albums. Frontman Fernando Ribeiro is back at the helm with his snarls and barks, giving just a brief taste of Gothic vocals on "Axis Mundi" and the title track. Even in the absence of clean singing, Ribeiro does a fine job enunciating the lyrics without sacrificing any of the aggressiveness of his delivery.

Photo: Paulo Moreira
As has come to be expected from guitarists Pedro Paixao and Ricardo Amorim, the riffs on Alpha Noir are engaging despite being rather complex and varied. "Axis Mundi", one of the highlights of the album, features grand, swirling riffs complemented by the catchy use of Aires Pereira's bass. On the title track, the two six-stringers go for a bit of a Mudvayne sound before expanding the guitar tone in a nicely crisp direction. A brief but notable solo interrupts a bit of a breakdown near the song's end, soon after which Pereira's rumbling bass announces the start of "Em Nome Do Medo". The strong keyboard undertone of this track, courtesy of Paixao, combined with Portuguese lyrics, results in another remarkable song.

The final track of Alpha Noir, "Sine Missione", is a strong atmospheric piece designed to provide a transition between the previous eight aggressive tracks and the supposed etherealness of the Omega White disc. As I said at the beginning of this review, we'll have to take Napalm's word for it. Alpha Noir on its own, however, is a solid dark metal affair that fans of Moonspell shouldn't hesitate to consume. There's an experimental quality to the music, but not in an overbearing or meandering sense, so most fans of darkened, melodic metal will want to give this one a go.

Track Listing
1Axis Mundi4:57
4Alpha Noir4:31
5Em Nome Do Mede4:28
6Opera Carne3:54
7Love Is Blasphemy4:32
9Sine Missione4:58
Total Runtime40:45

Friday, April 6, 2012

Harvest Moon Radio Episode 12

Once again, the latest episode of Harvest Moon Radio is a bit late - but now online!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review: Chainfist - Black Out Sunday (2010)

Chainfist [ Website | Facebook | MySpace ]
Black Out Sunday

Chainfist - Black Out Sunday
Denmark's Chainfist is a hard rocking band that flirts with heavy metal just enough to rise close to the top of the heap of modern rock hopefuls. The Danes' debut release, Black Out Sunday, is a collection of no frills rock, brimming with melody, grit, and a refreshing lack of pretentiousness. Taking a harder edge than most contemporary rock bands these days, Chainfist plugs a gap that has plagued the style in recent years.

Chainfist's sound is built around the chunky guitar of Michael Kopietz, whose previous credits include time spent with Panzerchrist and Frozen Sun. These relationships are pimped pretty heavily by the PR powers that be, but don't be fooled into using those bands as points of reference for what Chainfist is about. On Black Out Sunday, Kopietz delivers a rather straightforward rock performance comprised of groove-laden riffs and dynamic leads. While a touch of Thin Lizzy can be heard amongst the riffs of the album's lead-off track, "Free Me", Kopietz most often works with more darker, modernistic components (the almost nu-metal swirls of "Be A Man", for instance). "Edge Of The World" stands out as one of Black Out Sunday's stronger tracks due in large part to the edgier guitar tone put together by Kopietz.

Adding depth to an already heavy sound is four-stringer Braca Pederson. Emerging on "Evolution", Pederson's bass is well-placed in the mix and provides a nice, rather "old school" element to Chainfist's style. "Clown", which has some rather odd lyrics seemingly inspired by Stephen King's It, oozes groove thanks to Pederson's contributions. Equally integral to Black Out Sunday's appeal are the raucous beats of drummer Jesper Heidelbach. Not necessarily flashy, Heidelbach still makes his presence felt through such moments as the galloping beats of "Evolution" and the admirable fills of "Stay".

The last remaining ingredient in Chainfist's formula, and second in impact only to Kopietz' guitar, is frontman Jackie Peterson's vocals. Like Heidelbach, Peterson's workmanlike performance serves to ground Black Out Sunday in comfortably accessible territory without risking many over-the-top theatrics. Sticking mostly to the middle and lower levels of his range, he does tend to waver a bit when reaching above his comfort zone. He also adopts a strange, but thankfully brief, croaking style on "Have You Ever", "In Your Face", and "Black Out". I suspect that he intended to interject a bit of a Gothic flair to his performance, but should probably skip that angle entirely on Chainfist's next release.

With tracks such as the aforementioned "Edge Of The World", the respectable power ballad "Carpe Diem", and the highly atmospheric instrumental "Shchwh" (don't ask, cuz I don't know) highlighting the album, Black Out Sunday is definitely a solid debut release that will capture the attention of fans who crave modern rock that actually rocks.

Track Listing
1Free Me3:59
2Edge Of The World5:14
4Be A Man3:52
5Have You Ever4:22
7In Your Face4:49
8Show Me4:32
10Carpe Diem4:42
11Black Out4:53
Total Runtime51:58