Seeing a band develop and grow over the course of almost three decades is a thing of beauty. Such is the case with Portuguese Gothic metal band MOONSPELL, who started their illustrious career in 1992 and have released twelve studio albums and two live albums thus far. This makes “Hermitage” the band’s thirteenth studio effort, and it will be released on February 26, 2021, via Napalm Records.
The best way to describe this album is with the adjective “atmospheric,” as “Hermitage” is deeply rooted in the gloomy and brooding gothic ambiance that MOONSPELL does so well. This direction was more than evident with the singles released so far, especially “The Greater Good,” which could easily be seen as a microcosm of the album. It is fair to say that the album has three main sides that ebb and flow as it plays, from superb instrumental passages to wonderfully melodic sections carried by Fernando Ribeiro’s beautiful clean vocals all the way to heavier and darker sounds that give weight to the album. One could argue that this is pretty much MOONSPELL’s formula at work; however, it’s much more than that, as “Hermitage” presents a slightly different take on the band’s sound, being a record that charms and elates the listener the more you listen to it.
Multifaceted and grand, the album opens up with the beautifully crafted and though-provoking single, “The Greater Good,” before continuing with Gothic metal anthem “Common Prayers” and ethereal piece “All or Nothing,” where ambiance and melody reign supreme. These singles already offer a new and refreshing take on who MOONSPELL is and what they do, as well as what is to be expected from many of the tracks on the album. As such, “Entitlement” is a quieter, moodier track with a deep message and beautiful keys by Pedro Paixão that play off of Aires Pereira’s grave bass lines, while the guitar solo is like icing on a cake. The almost 8-minute epic “Without Rule” mirrors “All or Nothing,” being just as dark and engaging as the single, but with a bit more bite in its second half. Instrumental track “Solitarian” adds more shades of gray to the album, playing around with atmosphere and the many nuances that come from the drums and guitars. It breaks the album into two halves, being the perfect gateway between the aforementioned “Entitlement” and the metal anthem “The Hermit Saints.” “Apophthegmata” is a neat little number with playful vocals, tribal sounding drums, and intense instrumentals that is somewhat reminiscent of PARADISE LOTS’s “Ghosts.”
The title track and album highlight, “Hermitage,” is a heavy and twisted affair that gives off “Alma Mater” vibes, with some spooky backing choirs and powerful bass lines that add a sense of gloominess and unease to the composition. Another album highlight is heavy hitter “The Hermit Saints,” a big and imposing track that sees MOONSPELL showcasing some more of their metal side. These two tracks balance the album perfectly and if we are to see it as being split in two, are the peak moments for each half. It is also interesting to note how these two songs are connected lyrically as the word “hermitage” refers to “the habitation of a hermit” or “any secluded place of residence,” while the word “hermit” means “any person living in seclusion” [definitions taken from dictionary.com]. There’s a journey presented here as at first “on we march to hermitage” after which we “lock the gates behind the hermit saints.” Outside of concept records, this type of continuation of a lyrical theme is pretty rare, giving the album fluidity and cohesiveness.
This is not the type of album that will hit you in the face like “1755” or “Extinct,” and it shouldn’t be expected to. No, it works in way subtler ways than that. “Hermitage” is an album that impresses with its masterfully crafted Gothic aura, melancholy mood, and contemplative nature that appeals to the heart. It’s a masterclass in songwriting and composition, though it may require a few spins before seeing revealing all its secrets. “Hermitage” is an open invitation to find beauty in simplicity, while taking the listeners on a journey through humanity’s heart of darkness.
Written by Andrea Crow
- The Greater Good
- Common Prayers
- All or Nothing
- The Hermit Saints
- Without Rule
- City Quitter (Outro)
Fernando Ribeiro – Vocals
Ricardo Amorim – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Pedro Paixão – Keys, Guitar
Aires Pereira – Bass
Hugo Ribeiro – Drums