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Moonspell - Hermitage (2021) - Review

Band: Moonspell
Album title: Hermitage
Release date: 26 February 2021
Label: Napalm Records
Genre: Dark Metal/Gothic Metal

Tracklist:
01. The Greater Good
02. Common Prayers
03. All Or Nothing
04. Hermitage
05. Entitlement
06. Solitarian
07. The Hermit Saints
08. Apophthegmata
09. Without Rule
10. City Quitter (Outro)
11. Darkness In Paradise (Candlemass cover) [Bonus]
12. The Great Leap Forward [Bonus]

Portuguese dark/gothic metal giants and one of the genre pioneers, Moonspell, will release their 13th full-length album Hermitage on 26 February 2021 via Napalm Records. I could say that I can hardly wait, but actually and fortunately, I have been listening to the promo version for over a week now. After "tasting" three singles ("The Greater Good", "Common Prayers" and "All Or Nothing"), have been released in the past three months, I knew Hermitage would be another Moonspell's masterpiece. Well, I have never expected anything less from them. I have been listening to Moonspell for all my adult life, and not a single music piece has ever disappointed me. It doesn't matter to which genre they lean a bit more with (almost) every album, for it seems that everything Moonspell "serves" comes out just great. At least what I am concerned. Just for the record, this is my first review, and I'm glad that it just so happened to be Moonspell.

Hermitage was recorded in October 2020 at Orgone Studios in the UK under a production baton of Jaime Gomez Arellano and a first time with a new Moonspell's drummer Hugo Ribeiro, who is by the way not related to Fernando Ribeiro. Hermitage in Moonspell's specific way follows all the previous albums, except for 1755 of course, which is due to its concept (1755s great Lisabon earthquake disaster) very specific. But Moonspell mainly follows its own well-known goal: trying to put every new album on a higher level, experimenting with new genre's combinations and technics (weather their fans and public appreciate it or not), and most of all, not repeating itself. As always, Pedro and Ricardo composed most of the music, while Fernando did all of the fantastic lyrics, coincidently or prophetic, coinciding with the current world's situation. Namely, a hermitage is a solitary place, where you come to meet yourself, to contemplate existential thoughts, silently discussing with yourself about the meaning or anti-meaning of life. In Moonspell's lyrics, it is not a place as such- in the middle of nowhere. It is the "inner-place", the only place all yours, as well as the only place you can never escape from, whether being aware of it or not. The main message is (at least I comprehended it that way) that something good shall arise out of this solitude. But first comes the harder part, acknowledging and accepting the inevitable facts despite the primal fear. All in all, it is just amazing how Fernando always gets to capture a beam of light in his darkened lyrics.

Considering music, Hermitage is (just) another Moonspell's masterpiece. If I said it is a big step forward, I feel like I would diminish all the previous Moonspell's albums. Hermitage follows its predecessors in this natural way of the growing process, smooth and gracious. It is in Moonspell's nature to take risks (e.g. Sin Pecado, Butterfly Effect and also 1755) and never to follow the mainstream. The risk was taken with Hermitage also, though in a different way. Hermitage is in many ways connected with all Moonspell's albums, and in this manner, it can't be conceptual, although it has a general subject, which is (simply) being alone. Musically, Hermitage takes a listener on an almost epic journey, a deeply emotional one, with many mood changes. In a way, it's warm and intimate, which also refers to Fernando's voice and his way of singing. Namely, there are parts in almost every song when his distinctive voice and singing become soft and tender, similar to Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode), especially in "All Or Nothing", "Entitlement" and "Apoptheghmata". But the most noticeable novelty would be the Pink Floyd elements (mostly in the instrumental "Solitarian" and "Without Rule", which is, by the way, enriched also with psychedelic electronic samples). Listening to the music thoroughly the elements of 70s art rock, prog rock and even post-rock are also involved with Hermitage. Moonspell has never been hiding, that Bathory is one of the band's biggest influences- "Hermitage" and "The Hermit Saints" sounds almost like a homage to Bathory, yet some elements of Type O Negative's October Rust are also audible in "The Hermit Saints".

Guitars are sweeping and soaring, more progressive than ever; there are many memorable riffs and astonishing leads. Mentioning guitars, many elements of 80s metal are present, especially of Judas Priest, and Floydian airy-guitar lines, of course. Synths are not as orchestral and symphonic as on previous two albums, but more experimental, yet dark and thick, adding mystical dimension. Rhythmic lines are dynamic and captivating as usual, and the new drummer was more than the right choice to step in the shoes of Mike Gaspar. Regarding the gothic metal genre, less influence of The Sisters Of Mercy and Fields Of The Nephilim is present in Hermitage.

All in all, Hermitage is a perfect musical piece. It is one of those rare albums that leaves me with no favourite song. I love them all. Even though Moonspell is turning its back to modernity with Hermitage, the album, intentionally or not,  sets new standards for dark/gothic metal, if not wider. I decided not to rate Hermitage, neither any other album, I might write a review. Though I have nothing against numbers, I'm not fond of ratings. So, I'll only say: It is Moonspell! Great as always. If they have a muse, I wish she will never fall asleep, let alone die.

The review was written by Jerneja
Rating: N/A

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