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WOLFHEART

Moonspell

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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4 stars fter releasing some demos, Moonspell finally got their [&*!#] together and released a record, Wolfheart. After giving some spins to the album, there is one thing that shines the most: its variety. It's incredible how many influences and different elements are present on this piece.

Take the opener, Wolfshade, for example. Ok, there are black and doom metal elements there, but if you pay attention to the tempo changes and the breakdowns, you will find the truth. Yes, progressive metal influences, baby. On other hand, An Erotic Alchemy, the longest song of the album, is an authentic atmospheric song, Midnight Ride screams hard rock influence (wow, who would say, hard rock on a Moonspell record), Lua D'Inverno is a chilling acoustic piece and Vampiria is, probably, the only pure black metal song of the record. Ah, and Trebaruna and Ataegina are both folk tunes, with a good use of keyboards.

Okay, a bit confusing, eh? Let's sum up all the different elements and influences shown on the album: -progressive metal; -gothic metal; -black metal; -doom metal; -hard rock; -folk metal. Woow, SIX different genres inside ONE album. Well, I know, there are a lot of bands out there that incorporate different elements into their own sound; however, many of them fail to deliver consistent records. Why? Because having too many influences causes you to write very divergent and inconsistent material. As a result, the albums sound, obviously, bad and disjointed.

Moonspell gathered all those influences, but certainly didn't delivered a bad record with Wolfheart. Despite all the differences between the tracks, the record sounds great as a whole and is very cohesive. The only big flaw of it is, unfortunately, Fernando Ribeiro's vocal performance. I mean, I hope everybody here knows what a great vocalist he is, but, meh, on this record he just sounds like a common growler. His clean vocals aren't that good yet too; he improved a lot lately.

On other hand, Pedro Paixão (the keyboard player) does a great work: the keyboard sound isn't too loud nor low in the mix, and that benefits his playing. Listen to the beautiful textures created by his instrument, during the acoustic part of Wolfshade: wonderful! Another good performance is delivered by Ricardo Amorim, the guitar player. He is allowed to solo (now, unfortunately, the band doesn't let him solo too much) and that is definitely a plus. He also plays an interesting acoustic interlude, called Lua D'Inverno, but that's not his best acoustic piece, the best one has got to be the amazing Sons of Earth, out of the Memorial album.

Highlights? Almost every thing. The opener is a winner, a true blend of progressive with black metal. It features an interesting acoustic intro, a nice build-up and a gorgeous breakdown, where all of Amorim's guitar talents are shown. It is, probably, one of the best songs Moonspell ever compose - it's right there, struggling with Everything Invaded for the prize. Trebaruna has portuguese lyrics and talks about a goddess of the Lusitanian Mythology. An Erotic Alchemy was the first Moonspell song I ever heard, and is very atmospheric, with a lot of sections and some good keyboard riffs here and there. All the other tracks are good and worth listening, except for...

Alma Mater. Yes, I know that a lot of reviewers praised the song as being one of the best of the band, but I can't help but think that that track is, in fact, VERY overrated. Okay, the riffage is pretty decent, and so is the relatively catchy chorus, but hey!, this song isn't even able to clean Wolfshade's socks! It's not a horrible song, but when you have got a decent track among a lot of very good ones, you notice the difference, you know.

Heavy riffage, competent drum work, folk-ish keyboard lines, acoustic guitars and audible bass, that's what you can expect from this record. If you think that the extremely unidimensional Memorial is good, check out this record. This is the zenith, the magnum opus of the band. And if you bear in mind that Moonspell is a portuguese group and that, in Portugal, there is little or no promotion for metal bands, you will be surprised with the quality of this piece. Definitely recommended.

One last word to the amazing production and to the fantastic artwork (well, in fact BOTH artworks kick ass, but I definitely prefer the original one, with the wolves watching the sky, it perfectly fits the mood of the record, in my opinion). Oh, and another thing... Don't pay too much attention to the bonus track, Ataegina, as it sounds like a bad imitation of Trebaruna. Meh.

Report this review (#187521)
Posted Friday, October 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars To understand Wolfheart you must understand Portugal in the 90's. By then, the metal scene was absolutely secondary in this small country, and looked upon as something evil and despicable. Someone from Lisbon might say my comment is a little exagerated, but you should see how it was in Alentejo (an interior province of Portugal). When Wolfheart first came to my hands, I was somehow doubtful about it... A portuguese Metal band with something new to show? In 1995 it seemed unlightly, I can assure you. Fortunately I was wrong, very wrong... Something different was emerging and with Moonspell's Wolfheart or other small efforts as Diva by Heavenwood, it was time to put Portugal in the headbanggers heads across Europe. And it was about time. Wolfheart is not only valuable for the music... Is also valuable for the meaning... Drinking of the same influences of Tiamat (pre-Wildhoney fase), early The Gathering, and other bands from the Century Media catalogue (and an important link to main man producer Waldemar Sorytcha) Moonspell did not achieve the deserved recognition, til Irreligious came out, but that is another chapter. From Wolfheart, can be highlighted serious tracks, but the the main highlight is the release as an whole. You can not dissociate Wolfshade (A werewolf Masquerade) from An Erothic Alchemy or ...Of Dreams and Drama. The popular influenced Trebaruna or the polemic Alma Mater that remembers times of conquest and grandness of Lusitania by the 1500's, a time when Portugal was, with Spain, the Super-Powers of the known world. You can ask me... But is really Wolfshade a true prog record? I would tell you No... But represents a good starting point and an exclusive view of the world.
Report this review (#202839)
Posted Sunday, February 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Moonspell are a band that should surely be credited for adding something new to the goth genre. In spite the fact that many fans associate their name to black metal, in my opinion Moonspell are firstly related to gothic metal. Wolfheart, along with Cradle of Filth's The Principle of Evil Made Flesh have brought a more dynamic (death-black) approach to what Paradise Lost, Anathema and My Dying Bride had unleashed musically.

From this point of view, Wolfheart is a classic, one of the first gothic black metal albums. The nine tracks are all very elaborated and cover a wide range rock styles and not only: black metal, old school deathrock or folk. Along with the stylistic diversity come the compositions that prove the band's creativity and talent which is constantly fresh. There are no weak points on the album and all songs are highlights, this being a quality that few records have.

Another strong point of Wolfheart is it's capacity to target listeners of different tastes: from the 80's batcave goths, to the Norwegian church burners and the metalheads who are still riding dragons across the plains of Mordor who fight orcs and party while listening to medieval jams, Wolfheart is approachable as long as one tries to be a little open minded.

While stylistically the record is great, the technique of the musicians is not the greatest (not the one a PROGRESSIVE ROCK band should make proof of) although not contestable. They play okay just that at some point one gets the impression that the musical structures are average and can be found on any decent heavy metal record. But as I said, it's the constant shift of style that makes the music enjoyable.

Furthermore, I wouldn't give the thumbs up for the vocals. Nor the clean, neither the aggressive one are pertinent: there's no diction (probably due to the accent), not enough strength, not enough clarity.

To sum up, it's great.

[b]NOT PROG NOT PROG NOT PROG DĂĂĂĂĂĂĂĂĂ[/b]

Report this review (#209174)
Posted Sunday, March 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Wolfheart is the debut album by Portugese goth rock/ dark metal legends Moonspell. I was introduced to Moonspell via this album and I remember that it was considered a very groundbreaking album in the metal community at the time of its release in 1995. There are 8 songs on the album while there is a bonus track called Ataegina ( one of a few songs on the album with Portugese lyrics. The other being Trebaruna) on the limited digi-pack version. The album was released on Century Media records and produced by prolific metal producer Waldemar Sorychta ( Tiamat, Grip Inc....etc.)

The music is a mix of death/ black metal and goth rock with a few hints to folk metal. A style of music that has since become very popular. Back then it wasn´t as normal though and as such this album is pretty original. The music is not very brutal and while Fernando Ribeiro semi-growls on the album he actually has more in common with Andrew Eldritch ( The sisters of Mercy) than he has with the brutal growls of a contemporary like Nick Holmes ( early Paradise Lost. They have a lot in common if you compare how Nick Holmes sounds on later releases from Paradise Lost). The music is very melodic and even when the death/ black metal elements are dominant the music is still melodic. I would put this album in the same catagory as the music played in the same period by bands like Paradise Lost, Cemetary, Tiamat and Amorphis ( there are differences of course, but it´s meant to create a picture of the kind of music style I´m talking about). At times the goth atmosphere reminds me of a band like Type O Negative too. All songs are well composed and this is quite dynamic music. Fernando Ribeiro theatrical vocal style suits the music very well. I always enjoyed the Vampiria song greatly but all songs are good. Female vocals and keyboards are included to help create the dark mood in the music.

The musicianship is good without being really impressive. This is not complex music.

The production by Waldemar Sorychta is professional and well sounding.

Wolfheart was a groundbreaking album in the goth rock/ dark metal genre, but while I always found it a good album I never really found it excellent. Fans of the genre will probably disagree and praise the album much more than I do though. To my ears this is a 3 star album.

Report this review (#210640)
Posted Tuesday, April 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wolfheart is easily one of my favourite records of all time. It has anything I would expect from a great metal album. It has a lot of diversity. It has an intense and coherent atmosphere. It has interesting lyrics that fit to the concept of the music and artwork. It has many catchy moments but also some more progressive and epic tracks. It has aged well and grows on you every time you try it out once again. It has its own unique charm and doesn't sound too much like anyone else.

Wolfheart has also been a revolutionary album being one of the first extreme metal records coming from Southern Europe. The band is right to be proud to come from a country where metal music isn't as popular as in Central and Northern Europe and they don't hesitate to perform parts of several songs in Portuguese. They also use a few folk instruments which give an epic touch to this debut record without sounding too soft and sweet. On the other hand, there is a big gothic influence in this record concerning the bleak atmosphere and the dark lyrics. Many people consider this album as a black metal record but this style is only one of several subtle elements and influences among others. The band mixes energy and majesty in a unique way without forgetting about originality.

Every song is worth to be listened to and there is no single filler on here. The harmonic and epic introduction to the great opening epic "Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)" immediately drowns us into a mysterious atmosphere and digs us deeper into a bleak majesty when the dark lyrics kick off. The keyboards and choirs may sound a little bit artificial as the band lacked of budget but this gives an undeniable charm to the record and makes it sound more underground and mysterious. In the first track the band already proves all of their talent. The singer switches from dark shrieks to low melodic clean vocals. The track has some chilling moments that focus on decent keyboard melodies, harmonic guitar passages and a surprisingly audible bass guitar line. On the other side, there are also more rhythm orientated mid tempo passages and a floating progressive bridge. Everything underlines the focus on a dark and addicting atmosphere and sounds very coherent. That's only what I say about the first track but I could continue like this for every other song on the record.

There are many magic moments on this album. "Trebaruna" is an amazingly hypnotizing folk track and pleases me at least ten times more than anything most of the so-called modern folk bands from Northern Europe use to play. I mean those guys here come from Portugal and perform dark folk beats as if they have grown up with Viking history and Scandinavian folk tales. The great bonus track "Ataegina" has some great Lusitanian folk elements and is able to mix happy and positive chants with mysterious folk sounds and dark riffs. Who needs Eluveitie now? The female shrieks in the end of "Vampiria" give me goose bumps every time I listen to them once again and are an unforgettable moment in metal history. The Portuguese chorus of the addicting "Alma Mater" is not only catchy as hell but also a true statement by the band.

There are so many whining people that claim that the eighties were such a great decade while the nineties were the downfall of metal music. Every time I listen to Moonspell's "Wolfheart", Amorphis' "Tales From The Thousand Lakes" or Therion's "Theli" I realize that this is not true and that the nineties even seem to have the greater gems. This is one of them and a definite must have for any metal fan of any genre.

Originally published on www.metal-archives.com on August 25th of the year 2011.

Report this review (#383258)
Posted Wednesday, January 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is Moonspell's first album, Wolfheart.

The first song on this album is ''Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)". The song starts with a clean guitar playing some chords that sound very dark and the riffs are great. I really love the bass line on this one. The next song is ''Love Crimes'', it starts with a very powerfull and catchy riff and the bass line is interesting. Well, I liked this song, but I gotta say that after 3 minutes I just got bored and sick of it, I started getting distracted, maybe if this song wasn't so long I would like it better. ''...Of Dream and Drama (Midnight Ride)'' is nothing special, it's just another song on the album. The ending of the song when Fernando says "Midnight Ride" and it starts echoing really annoyed me. This is not a bad song, but it's nothing special either. The following song is ''Lua D'Inverno'' (In english, Winter Moon). This is an instrumental, one of the best songs on the album IMO. I really liked this one, It's very well composed, the guitar and flute is just amazing and there is feeling everywhere! ''Trebaruna'' is a song sung in Portuguese. Trebaruna is a song that doesn't mean nothing to me, It was kinda boring, I gotta say. The next song is "Vampiria", while listening to the album I was very happy to listen to Vampiria, because I was kinda bored during the previous songs, and I really like this one. The song starts very darkly, with Fernando Ribeiro whispering some lyrics and Keyboard. The female vocalist in this song is wonderful! This is a song that diserves to be heard over and over again. In the middle of the song the electric guitar kicks in playing a riff that's very catchy and heavy. There are many wonderful moments in this song, I really really love it! It's one of the best songs on the album, and I have so much to say about it. The ending is epic, it's a very nice way to finish a song. Then we have ''An Erotic Alchemy'' it starts with a very interesting bass line. It seems that the songs from Vampiria just get better and better. This song is pretty nice actually, I didn't get bored at all! The bass line is wonderfull like in most of these songs. I love how Fernando Ribeiro just says the lyrics in some parts of their songs instead of singig or screaming, I also love is whispers, it's truly fantastic! The next song is the masterpiece, ''Alma Mater''. This is a brilliant song, the main riff is amazing, the lyrics are great! When you start to listen to this album you think it's all boring and nothing special, but when you come to Vampiria, from that point, all the songs are just amazing! Alma Mater is the best song on the album IMO, and the one I listen more. It has a lot of feeling and power. ''Ataegina'' is the last song on this album, it's another song sung in Portuguese. It's a very nice song, it's very folky, I liked it.

I liked this album very much, altough, there were 2 or 3 songs that I really didn't like, they were boring, very boring. On the other hand, songs like Lua D'Inverno, Vampiria or Alma Mater really made this album worth the listen! I really enjoyed reviewing this one, and I hope you give this band a chance! I'm not sure if I should give it 3 or 4 stars, because it's not Excelent, but it's more than good! But I'm thinking more about giving it 4 stars.

Report this review (#780774)
Posted Sunday, July 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Moonspell's debut album is an interesting blend of disparate forms of metal, taking a gothic metal base and jazzing it up by sprinkling on black metal and symphonic metal influences and lashing all these bits together in a progressive framework, and then cramming on the odd gentle folky moment here and there for good measure.

Although I'm really not into the vocals (with the notable exception of Birgit Zacher's female vocals), on the whole the album is an entertaining listen which shows an excellent command of various approaches to metal, and the band do an excellent job of integrating these various styles without making their compositions sound disjointed or incoherent.

Report this review (#918551)
Posted Sunday, February 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars WOLFHEART is the debut album by MOONSPELL which incorporates a nice mix of metal styles. Following the approach of their earlier EP "Under The Moonspell," we get a more refined blend of black and Gothic metal mixed with Celtic folk and symphonic touches. The transition from black metal to Gothic metal is taking place on WOLFHEART as the blackened touches are softened and the Gothic elements are increased. The intro with eerie synths and soft guitar sets the tone and atmosphere of a darkened land where blood thirsty wolves and Pagan rituals dominate with lunar madness.

This album really goes all over the place. It starts out in a symphonic black metal fashion but has tracks such as "Lua D'Inverno" that sound more like Pagan Celtic rituals. The vocals are heavily in the Goth department and Fernando Ribeiro's vocals play the perfect part of a blood sucking romeo and bring other Gothic metal bands of the day to mind such as Type O Negative, Tiamat and early Paradise Lost. The song structures are well laid out with aggressive and the lush sensual symphonic parts working well together. The female backing vocals by Birgit Zacher are particularly haunting.

WOLFHEART is a very consistent album and it's a testament to an era when various styles of metal were mixing with various forms of folk music and symphonic touches. MOONSPELL displays a strong command of this hybridity and becomes one of the most successful metal exports from Portugal. While some Gothic metal barely falls into the metal category focusing more on the romantic and sensual rather than the head banging aspects, WOLFHEART displays everything that makes a great Gothic metal album while retaining some excellent black metal aggressive fury as well without going as far as adding blastbeats or turning up the fury to up to extreme levels.

Report this review (#1440058)
Posted Sunday, July 12, 2015 | Review Permalink

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