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Concept and Bombast: Moonspell’s “1755” (Album Premiere)

1755

America doesn’t seem to quite get Moonspell. Though they are by no means an unknown, they don’t have the same kind of name recognition amongst mainstream American metal fans as their tourmates Cradle of Filth. This may have to do with their decision to sing the entirety of their newer material Portuguese, which is sure to lose some of the Hot Topic crowd, but it doesn’t help that over 12 albums the band remains hard to pin down stylistically. Even at the start of their career, when they were closest to being a black metal band, Moonspell had a love of gothic drama. Where they an extreme band that wrote convincing melodies or a goth rock band moonlighted as a symphonic metal band? They were reliable when it came to evoking the feeling of holding a giant goblet of red wine while wearing cape, but the exact blend has shifted from record to record.

Following 2015’s Extinct, which put singer Fernando Ribeiro’s deep baritone front and center, their newest album 1755, streaming in full exclusively below, is a blockbuster orchestral metal production. From start to finish, 1755 is bolstered by enormous string sections and choirs echoing key lyrics and reverb laden piano. 1755‘s subject material justifies its bombast. The record is a concept album about a massive earthquake that demolished Lisbon in 1755 on All Saint’s Day, killing upwards of 60,000 and leveling the city. The horrific nature of the event and its cruelly ironic timing is a perfect fit for the band’s dramatic style.

Moonspell don’t just skate on the graces of a good concept though. The songs each take their own view of the tragedy, giving voice to the fury of the Earth, those seeking salvation from God, and the hope for the city to rise from the ashes. In other words, the album isn’t just ornately composed, it’s conceptually thorough, treating the subject with the gravitas it deserves without tipping into overwrought melodrama.

Of course this wouldn’t matter if it weren’t a joy to listen to. Moonspell aren’t going to wow you with complex riffs or brain-bending heaviness. Their music is remarkably accessible despite its massive scale. The band are also surprisingly flexible, it’s hard to picture any of the other symphonic band pulling off the switch to percussion and violin that happens in the title track as effortlessly. By telling a story unique to their nation’s history, hopefully they’ll convince more fans across the sea to hold them at the esteem they deserve.

Moonspell’s 1755 releases on November 3rd via Napalm Records. Follow the band on Bandcamp here.

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