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#TBT: MOONSPELL's Wolfheart is the Perfect Mix of Gothic and Black Metal

Welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. Today's 88th TBT features Portuguese purveyors of perfect proportions. The iconic sounds of mid-90's goth and black metal collide on Moonspell's second studio album Wolfheart.

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MOONSPELL'S WOLFHEART

Release Date: 1994

Record Label: Century Media

Straight from the official Facebook fan page of Moonspell, "Moonspell was formed in 1992 from the ashes of Morbid God, a project they started in 1989." Wolfheart was Moonspell's first release on the Century Media label, before one of their biggest mainstream breakthroughs with the subsequent album Irreligious. However, it is thanks to Century Media's involvement with Wolfheart that the band began to move forward with momentum, garnering new fans who were eager to lap up their unique take on blackened gothic metal.

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Unlike some of the comparable gothic/black metal offerings of the time, Moonspell manage eschew corniness and capture a weightier, darker essence in Wolfheart that reads moody and mysterious. Check out opening track "Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)":

And if you're into it, here's a shortened version performed live. After all, a keyboardist headbanging with their whole body always warms my black little heart. I mean, come on, the guy's (Pedro Paixão) stage name is Passionis. Let it be known why:

While the album leaves something to be desired as far as the mix goes (thanks to distracting, punchy bass), the actual songwriting is super solid.  The keyboards specifically add depth and atmosphere, playing a quiet parallel to the melancholy riffs. The drums are slower-paced and heavy, and the sustain on the cymbals adds to the marching, grim atmosphere.

One of the most notable elements on the album is the vocal performance of lead singer Fernando Ribeiro, otherwise known as Languyar. His growled vocals are chilling, almost menacing. The clean backup vocals are echoing, haunting, and rather distinct – managing to be both full-bodied and barreling. Check out song "Alma Mater":

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Despite the album's darker, blackened tenancies, there is a warmth and romanticism to the imagery and lyrics that lean the albums back toward gothic territory – after all, there are tracks named "Vampira" and "An Erotic Alchemy". All of the songs are sang in English with the exception of "Trebaruna" and "Ataegina". I personally have a soft spot for native language in metal music, as it inspires the listener to pay attention more to instrumentation, tempo, and sonic atmosphere. And yet, understanding the lyrics withholding, a dynamic singer will allow you to feel the sincerity of the lyrics. A great example of this is the song "Trebaruna":

Something about Ribeiro's heavy Portuguese accent really underscores his powerful vocal performance and highlights the heart of this album – it's gothiness. So, if you're looking for the perfect soundtrack to transform into your otherworldly, lycan-bodied self under today's last full moon of OF THE DECADE (fun fact – today's 12/12 full moon peaks at 12:12 am!), Wolfheart may just be the perfect choice for your metamorphosis.

 

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