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The Antidote - * * * *

Hands down Portugal’s best metal band, Moonspell have been amazingly inconsistent throughout their recorded career. Over the course of ten years, they’ve ranged from overrated (Wolfheart) to promising (Irreligious/Sin) to underrated (Butterfly Effect) to utter tripe (Darkness and Hope). Their recorded legacy, alternately brilliant and disappointing, is as good of an argument for downloading music as I can imagine. Now back for album number 6, they’ve finally hit their stride and started delivering on all the fucking hype that’s been surrounding them since Wolfheart. That’s not to say The Antidote isn’t without its flaws, it wouldn’t be a Moonspell album if it was, but this is easily the best album of their career and probably the best metal album of 2003. The first half of The Antidote is absolutely fucking flawless European gothic metal. The first four songs alone are the best that Moonspell has ever written. Heavy atmospherics, brutal guitar, amped drums, and vocals which switch from Type O Negative baritone to devastating black metal screams that must be heard to be believed. How can you be a metal fan and not love that shit.

Moonspell seems to have taken the best elements of all their previous work and combined it to finally bring the sound that they’ve been hinting at for ten years now. And when it hits, it is fucking unreal. From Lowering Skies and Everything Invaded may be some of the best metal songs ever recorded. The production is crystal clear, abandoning the tinny black metal of Wolfheart and the confused electronics of Butterfly Effect for a sound which emphasizes baritone and bass drum on the verses but allows the guitar to dominate the mix when the heavy shit starts. It is brilliantly produced, and the band sounds better and more confident in their sound than ever before.

The album loses momentum about halfway through, when they forget that the screaming parts are crucial to the dynamics of their sound, and homeboy switches to using his full on Type O Negative/My Dying Bride vocals for the entire second half. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the more black metal sounding parts are what sets this band apart from their contemporaries and what was missing from a lot of their previous mediocre work (Darkness and Hope). Some of the second half is brilliant, such as the brutal as fuck guitar riff that ends Lunar Still and the irregular drum patterns of Crystal Gazing. But most of it is comparable to the music suburban families play outside their houses on Halloween to go with the dollar store plastic skeleton decorations on the lawn. Dark atmospherics to scare the kids and not a whole lot else. This is disappointing because they were working on a five star review for at least the first 4 songs. Still, if you have any interest in this band then this is the album to get. Given their past record of brilliant inconsistency, this may be the best album Moonspell ever releases. I hope not, but for now this will do quite fucking nicely.

* * * *

Reviewed: June, 2005

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