Darkness And Hope (20th Anniversary Edition)

(Napalm Records)

     I'll be the first to admit my affinity for Portuguese Gothic Metal icons Moonspell. Issued amid the turmoil of the fall of 2001 to unexpectedly mixed reviews, the group's fifth full-length offering Darkness And Hope (2001) would soon propel them to the dizzying heights of cross-over international acclaim. Although initially derided by a minority of 'die-hard' or 'purist' fanbois, they'd already armed themselves with a well-deserved reputation for experimentation via Sin/Pacado (1998) and The Butterfly Effect (1999). However, as time inevitably passed, the general opinions of their constituents slowly grew favorable as an entire new generation of fans discovered what so many of us already knew. Fortunately for all parties involved, with the highly-anticipated release of the the rarity-laden Darkness And Hope (20th Anniversary Edition), the group has at last been afforded the opportu- nity to properly celebrate and expound on what is undeniably one of their truly finest auditory moments thus far.

      On the brilliant Darkness And Hope (20th Anniversary Edition) (2021), an expertly assembled thirteen song collection of Gothic Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the haunting, hook-laden “Darkness And Hope” and the the soon-to-be classic “Firewalking”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all but the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Out of print for an infuriatingly prolonged length of time, the group's dense, all-consuming tonalities are on full display as they drive home each key focal point. Offering a shimmering, romanticized blend of guttural--and occasionally unintelligible--vocals, blistering fretwork and imaginatively punishing rhythms. Gloriously 're-presenting' an opus that so many of us still consider to be their magnum opus (or, at the very least, a significant creative turning point, either positive or negative) in a all-new, digitized format, the group scores major points by showcasing this era of their catalog.

      Continuing with the pulsating (and uncharacteristically uptempo), devotionals “Heartshaped Abyss” and the swaggering--albeit maddeningly infectious--epic “Ghostsong”, the near-lethal assemblages of vocalist Fernando Ribeiro, guitarist Ricardo Amorim, keyboardist Pedro Paixão, former Daemonarch bassist Sérgio Crestana and drummer Miguel 'Mike' Gaspar (who would be replaced in 2020 by ex-Armotura and Godvlad skinsman Hugo Ribeiro), steamrolls ahead with a carefully-calculated ease. Permeated throughout by a melancholic wistfulness that so few of their contemporaries are capable of accurately replicating, the group curiously eschewed much of the Industrial and Electro-tinged tonalities of The Butterfly Effect (1999) in favor of an arguably simplified over- all approach. Delivering the proverbial goods, the group, for better or for worse, surges ahead like the well-oiled machine they've obviously become as they remind us of their deserved 'seed' amid the Gothic Metal hierarchies.

     Originally Produced by Kai 'Hiili' Hiilesmaa (The 69 Eyes, Apocalyptica, HIM), other standouts, including the relentlessly pummeling jewel “Made Of Storm” and the equally impressive, Adolfo Luxúria Canibal-fueled closer “Than The Serpents In My Hands”, offer a veritable wealth of further evidence in support of the group's rightful place amid the hierarchy of the genre. Remaining, believe it or not, as resonant and thought-provoking a -s ever, even the weakest of moments find them operating with a razor-sharp edge few of their contemporaries have accurately replicated. Now re-fortified via a newly-remastered tonality, bonus track covers of a variety of classics à la Joy Division ('Love Will Tear Us Apart'), Portuguese Fado/Folk icons Madredeus ('Os Senhores da Guerraand') and Ozzy Osbourne ('Mr. Crowley'), the group has at last been afforded the opportunity to properly highlight and showcase what would become regarded as a 'watershed' moment within the annals of their history.

     But is it really that good? Absolutely. Undeniably one of the most highly-anticipated Metal re-releases of an already bountiful year, the highly-anticipated Darkness And Hope (20th Anniversary Edition) ultimately serves as a much-welcomed reminder of their unabashed lyrical and compositional ingenuities. Let's face it; while the majority--if not all--of the now-landmark wares contained herein will continue to divide the opinions of all but the most bloodthirsty of their constituents, the end result(s) of the improbably long-running group's efforts are indeed extraordinary (and, for that matter, landmark and groundbreaking), and deserve to be treated accordingly. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself searching for the proverbial trip down memory lane that doesn't necessitate openly embracing a morbidly-obese expanse of spandex-clad Velveeta, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane counter-irritants for what it is that ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

Select Discography

Darkness And Hope (20th Anniversary Edition) (2021)

Hermitage (2021)

Lisboa Under The Spell (2018)

1755 (2017)

Extinct (2015)

Alpha Noir/Omega White (2012)

Lusitanian Metal (2008)

Night Eternal (2008)

Memorial (2006)

The Antidote (2003)

Darkness And Hope (2001)

The Butterfly Effect (1999)

Sin/Pacado (1998)

Irreligious (1996)

Wolfheart (1995)

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