Released: 2015, Napalm Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Portugal's Moonspell make a definite impression before you even hear the music on their 11th album. The cover art for Extinct is one of Septicflesh frontman Seth Siro Anton's most disturbing concoctions – and that's saying something – with its naked armless and ravaged female corpse, a decaying rose affixed to one stump and something that resembles an animal's snout protruding from one of her breasts.
Bloody tears and open wounds on one of the amputations provide the only real color and the inverted cross carved into her forehead speaks to the ritualistic nature of the atrocity. It looks like something out of the grim as fuck “True Detective” series HBO and it definitely grabs your attention.
However, it might actually end up making the wrong impression. Though the artwork certainly does speak to the prevailing lyrical theme here – the end of life – as espoused by the title track, “A Dying Breed,” “The Last of Us,” “Funeral Bloom,” “The Future Is Dark” - it does so far more explicitly and horrifically.
Indeed, anyone expecting something more brutal, more black/death metally than Moonspell's typical goth/symphonic-tinged grandeur – an extension, say, of the “Alpha” side of 2012's Jekyll & Hyde Alpha Noir/Omega White double album – is in for a mighty big surprise here, especially with the almost Tom Waits-like closing number “La Baphomette” and its ragtime piano, horns, shuffling beat and French lyrics.
If anything, Extinct is one of Moonspell's more listener-friendly efforts, with its heavier aspects and gothic timbre contrasted by anthem inviting melodies and choruses, and bountiful hooks. The ethereal “Domina,” “Medusalem” with its Middle Eastern splashes, and the buoyant “The Last Of Us” and the title track are especially lush and catchy. The end of human life never sounded so good.
A generous window dressing of keyboards and strings helps assuage some of the dread in “Funeral Bloom” and “Dying Breed” Ribeiro evokes with his melancholy baritone - at times, it seems as if he's channeling late Type O Negative frontman Peter Steele. Still, orchestration or no, the second half of the album does get a bit ponderous with one somber ode after another and none of “La Baphomette's” weirdness or “Domina's” pop sensibilities to perk things up.
So maybe you can't judge Extinct by its cover, It's still a compelling outing – and perhaps might not have been had it better captured the artwork's intent instead of the other way around.