Napalm Flesh: Moonspell Interview

Posted May 3, 2012 in
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Welcome to Napalm Flesh! This week we have an interview with vocalist Fernando Ribeiro of Portuguese metal heroes Moonspell, who will be releasing their new double album Alpha Noir / Omega White next week. We also have a rundown of this week’s metal happenings in and around Salt Lake.
Event Listings

On Friday, May 4, get your Led Zeppelin on with cover group No Quarter (from Seattle) playing at the Depot (21+). Tickets are $10 advance and $15 day of the show, music at 9 p.m.

Also Friday in the tribute realm, Roll the Bones (A Rush Tribute) play at Ginos (21+) with Supersofar. Tickets are $7 at the door, music at 9 p.m.

Lastly Friday, Metal Night at Club Expose (21+) will see your favorite metal tunes cranked via DJ and requests. There is no cost to attend and the night gets underway around 9 p.m.

Saturday, May 5, celebrate Cinco De Mayo with some metal from Salt Lake City's Yaotl Mictlan headlining at Burt's (21+) with Eyes of Damnation Leyenda Oculta, Valle De Feugo, Notre 45 and Nezia. A whopping $5 at the door gets you in, tunes underway around 9 p.m.

Also Saturday, “Cinco de Meato,” goes down at 5 Monkey's (21+) with Salt Lake's Meat playing with Below Me and Hooga, $5 at the door music at 9 p.m.

Monday, May 7, German thrash metal titans Destruction, celebrating their 30th anniversary in tour style ,play Burt's (21+) with American Death metal troop Vital Remains. Tickets are $14, music gets underway at 9 p.m. Check out our interview with Destruction that ran in the January 2009 issue of SLUG.

Interview with Moonspell vocalist Fernando Ribeiro

Four years in the making Portugal's Moonspell is set to unleash their double album Alpha Noir / Omega White on May 8 in the US. Napalm Flesh had the chance to talk to the founding member and vocalist Fernando Ribeiro about the band’s past, present and future with one key point always in mind: expect the unexpected from this long standing dark metal crew. Enjoy!

With over 20 years and 10 albums now, how would you describe the legacy of Moonspell at this point in time?
Fernando Ribeiro: I think the best reward in the end is that we've kept our heads above water and we have this new album for our 20th anniversary. I think a lot has changed but the basic creative principles and what we believed when we were young and we formed the band are still there nowadays, enjoyed and thought about in a different form than when we were 16 or 18 when started the band. We are always a bit afraid of talking about a legacy because there are so many bands that came before us and also influenced us. We can still write out little page in history, especially when we started with Wolfheart and Irreligious we got into a scene that we loved, which was the dark metal avant-garde European metal scene. Out best legacy is that we could get our Portuguese boots at the door and still allow ourselves in the scene when the train was already almost leaving. One of the best things with Moonspell was that we were able to pair with the bands we really loved at the time like Tiamat, Samael, Sentenced—the bands that were being signed at the time and getting a lot of recognition in Europe.

SLUG: The new record comes out in the US May 10. What made the band decide to take on the task of creating a double album  Alpha Noir / Omega White?
Ribeiro: We knew immediately two things that we wanted to have: more time for the songwriting and more songs. We started writing and playing and we came up with three songs—two ended up to be Alpha Noir songs and the other one was placed on the Omega White disc. The songs were “Lycantrope,” “Love is Blasphemy” and “White Omega” which is the opener of Omega White. We knew that we liked both directions and it was really hard to choose between both. We didn't want to repeat ourselves and make an album that is not so together because it has more deep Gothic atmospheric songs going to more metal songs. So this time around, as far as the creative principle, we split the band in two and just followed that path. It got so interesting for us that we decided this will be the record. It’s not just to put things in their right places, but also this will be shared and released as a entire record. It makes sense for us to take old natures of Moonspell take a step back and take a picture where all elements are there. I think it's an album that really represents Moonspell because it's so long and it has so many songs so much stuff we could try out and experiment. It's also an album that has two different feelings. I think Alpha Noir is something more of a scream-in-your-face album, something more of a getting into an arena and fighting for yourself in a way with secret, a wish of revolution or fulfillment. Omega White is the healing room where the gladiators came after they fought when they survived. After the string of Memorial, Night Eternal and Alpha Noir we were kind of missing the more Gothic rock dark music and atmospheric style of Moonspell. In the end we ended up with a very large album in a time when everyone tells us that nobody listens to albums anymore, let alone double albums, and everybody is just going to buy a song from iTunes. To be honest I refuse to live in this reality, even though it’s probably true. I'm actually optimistic that some people still want to go through an experience, and to make such an extensive album with so many different feelings is also an invitation to that experience to listen to the album is something we decided to do. We cannot control the reaction. At least we made sure that everything was from out part of things designed to create a reaction.

SLUG: Unfortunately, I haven’t heard Omega White yet. You were describing the album as—I don't want to say sedate, but more Gothic rock type stuff—maybe comparable to Darkness and Hope?
Ribeiro: Omega White really brings a different kind of sound and atmosphere. We always connected with our influences, especially when Gothic metal was born in Europe. There was always this blueprint that we picked up from Fields of the Nephilim and Sisters of Mercy and we liked that and introduced it many times on our albums. Darkness and Hope is probably the most Goth album we've ever had. You're definitely right, it goes more along the lines of that album, but it reminds me a bit of Irreligious and Sin as well. I think even when you do this exercise of the new album being split into two, if you look to the repertoire and think of future live set-lists you can find Alpha and Omega songs as well the old songs. That's why the title and why dividing it came in handy, because it's a realistic picture of what we've done so far. Musically Omega White is more of the Type O Negative, Sisters of Mercy and Fields of the Nephilim in us. I think that now that it's our 20th anniversary when you approach Gothic metal or rock, these bands aren't on the scene anymore and what is on the scene is something too based upon the beauty and the beast style, and people relate Gothic metal to that. It's much more than that if you go to the early work of Paradise Lost, Sisters of Mercy or Type O Negative. I think there is a big missing link for people that listen to Gothic rock and metal music now because they have the new bands and some people don't know those old bands. We feel it’s our duty to pay fair tribute to these bands and the richness they brought into the Moonspell music because when Gothic and metal were joined for the first time there were many many bands trying it out—even Celtic Frost had in Into the Pandemonium in 1987. Then there was Paradise Lost, Type O Negative (with the hardcore roots). There was this project from Carl McCoy from Fields of the Nephilim called Nefilim and he had an album in ’96 called Zoon. It was something like Slayer almost, really heavy drums, really fast deep vocals and heavy guitars, but it also had this feeling on the album that was dark, depressing and atmospheric. I kind of looked into that to place Omega White. Lyrically this album is less scream-in-your-face—it's like an inside voice or a murmur, it's something more of a broken heart, ex-girlfriend and nights that have gone wrong.

SLUG: On the last few records there are some crazy guitar riffs. It seems like more of the band’s direction is based on guitars—some of the solos, like the one at the end of of “Opera Carne,” seem a little bit foreign from what people expect from Moonspell. Is that just how things transpired when you went to write the new record or was it a conscious effort?
Ribeiro: We got really excited about the guitars lately on the recent albums and were looking to Ricardo (Morning Blade)—we always felt he could bring more and more to the band not only his musicianship but also his ideas and the way he fits into the guitar world. I think when we set ourselves for Alpha Noir as this going into the battle arena album, we thought about the metal swords as fast guitars and it was quite based on these very similar principles. Even thrash metal Ricardo was influenced from heavily listening to Testament and old Metallica and other speed metal, and then we went to the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise—a lot of the thrash metal bands were there, Destruction, Testament, Agent Steel—I think Ricardo kind of got back to his high school period where we were listening to American thrash metal. We were also influenced by Artillery or Onslaught from Europe —it was quite impossible to leave this influence out of our music. For Alpha Noir we always imagined something more direct, something more of an affirmation. I think the guitars are an electric statement—they are very forceful and catchy, it's probably unexpected. I never know myself what people expect from Moonspell. I think people don't know us enough, it’s not the first time we put the guitars as the mains elements of the album. Whenever there is a surprise effect going on in today's scene, I think we can only say it's a good thing. Obviously we can't control if people will like it or not, but if we can raise some eyebrows it's already cool. I remember the first time we went to play in the states people said we weren't heavy enough to be on this tour—yeah, we’re not a death metal band, but we're not playing with Katalyslm, we're playing with Danzig so you don't to need to be a death metal band to play in front of those fans. Music is not only about being heavy and fast—with Moonspell we're trying find this compromise. We don't want to be this boring Gothic metal that you watch live and are frozen in the same place. The music has to be alive, it has to be thrashy, it has to have it's heavy headbanging moments.  

SLUG: Going through your history, the one thing I've learned to expect from Moonspell is to not expect anything. The bass tone pretty much on every Moonspell album is usually really really heavy and in that same regard the production level on every album, even the early stuff, has never failed or sounded bad in my opinion. How hard has it been to keep the production level on all your albums dark, heavy, ominous and really weighted?
I think even when you play live we have learned the more you give the more you get in return. This time around with Alpha Noir and Omega White we worked with two producers. One came to Portugal to work on arrangements. He was a younger guy than us and connected with both classic music and also a more modern form of metal—I've never worked with a producer that was younger than me. I really liked the good vibe he brought into the band. Then we came back with Tue Madsen who worked on the Under Satanae re-recording and also Night Eternal. Instead of going through the editing process and changing the things one at a time, we decided to just play. I think playing the album as a band and recording in our home studio in Lisbon created a more comfortable feeling and it comes across in the quality of the production of the music as well. I remember when we recorded Wolfheart Waldemar Sorychta was at the top of his form. He had done Ceremony of Opposites by Samael, he had done all the big albums from Century Media. He wasn't easy to work with then because he was on a level that we weren't. I remember when we arrived in Germany to record Wolfheart Waldemar asked Mike if he had ever played with a click—Mike said never. Waldemar said you’re going to start now, and we recorded Wolfheart with the click and we learned a lot. Preparation and dedication are definitely what makes the difference. We always try to envision everything as a band. We play the songs and they're never complete before we all give our opinion. Alpha and Omega took four years of work twice as many songs as we normally do. The human factor is still very important—people don’t have the time to think about it and the instinct is to go to Pro Tools or all of that stuff. We started by recording on tape—all of that nowadays you don't have to do that and you can still have a great sound without recording on tape. It's a lot to do with what the band has offer to the producer as well. We had two years of playing songs and that really showed in the end.

SLUG: Part of Moonspell's lyrical direction is influenced by Portuguese history. To Americans and maybe some Europeans it's a culture that's pretty unkown. How would you describe how you put the Portuguese culture into Moonspell?
Ribeiro: It's very heavily associated with Moonspell, not only in the stuff we write but the way we are about things. Portugal is not a country people look to when searching for metal bands—there's a lot of other countries they'll look first. When we did Wolfheart it was very important for us to voice that we are from Portugal. There was a time in Europe that people were very open minded to receive bands from all around the world, not only the usual places like America or Scandinavia, Germany and the UK. There was a small boom of bands—us from Portugal, Lacuna Coil from Italy, also Rotting Christ and Septic Flesh from Greece, Orphaned Land from Israel—and these bands still do well on the scene. The fact that they marked the territory where their roots are from made these bands and fans have a positive vibe about them because they could also learn something about the country they came from. At the end of the day it's good for a Portuguese band to express our culture in our songs, because our government or everyone else really does very little to promote our culture overseas—what do people really know about Portugal? They know that we are a country that is on the verge of bankruptcy. I think Alpha Noir reacts to that as well because sometimes someone from Wall Street goes into a computer and labels our country junk and we get into a big financial crisis and the after affects of that financial crisis people lose their self esteem and their love for their country. When you go out in the streets in Portugal, people are very rude, everything is raw. I think we should expand and be the good example of how you can create a good thing using your traditions because I'm afraid we can't rely on politicians or technicians anymore because they couldn't care less if you’re from Portugal or Spain or France. I think it's up to the bands to promote this and fans to promote the culture— metal has always been about that. I discovered Baudelaire with Celtic Frost—I discovered Samuel Coleridge with Iron Maiden's “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,” one of the first times I heard about HP Lovecraft was with Metallica's Ride the Lightning.

SLUG: Lycanthropy seems to be a reoccurring theme in Moonspell—the new album features a song titled “Lickanthrop.” How does that fit in with the new album and a reoccurring theme for the band?
Ribeiro: On “Lickanthrope” I tried to twist the original spelling to put the lick in there because it's a very sexual song—in a way its like an adult version of little red riding hood. We started off with the whole werewolf imagery at the time of Wolfheart that the wolf was an animal that would symbolize what we were looking for a group – we felt like a pack. To have the heart of a wolf is to be able to resist many thunderstorms and hardships that together as a band good things will come our way.