Moonspell are a breath of Portuguese black magic blown through the horn of metal. The band’s brew of gothic gloom and black metal wrath has been entrancing fans since their inception in 1994, releasing a compendium of culturally-fueled nocturnes across nine studio albums (as of 2012’s Alpha Noir/Omega White).
From lycanthropic charms to dusk-colored tributes to nature and spirit, here are the top 10 songs by the Lisboan werewolves otherwise known as Moonspell.
10. ‘The Southern Deathstyle’ (The Antidote, 2003)
Concussive drumming kicks this song off with that tribal darkness so integral to who Moonspell are as a band. Vocals and bass slip from restrained verse to a chorus as ravenous in tone as in tongue, punctuating the song with gravel-throated growls and some pretty hypnotic double-bass well fit to the fireside-hex of a song.
9. ‘Sanguine’ (Memorial, 2006)
Slow and methodical bass with whispers over eerie keys give this song a moon-entranced atmosphere that gets under the skin. From its thunderous chorus to the brooding doom in its bridge, the guitar and synths work together particularly well in filling out the vampiric grandeur alluded to in the lyrics.
8. ‘Nocturna’ (Darkness and Hope, 2001)
‘Nocturna’ sees Moonspell hone their gothic melancholy affectingly, the song threaded with ghostly keys that lead into a tragedy-thick chorus near impossible to dislodge from your head once you’ve heard it. As much a true Moonspell song as a tribute to the gothic rock and doom metal acts who helped cultivate the band’s style. The Type O Negative nod, in particular, is hard to miss.
7. ‘Full Moon Madness’ (Irreligious, 1996)
One of Moonspell’s most iconic wolf-hearted tracks, with both guttural speech and rasps chanted over a rhythmic blend of percussion and melody. One of the best things about this song is the way the band lets the main riff breathe and swell, stretching its fittingly-mesmerizing flourish into something that the listener can lose themselves in easily.
6. ‘Antidote’ (The Antidote, 2003)
Moonspell build this song from delicately-woven lullaby to an emotional powerhouse. There is a bittersweet ache in the melodies driven out of the chorus’ guitar, a melancholy homecoming that hits deep without really needing to be understood. The lyrical refrain of ‘…all the thirsty can now approach’ is as haunting as it is joyful.
5. ‘Alma Mater’ (Wolfheart, 1995)
‘Alma Mater’ is a song about unbridled devotion, and that passion is emphasized well on its tide of surging guitar and sibilant cymbal-crashes. The lyrics are spat with a rich black metal venom that hasn’t been lost throughout the band’s long and winding (yet ever-consistent) career. The vocals at 2:05 and 2:25 especially are some of the most blistering in Moonspell’s entire discography.
4. ‘Everything Invaded’ (The Antidote, 2003)
The Antidote must be Moonspell’s best album, if this list is anything to judge by. There are just so many fantastic songs! ‘Everything Invaded’ is inexplicably heartbreaking. Something between the desperate sadness underpinning its chorus and the resolution in the lyrics drawled intimately across its verses hits home, and leaves the listener both thrilled and wounded. Hearing the lines “Everything is breaking… / I am a son of yours / and I am giving up” growled over the song’s cataclysmic melody hurts like watching something die (but in that good way that keeps us reading ‘Annabel Lee’ and watching Cloud Atlas).
3. ‘How We Became Fire’ (Darkness and Hope, 2001)
Really getting into the meat now. ‘How We Became Fire’ is gothic in the most romantic sense the band has ever appeared, with piano sprinkling a soulful intimacy under the lyrical hum of “Burning with you…” and some of the best guitar soloing in the band’s repertoire. As all the great gothic artists know how to do, Moonspell entwine love with death to make a song that goes for the heart and stays there.
2. ‘Incantatrix’ (Alpha Noir/Omega White, 2012)
Again channeling Type O Negative, Moonspell created one of their most transcendently beautiful and hopeful songs to date in the trudge and elegance of ‘Incantatrix’. The piano gives this song a brilliance that’s new for the band, yet the song still sounds like quintessential Moonspell: enrapt and otherworldly. The delicacy of the chorus’ “When you’re afraid / just call my name / I’ll keep you safe / until it’s day again” is chilling and painful and inspiring all at the same time.
1. ‘Earth of Mine’ (Night Eternal, 2008)
All the songs on this list are fantastic, but no song is a better representative of the entirety of who Moonspell are than ‘Earth of Mine’, a stirring ode to creation. The song fulfills its air of gratitude with a soaring tapestry of key-heavy melody and rampantly tribal percussion, met with a blend of clean and howled vocals that highlight just how thoughtful the band are in the way of arranging their songs.
‘Earth of Mine’ is a feat of emotion and perspective, a misty forest rewarding the venturesome with beauty. Just don’t listen to it unless you have the time to zone out, because you will most certainly melt into it.
And you’ll be all the better for it.