Considering how Moonspell has always been more unique than most of their goth metal peers, it’s always pleasant to see when they aim for even more ambitious territory than their usual work. It’s especially true for 1755, their twelfth full-length album, which details a catastrophic earthquake that occurred in the band’s native Portugal that year and features lyrics delivered entirely in Portuguese. While this intriguing concept album avoids many of the traps associated with the format, it is still somewhat diminished by its execution.
Right off the bat, the biggest letdown on 1755 is the near absence of clean vocals. Sure the people like me who only speak American wouldn’t be able to understand the lyrics either way, but Fernando Ribeiro’s growls have always been rather monotonous and this is made even more apparent when his enjoyable deep croons are much less common. It’s especially questionable when you consider that the music is still pretty far removed from the band’s black metal roots.
There is also a prominent symphonic influence on here, resulting in a couple songs like the opening “Em Nome Do Medo” where strings and choral vocals are featured ahead of any metal guitar and drum work. Thankfully these elements are tastefully applied and even result in some exciting Kamelot-esque dynamics on the title track and “Evento.” One can also hear some cool Middle Eastern motifs through songs like “In Tremor Dei” or “Desastre,” a welcome idea that hasn’t been seen on a Moonspell album in at least fifteen years.
It feels petty to dock an album for its vocal performance, especially when the actual compositions are solid and the theme is cool, but a more balanced delivery would’ve gone a long way in making 1755 more effective. It’s still a decent album that will appeal to fans of Moonspell’s harsher side, but I feel that albums like Wolfheart and The Antidote were better at displaying the band’s more ambitious tendencies. The Swedish version of Sabaton’s Carolus Rex is still the leading go-to in the oddly specific genre of European metal bands detailing history in their native tongue.
1755 is now available from Napalm Records .