The new limited edition of Moonspell's "Alpha Noir / Omega White" output represents the two faces of the band, their two pounding hearts, Portugal's best metal band's yin and yang.
Alpha Noir is a dark and pretty heavy record that should please to those who liked the early years of the band with releases such as Anno Satanae, Under The Moonspell and Wolfheart. Fernando Ribeiro only employs growls, shouts and raw dark chants on this first disc. The music hits the same nerve and features some quite fast thrash riffs but also more melodic parts.
The opener "Axis Mundi" varies from harmonic dark chants over slightly blackened growls and musically from thrash riffs in the first minutes to very melodic and inoffensive parts in the beautiful bridge. The opening moments even make me think of Judas Priest's epic "Loch Ness". This song offers maybe the highest degree of diversity on both records and is an excellent song but simply doesn't fit as an opener. It's rather hard to digest and should have resumed the album as a closing track but not as a first strike. The first single "Lickanthrope" is much more simple and maybe too simple after the opener and can't truly convinvce me.
After this controversial first impression, the best tracks can be found later on that disc. The first highlight after a mellow start is the portuguese "En Nome Do Medo". It has a dominating bass line, a very apocalyptic atmosphere and is easily the most intense track on this first record. It's still a quite catchy song even though it's one of the hardest tracks the band has released in years. The guitar solo is very emotional, the bridge quite dark but with catchy riffs and loads of keyboard sounds reminding me a little bit of Crematory.
Another highlight is the quite progressive "Grandstand", a slow to mid paced track that creates a haunting atmosphere and works once again a lot with dark bass guitar tones, melodic doom passages, an excellent heavy metal guitar solo, an amazing middle part with acoustic guitars and Ribeiro's emotional screams. The track sounds like a slowed down version of Dimmu Borgir plus some melancholic elements that could come from Novembers Doom, Paradise Lost or The Old Dead Tree which are three very good references.
In the end, this first part is amongst the hardest material the band has released since their first regular studio output "Wolfheart" and should definitely please to fans of the old days. Some tracks build up a haunting atmosphere and convince with almost progressive ideas but there are also a couple of fillers on this release. Some tracks might eventually grow and request a lot of attention such as "Versus" with its excellent and disturbing guitar work reminding me of Voivod. On the other side, the harder stuff such as the first single "Lickanthrope" or the title track "Alpha Noir" can only partially convince and lack of something truly gripping or original that might make them stand out.
Omega White is the opposite of Alpha Noir. It is a very appeasing record with loads of piano melodies, acoustic guitar passages and only clean vocals. This record might please to gothics and those modern fans that rather liked the calmer stuff of the band and not their black metal roots or their progressive era. On the other side, this record has the same problem as the first disc. The opener "Whiteomega" is surely diversified and contains loads of interesting ideas but it can't fully convince as an opener. It's still easier to approach as "Axis Mundi" and fits to the upcoming tracks on this second half of Moonspell's new release. The single "White Skies", as "Lickanthrope" on the other disc, is one of the weaker songs on this disc and would rather fit on a record by The 69 Eyes. In comparison to the first disc, this album is almost too soft at some points and undeniably commercially orientated. "Fireseason" is something I might expect from bands such as HIM but not from Moonspell. Commercially orientated gothics might aodre this song but fans of old Moonspell might easily feel disappointed. I must though admit that this track has a lot of single potential and should have been chosen to represent this album instead of "White Skies" while "En Nome Do Medo" should have taken the place of "Lickanthrope" on the first disc.
The first highlihts of the record also come in the middle of the record. "Herodisiac" employs some strings that make me think of Apocalyptica and the track develops a very melancholic atmosphere. The support of female background vocals and haunting piano melodies underlines this attempt. This is a truly beautiful gothic ballad. It reminds me once again of The 69 Eyes but it has a lot more magic and variation than "White Skies". The next track "Incantatrix" simply employs loads of beautiful melodies and has a big commercial potential. The track has a peaceful atmosphere with beautiful piano melodies, soft guitar harmonies, appeasing drum patterns and very relaxed vocals. It's a track to wake up to in the morning or to calmly make love to. It has a very positive vibe and a light side even though it contains some gothic trademarks. This track is definitely a highlight on this second disc and I was convinced this would be the best song on both records until I heard the final track after another solid one called "Sacrificial". The album closer "A Greater Darkness" simply is a perfect way to conclude this record. It simply resumes everything this second disc stands for. It's a calm hommage to a fallen friend with almost jazzy moments featuring soft bass guitars, calm piano melodies, some string passages and haunting vocals. It's hard to deide whether "Incantatrix" or "A Greater Darkness" is better as they are both sending shivers down my spine but I would maybe go for the closing track after a first couple of tries. I have no doubt that many tracks on this second disc will even grow on me in the near future.
Concerning the second disc, it sounds more coherent than the first one. It contains maybe one or two more or less convincing tracks in the beginning but the rest of the record has a very appeasing, calm and almost spiritual flow. It's the band's most introspective work and contains many magic moments with piano melodies, string passages and soft female background vocals. This album has not much to do with metal music and sounds like a calmer and more progressive hommage to bands such as Paradise Lost, Type 0 Negative or The 69 Eyes.
In the end, both disc have more ups than downs and are worth to be shared with the rest of the world. The first one would get a rating around eighty percent from me while the second disc is more atmospheric, coherent and profound and would come to a rating between ninety and even ninety-five percent. Both discs remind me of the music of the late eighties and early nineties. The first disc employs thrash and black metal elements from that time while the second one focusses on the growing gothic mouvement and also some electronic and pop elements from that time. Both records have a nostalgic feeling without sounding too old fashioned. The band still knows how to write catchy tracks with magic moments, especially on the second disc. As both records contrast very well and represent everything one can like about Moonspell, I might pardon for a couple of fillers and too nostalgic moments, add two or three points and come to a fair rating of ninety percent. This album is full of potential, has many details that may grow on me and is without a doubt a highlight in the band's discography.
I somehow regret that the band didn't release both albums in a separate way as only truly faithful and open-minded will adore both discs. The metal community might rather stick to "Alpha Noir" while the gothic fan base will prefer "Omega White". I really give you the advice to check out both sides of the band. This release is some sort of best of what Moonspell has always stand for since their early years.