Home > Music > Moonspell – Wolfheart (1995)

Moonspell – Wolfheart (1995)

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If Moonspell started their life as a black metal band (and you could make a case for that; I don’t know why you’d want to), they were mostly done with that by the time their debut album Wolfheart came out. It’s hard to pin down exactly what Wolfheart is, although I’ve sometimes seen the streamlined black/doom/gothic mixtures labeled “dark metal”. While it sort of fits, that description belies Moonspell’s consonant, melodic, and even poppy tendencies on this album, things that they would quickly embrace a few albums down the line.

The best comparison I can make for Wolfheart, at least of what music I’ve listened to my lifetime, is to Therion around the same time. This album isn’t quite as odd and dark as Lepaca Kliffoth, and it has a bit more going on under the surface than Theli, but Moonspell’s evolution towards accessible, polished content mirrors that of their Swedish contemporaries. The instrumental formula isn’t that different, either – Moonspell also throws in some clean vocals and cheap keyboards to drive their songs and relies on basic rock/traditional metal progressions to substrate their songs. I’d say that, at least in this point in their career, Moonspell’s instrumental technique tends sparser and cleaner. To be fair, Moonspell’s evolution was hardly unique for the mid-1990s – a metric ton of formerly “extreme” but also doom-metal oriented bands were continuously polishing up their sound for mass consumption. Someone who’s more familiar with that side of metal might be coming in to drop names later today.

Ultimately, it’s very hard to gauge the quality and worth of this sort of music. It’s at least half modern rock by weight and probably even more, although my focus on extreme metal is presumably skewing my interpretation. That alone must’ve helped sell some copies, alongside the sheer novelty and trendiness of Moonspell’s sound. If I seem especially preoccupied with the aesthetic at the moment, it’s because the songs here are pretty basic. A few of them are extensive, but this is mostly due to a great deal of repetition. The strongest point of Wolfheart’s songs is that due to the instrumentation, they consistently sound dramatic and make the most of what dynamic, tempo, and texture changes they have. Once the novelty of its budget gothic wears off, though, it becomes a lot harder to return to Wolfheart, not just as a listener but also as a composer. Moonspell has admittedly looked back on occasion, hence the existence of Under Satanae, their rerecording of their first EP and an early demo, but for what it’s worth, they did that from the perspective of over a decade later.

Highlights: “Love Crimes”, “Trebaruna”, “Alma Mater”

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