A concept piece devoted to the year that saw Lisbon devastated by a colossal earthquake, 1755 makes its lofty ambitions known from the start. Opening overture Em Nome Do Medo brashly reaffirms the band’s symphonic credentials, as Moonspell vocalist Fernando Ribeiro howls at the moon from within a startling conflagration of choral bombast and shimmering melodrama. When guitars finally kick in on the title track, it’s instantly obvious that the Portuguese veterans have rediscovered the swagger and defiant eccentricity that made early albums like Wolfheart and Irreligious such potent and enduring benchmarks for extreme metal’s gothic wing. Not that there was anything much wrong with the band’s last album, 2015’s Extinct, but where that record revelled in subtle acts of subversion, 1755 consistently feels like a sparkling rebirth for the classic Moonspell sound: dark, romantic, unsettling and knowingly extravagant in both design and delivery. Songs like Desastre and Evento plainly owe their souls to the greats of 80s goth rock, but Moonspell have never abandoned their underground metal roots; for all its simplicity and catchiness, 1755 is uncompromisingly heavy, too. Sung entirely in Portuguese, the conceptual thread may take some unravelling for non-speakers, but something this band have always done well is to create a believable backdrop for their frontman’s flamboyant proclamations: here, riveting emotional substance is in plentiful supply. Several moments, not least jaw-dropping closer Lanterna Dos Afogados with its elegant orchestral flourishes, are almost absurdly moving. Always deserving of a bigger and broader audience than their cult status allows, Moonspell have dug deep and delivered their finest album in many full moons.
For fans of: Orphaned Land, Rotting Christ, Cradle Of Filth