Under the Moonspell notebook #3
Summer set itself in all its grace and power in the land of Portugal but we take this three-week break from festivals to think about and organize the year. There is now a lot of expectation to run and it’s not an easy task to please all appetites.
Do not pity us. The summer work of Moonspell is always pleasurable and sometimes we give in to some hours on the beach, or in my case, the balcony for fresh air, cold beer and friends. The prospect of a carefree summer is just another of our utopias and we know that being busy in the summer is actually a good thing. With its share of suffering, of course, couldn’t be otherwise.
To sit down and write a few words is a more welcoming thought than an immediate action but I guess that’s children growing, asking for your full attention and nothing can really beat that smiley appeal of your own seed. Not even closing the deal to a festival, or arrange a forthcoming tour.
Next week, we start to rehearse for Sombra/Shadow/Umbra show that we are specially recreating for Wacken. This has, so far, proven to be quite a Herculean job, as 16 people will be travelling from Portugal. Plus we will be using also local crew. In a few days, under the oppressing heat (AC is something studios mainly put away because it does interfere with the sound) Moonspell, Opus Diabolicum (the 4 cello/percussion combo which play with us on stage) and our singers Crystal Mountain Singers, we will be sweaty but happy, as this show is very special for all of us and hopefully the fans who will watch it. We have played a full tour of Sombra, in Portugal, and it was very successful. Wacken was looking to spice up their tremendous bill with some of these moments, so we got on the bill, because they liked what they heard and even if there is, momentarily, some anguished expectation if this show will go well in the World’s biggest METAL fest, the vibe is positive and, in the end, people will be surprised and, hopefully, enchanted as it happened in all the dates in our country.
Even when time is short, there are a few things I never stop doing, even if sometimes they steal away into the night, depriving me of a much valued and needed sleep. One thing I do is always at night, to light up one, and browse the I tunes and label sites or Amazon in search of news and music that will keep me up to date with the scene and, first and foremost, to provide me with feelings I need to balance my inner chaos. New Katatonia, new Dead can Dance are preordered. I count the days, of course. Unable to go to a shop these days, I tunes has been my solace. Even if it is a bit of a desolated feeling to watch the files downloading and to synch the devices, it’s kind of cold, I guess; to get music as fast and to be able to start listening to it, is a modest but welcoming reward. I went on a rampage, for several reasons, and among my acquisitions are Ghost, the new Paradise lost, the new Soulsavers, Judas Priest live (which I have on vinyl but felt like listening to in the car) some scattered material from several artists and a record I have been listening over and over and that I highlight for the reasons to follow.
While I am still waiting to get into Ghost or the new Paradise Lost, I was immensely absorbed by The Cult’s new album, Choice of Weapon. Last year I watched a great live show of The Cult at Sweden Rock and almost ten years ago I was one (of the few it seems) to heavily enjoy Beyond Good and Evil, a fantastic record that hit the wall of indifference of the spirit of our time. Since then until today, besides the live show, I had very little contact with what they are doing, until I read a superb interview with Ian Astbury on a Portuguese Music magazine called Blitz. The next minute I was buying the record.
The Cult was a gigantic Rock band through the eighties and some of the nineties. They have a signature, a killer songwriting and they also had an image which pointed to a certain earthly mysticism, Astbury somewhere between a rockstar and a Native-American Shaman, all in a guy from the UK who was hand picked to fill in for Jim Morrison ghost in the Riders in the Storm, “reunion tour”. I have learnt that they have always been active, playing Love on its entirety in a few selected dates, but that’s not the kind of perspective I want to get into here.
What I want to say is that the last steps of The Cult are not only worth gold but that they present a direction that most would not guess. I do not mean the musical progress as when you listen to Choice of Weapon, you will find a pure Cult album, filled with great songs, rocking atmospheres, some novelty here and there but all in all a solid release which should not go unnoticed, and it wouldn’t if we here living a golden age of discovery and enchantment, instead of an enslaving opinion era.
I read Astbury’s words and they were pure philosophy, evocating his own life experience and travelling, with books he read and theories he embraced. The titles and some of the lyrics of this new one go as far as being Crowleyian quotes from several of his books and there is an impeding and enjoyable sense that we are in front of a great work which mixes The Cult’s very own brand of Rock with a deep soul-searching literary part which for me it’s essential and a breath of really fresh air in a Rock’n’roll scene that died at the hands of agendas, normalization, airplay and crowd indifference.
Data vénia, that is, with due distance as Moonspell never reached those heights The Cult did, to listen to this album and to wonder so much, lead me to a question I pose many times regarding my own band. Is experience, personality, a certain wisdom acquired with age a good substitute for lack of momentum? Can a band, old in age, still appeal to a growing crowd going the intelligent, artistic way or all is doomed when the audience sees you as “cult band” (pun intended), devoid of novelty’s power?
When we did Wolfheart and Irreligious we had a virgin forest to explore in front of us. We did think we sucked badly and we were a very frustrated band because we struggled with many inside problems and we lacked ground to understand what was going on. We came from studio unhappy and angry, spent countless hours in vans, sold thousands in Germany but came back to sleep with my brother in our room, in my parent’s house. When we thought we could actually do it and self-esteem arose in us, our momentum was gone and since Sin, where the waters separated, it has been a fight to impose our songs, a battle directly proportional to the easiness of when we were a new band, and people were seeking for us instead of being the other way around.
I identify with this album from The Cult as I might not be alone on this dilemma, which is, I know, not to be solved while we still on the scene, stubbornly fighting for our territory and for our ideas and thoughts to gain expression through our music. Do people really care about what we have to say, about our more mature and sometimes more powerful way of delivering our songs; or were we just a band that belonged to a certain time and context and became a band that the general audience perceives as boring and impositive, whining about weird philosophies and mankind’s doom, instead of delivering them the entertainment they paid for?
I do not know the answer but I can still talk about the question as much as I can, I believe. After touring with band such as Turisas or playing after Alestorm on the metalfests I find it impossible for Moonspell to provide such crowd enthusiasm. We are short of fun and pagan or pirate evocations, we have mainly darkness, philosophy, statements of aging once young wolves. But then, I see the enthusiasm for a new Katatonia album or where Opeth brought their fans through the ways of death metal until a progressive dark and fiery rainbow, and I am confused.
I have been restless with this thought, but to listen to new albums as this one from The Cult kept me in company, like if animated by an older general who is giving the example to just a foot soldier in an European Metal scene, once a player, now a resistant. It might seem that a midlife crisis speech, but music still gets its own way through the cracks and the holes and fills you with courage and you then you start pointing down stuff, opening new books, listening to new stuff and for a while you forget about momentum, pertinence, crowd appeal and you just want to tame a fire that still burns.
We chose our weapon and maybe our destiny.
The Cult- Choice of Weapon
Favourite tracks: The Wolf, Elemental Light, Life Death
Essential quotes: “You can’t destroy them, the beauty and the youth, you’ll never beat them, you’ll never hide the truth.”
If you are in the mood for some recommendations here we go:
Music: Choice of Weapon (The Cult); Amnesia (Dead Can Dance, advance track); Metallica Rockabye Baby redemptions (my son loves it)
Books: Histórias de um Portugal Assombrado (Vanessa Fidalgo, a great interesting book about Portugal most haunted places)
Fargo Rock City (Chuck Klosterman, the book I mentioned on the other entry)