About Me

Interview with Moonspell

Like a fine Vintage Port, Moonspell’s sound has constantly been evolving and maturing since their foundation as Morbid God. 
After three long decades, Fernando Ribeiro and the wolfpack decided to unveil the early years demos of Anno Satanae and Under the Moonspell combining a more modern touch with the oriental atmosphere. An extravaganza production by Jaime Gomez Arrelano and Tue Madsen, which are indeed worthy of collector’s edition, especially the ultimate boxset that contains the whole black metal band’s demos and LPs, as well as much more hidden gems.
The lead singer of the Portuguese band, Fernando Ribeiro, lent his voice to Metal Imperium, to share these news of the outcome of remastering the early years; the secret of being a successful musician, manager and prolific writer; the influences that shaped Moonspell’s sound and music charisma into one of the worldwide Portuguese bands, and more.
The majestic horns of Baphomet have arisen in the perfect time, where the band’s music and sound exceled in terms of maturity throughout their career, but still imperative to satisfy the old school fans and the new ones with these remasters if Moonspell continued to pursue the black metal path.

M.I. - How has the Soombra tour been going on? Once again, you never cease to surprise!

It's been going on very well. We find ourselves in a kind of time capsule with Moonspell and between various past times of our existence, since the release of Early Days, the Soombra tour. We are experiencing almost a paranormal activity, as we thought 2024 would be a much slow-paced year, although we made the decision to play live outside much more.
However, we started this project with 10 dates, which eventually turned out 12, and we ended up renewing the concept a little from the setting to the guests. When I embrace a new project, things start to fall into place, and I like to see it evolving. Soombra's reception has been very good. There is a very mixed audience among the public and Moonspell fans, who usually follow us everywhere, regardless the musical plan, but we also see many people connected to the world of theater. This is a tour aimed at people connected to theaters and they prefer this more intimate, somewhat naked recording, but which still has another dimension.
We had already two sold out concerts in Coimbra, which was a really big surprise, because the concert hall/ auditorium is relatively large, just like in Guarda. In Beja, we had fewer people, but it was a very good night. Alentejo is crisis and we have this perception when we travel there, it seems that after Alcácer we have an almost forgotten or abandoned Portugal. However, we did our mission, which was to entertain them, and it went very well. The next one will be in Leiria.

M.I. -The Northern Portuguese capital is missing: Porto!

Porto is always missing! It wasn't intentional. We love playing in Porto. The last time we performed there was for the 30th anniversary of Moonspell at the Coliseu, we were also in Vila Nova de Gaia, at the Bang! Festival.
We are saving Porto and Lisbon for later, because there will be an edition, probably in 2026, of the tour Soombra, on CD, DVD, Streaming and LP. There will also be an edition of Meo Arena and we are now planning the timing, since we have a lot of things happening at the same time. Undoubtedly, we intend to take the Soombra show to Porto as well as the Orchestra show. We have to plan carefully. I would love to always play in Porto, but we have to have some strategy, and Porto has to wait a little bit for Moonspell, but it won't be a long wait.

M.I. - A Musician, writer and CEO of Alma Mater Records. What is the secret ingredient for success?

Being involved in everything. The word success is a dangerous word for me. I see myself more as a fighter rather a successful man.
There are always comparisons between Moonspell and other bands and other artists, but I think this is incorrect, because each person has their own personality, their mission in the world and this hyperactivity grows merely because I’m not just a musician. If I knew how to play the guitar, the drums, I probably wouldn't write books or have labels.
I'm a singer, by chance. I wasn't born with a singing talent, I adapted to the circumstances and, I hope, I got better. However, I never felt like Ricardo Amorim on guitar or Hugo Ribeiro on drums. When I have a bit of free time, there are things that kind of speak to me. When someone stands in front of a music instrument, there are things that speak out to that person. What speaks to me is literature and a bit of management, strategy and the editorial part.
Literature is a hobby, I do it whenever I feel like it, to express myself because I enjoy writing. I have now started writing novels, which is a big challenge for me, and the label was born in 2016, with the goal of cleaning up the house, planning Moonspell's tours, mainly in Portugal, using the old repertoire. Pedro Vindeirinho, from Rastilho, and I started by partnering with Moonspell merchandise, creating a store. We enjoyed the experience and I decided to open a company, called Alma Mater Books & Records. The literature part is a bit aside at the moment. Firs, I want to take care of the distribution, advertising and marketing of Moonspell in Portugal. Not because other people didn't know how to do it, but I believe we do it better. We know our band, our timings, we don't have to wait for other artists. We left Sony Music and Universal, with Memorial and Night Eternal. 1755 was with Alma Mater Records, powered by Rastilho, to reach fans and stores. The other part of the label, in addition to managing Moonspell's catalogue, to win the rights to records from the band's most distant era, we also wanted to do some licensing of other bands that influenced us in our records.
For me, more on the metal side, like Clouds, from Tiamat; True North, by Borknagar; the Paradise Lost demos that were obviously influential for Moonspell's early times. In Pedro's case, it’s more the hardcore and punk side. Things went well and I decided to increase the challenge by signing in new bands. We started with Desire, although we didn't agree on terms on the new album; Okkultist; Ironsword; Dawnrider; Inhuman. Bands, in which we want to invest, lend our experience and our contacts. Some went better than others, but the balance is highly positive, as we want to launch more Portuguese bands on the radar. For now, Portugal, Brazil, especially with The Troops of Doom, a band that I really like and is an absolute priority for this year with a fantastic album, A Mass to the Grotesque.
We also decided to expand our range to a Portuguese-Brazilian collaboration, as I am a big fan of Brazilian heavy metal. Mainly extreme death metal from the late 80s, from Sarcófago, Sepultura, The Mist, Holocausto, Chakal. I see, except two or three bands, not to mention Sepultura, Krisiun or Angra, that there is little knowledge of the Brazilian scene in Europe. The Brazilians also find it quite difficult to penetrate here. We are carrying out our work that is hard, expensive in terms of time and money, but we keep faithful in these bands and in our goal, as the lead singer of Moonspell, is also to provide something back to the Portuguese-Brazilian scene.
Our next step will be also to try to edit some metal bands from Africa. There's a lot of death metal out there and a lot of extreme music that people don't know about and, as Moonspell were discovered, in a westernmost peripheral country like Portugal, I think it's time to discover those hidden gems that aren't just in England, Scandinavia or Germany. I'm talking about Neblina, from Angola, as well as other bands that we will try to earn the right contacts to introduce them on the European and world scene, due to our geographical and cultural proximity to Africa. In addition to the African beats, Africans find themselves that they are poorly represented, because they love rock and heavy metal and also have something to say.

M.I. - Moonspell are known for their innovation and hard work on every album. How was the process of remastering Under the Moonspell: The Early Days (2024) like?

Although things were already on track, we were always a bit more unhappy with Moonspell's primordial past.
There were no studios back in Portugal for extreme metal. There was only Rec’n Roll in Porto, and for us it was difficult to travel to Porto to record. There was also Heaven Sound, in Almada, which recorded Thormentor, but recording an extreme black metal band with ideas like ours, Portugal was a huge desert back then. Basically, black metal was non-existent, with the exception of one or another band and it was something quite underground. At the same time, everyone was worried about being the next Portuguese Sepultura or Metallica and, with all due respect, we didn't want to purse that route. Nevertheless, we made the recordings as we could, and we were never satisfied with the sound and the respect the producers didn't give us.
Things went well, but there was a sense of injustice. In 2007, somehow, we did claim some justice to that material and re-recorded everything on the album that came to be called Under Satanae. Later, after an incredible show at the Coliseu with Root in Lisbon, we never had more opportunities to do something with it. There were Moonspell pirates going, underground labels editing our material without any permission and, from then on, we started to take control of things. We started working on a collection of Early Days, Under Satanae and 30 years of Under the Moonspell.

M.I. - 30 years have gone by since the band was founded. What is the main reason for releasing these pivotal albums now?

Personally, it was a very interesting ongoing process, as I had to dig the Moonspell’s vault. I haven’t forgot that we are in 2024 and I had a remaster made, because people's ears have changed a lot and, if Under Satanae was well recorded with the and quality of Tue Madsen, it was to my great surprise that was Anno Satanae and Under the Moonspell remastered by Jaime Gomez Arrelano, who has already worked with Paradise Lost and even with Moonspell on the last album. When I was in Colombia, Arrelano was already a big fan of Moonspell, especially at the early times. When I heard it, I couldn't believe how he managed to transform such a raw sound with background noise, and he did an incredible job.
With the material we gave him, we didn't have the original tapes and we managed to bring this to fruition. Then, we created a collection with a box, which will certainly sell out, dedicated to collectors. I have several collector’s edition boxes from Root, Celtic Frost, Darkthrone and Rotting Christ. It is something that I treasure, and it is an asset in which we should invest. We also wanted to release it digitally and meet, in a certain way, the expectations of the older school fans, but also of those people who hadn't been born yet. It was an amazing process, unveiling our past, because this way of editing with quality, with arrangements and extras, was everything we dreamed of at the time, when we were in the underground scene. It took 30 years, but now we have an edition that we are proud of and that, above all, lives up to our primordial times as a band.

M.I. - Can we say, in a way, it’s a tribute to Morbid God?

I never thought about any tributes or homages to Moonspell. I was very busy living Moonspell, because it's a project that requires an everyday work.
Every now and then, I don't have this romantic vision of analyzing what I've done and what I could do. When we celebrated 30 years as a band, I finally realized that we have a legacy. Whether you like it or not, it’s the legacy of a band, fans, a story that has already happened and that has a lot of juice to squeeze out. It's a story about a Portuguese band, highly unlikely to happen and the best moments of this story are, without questioning, our releases and our songs.
So, Morbid God – pre-Moonspell – was a project that wasn’t going anywhere, if we hadn't changed the name to Moonspell. However, it was the great embryo, where it all started at the age of 13 and 14 years old. We made logos, we drew sketches in classes, and we just thought why there wasn't a band in Portugal like those bands that we received the cassettes of Scandinavian bands, such as Nihilist, Morbid, Mayhem, Burzum, etc.
Within our limitations, we tried to create this band. The rest of the story, we were no longer able to control, and things continued to happen. There are 2 tracks, which we picked up, one of them is Serpent Angel (it appeared on the Portuguese compilation The Birth of a Tragedy, in which we currently still have few active bands, such as Sacred Sin and Thormentor).
Tribute or homage, yes. This whole release has this message or this feeling, because the 90s were the most important years for heavy metal, in particular for extreme and underground music. It was in this decade that the great bands of today, the great albums, the fusions between metal, gothic and progressive emerged, becoming a pivotal time and one that continues to hold its own even in 2024.

M.I. - The blend between Lusitanian Black Metal and Eastern sounds is, without a question, fascinating. What is the reason for incorporating an oriental instrumentality in these albums?

A few influences, like Celtic Frost (To Mega Therion and Into the Pandemonium), Bathory themselves also carved our path a little bit and we also wanted to stand out differently.
Back then, black metal was ruled by Norway and Scandinavia. However, these people had a terrible behavior towards other musicians. They wanted to be the real deal, Moonspell got tired of receiving death threats, with swastikas, calling us negroes, all because we made Lusitanian and Southern black metal. Something more inspired by bands like Rotting Christ, from Greece or Root, from the Czech Republic. Something more melodic with other influences, to make a difference, and the Norwegians didn't enjoy that at all. The first time we went to play in Norway, in 1995, it was a bit dangerous for Moonspell. There was a very racist, political and fascist environment. In fact, a large part of Moonspell's divorce from black metal comes from this reaction that I never accepted and never admired of burning churches. I never admired their far-right speech, which, unfortunately, still goes on in black metal. I love black metal and I keep listening to more recent bands, like Gaerea, Wolves in the Throne Room, Craft and so on, but don't count on me for whitewashing what black metal sometimes represents. I've seen black metal spaces where they even raised the Nazi flag and I think this should be completely eradicated from music, especially heavy metal, which is a musical style of brotherhood and not so much hate.
We did black metal for a long time. Eventually, it went down a bit with Irreligious. We went to Germany and started to contact with other musical styles. It's not a commercial decision, we just started listening to other things, such as The Sisters of Mercy, Type O Negative, Fields of the Nephilim, Tiamat and we wanted to fit this into our music and these bands too, together with Samael, a great inspiration for us with one of the best black metal albums, Blood Ritual, without having to burn down half the country. It was this style that we fit into and that, even today, I listen to. Despite following black metal, I rarely go to concerts, and, in my opinion, it’s a genre that I think has gone beyond music in a very derogative way.

M.I. - You mentioned previously that Bathory are a beacon that guides Moonspell. Is the song Ancient Winter Goddess an inspiration taken from Quorthon's first albums?

With the exception of Venom, all current black metal comes from Bathory. Darkthrone, Moonspell, Burzum, Immortal, Rotting Christ, among others.
Without knowing it, Quorthon invented several genres within metal. That raw voice, faster guitars, Bathory-style riffs and those triplets. I think it was the most important band for black metal and I had the chance to meet Quorthon back in 1990, and taking the words from your previous question, he had nothing to do with what black metal would later become. 
I think we all owe a great debt to the Bathory. The bands at the time, including Moonspell, tried to copy influences. Since we didn't know how to do it, that was, in a way, original. I remember that this song has a voice from Root, an extremely important band for Moonspell, along with Samael until Ceremony of Opposites.
Bathory are unavoidable in black metal, excluding Venom who are a very unique and contemporary band, everything else comes from Bathory's roots. After releasing the best black metal albums ever, they launched into Viking metal with Hammerheart, which is great and worthy of a Viking metal work. The following year, he made Twilight of the Gods, which is a type of progressive and philosophical metal. For me, Bathory is always my lighthouse. Without Bathory, there would be no black metal and without the knowledge of Quorthon, there wouldn’t have been Moonspell.

M.I. - How come these albums differ from Daemonarch?

I only tend to think about Daemonarch when people actually ask about the project.
We reissued it because it was an album that had never been released on vinyl, but Daemonarch already has an era in which it was played better. It ends up being a future projection of a past that we are unable to make. Daemonarch has a lot to do with Under Satanae, in the recordings. It was one of the names that we put on the table when we changed the name from Morbid God to Moonspell and it ended up becoming my project and other Moonspell’s musicians, inside and outside. It always had that Bathory vibe and, although nowadays we have access to all information, one of our great fascinations was that we knew little about Quorthon. He's always had a mysterious side and we always wanted to do that with Daemonarch.
Daemonarch is the music we wish we had made in the 90s but didn't have the skills to do so. If Hermeticum had come out in the early 90s, it would have been a real bomb. In comparison, I think Daemonarch is much more sophisticated, while Anno Satanae and Under the Moonspell are much rawer. It was due to the atmosphere we gave to the songs that Moonspell managed to stand out and resulted in things being poorly played, but in the end, it came out well and better than our expectations. Sometimes it turned out worse than we expected, but things eventually crystalized at Wolfheart.

M.I. - Anno Satanae (1993/ 2024) and Under The Moonspell (1994/ 2024) were reissued by Jaime Gomez Arrelano, while Under Satanae (2007/ 2024) by Tue Madsen. Any particular reason?

We live in 2024. We listen to music in the car, on headphones, on YouTube. Unfortunately, we have to cater to this way of making music.
The original sound from the 90s, especially Under the Moonspell and Anno Satanae, is practically inaudible. Nowadays, if you listen to an Anno Satanae cassette, you'll end up giving up listening, because we've gone through the digital era, CD and back to vinyl. Under Satanae, in 2007, was originally recorded at Antfarm Studios with Tue Madsen. He took over the remaster and the other remasters of Under the Moonspell, which I also wanted to own, and which have been released in several editions by Adipocere, were remastered by Jaime Gomez Arrelano. As I mentioned, he was a big fan of black metal, and it was with this material that he started contacting with Moonspell. He embraced this challenge of bringing this underground and old school metal from Moonspell to life with this edition.

M.I. -  What have you been listening to nowadays, for our readers and fans to follow?

Within heavy metal, I have been listening to things that I will advise, but due to my privilege I had the chance to listen to them before they are released out.
Gaerea's new album, which is probably their masterpiece. I think that within that Gaerea style, I wonder what else they will do within this style. They took a very significant step forward of creativity and were very hungry to make some music. Without a question, they will be the ones who will now carry the Portuguese torch of metal, as we did for so many years.
I've already heard The Troops of Doom's new album, A Mass to the Grotesque. I've been saying that it's the best death metal album of 2024, not because I've heard all the albums of the year, but because this one has the ingredients that, for me, are fantastic and I'm very proud to edit it. It also features Jairo Tormentor (ex-Sepultura) and it's amazing.
I will also release another band, Sigilo, a Portuguese black metal band and it will be our first band of this genre, on Alma Mater Records. It's all still under the seal of the gods, but I've heard their stuff and it's surprisingly amazing. It's almost as if Moonspell continued to make southern and Portuguese black metal.
I've also been listening to the new album by Oceans of Slumber, an American band. It will feature my participation and I've been listening to Slayer's entire discography, from Show No Mercy, Hell Awaits, Diabolus in Musica. I've been discovering extreme music a bit, not because they recently returned as a band, but it's always been a band that I've always listened to and was very curious about. I'm not as much of a fan of Slayer as I am of Bathory or Celtic Frost.
I've been listening to the re-recording of Paradise Lost's Icon. It's a very well done recording, without detracting from the brilliant original album. Additionally, I've been listening to a lot of opera, mainly by Ruggero Leoncavallo, among other things.

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Questions by André Neves