In 1999, Portugal’s Moonspell hit the world with its fourth studio album, The Butterfly Effect. The record marked a transitional period for the band, whose 1995 debut, Wolfheart, seemed more tethered in the realm of black and folk metal. By the time the band’s much maligned third album, Sin / Pecado was released in 1998, the Moonspell sound had morphed into something more gothic and atmospheric. The Butterfly Effect tapped into some of those earlier blackened nuances, but the band continued evolving its sound to include more darkwave and doom, and saw the emergence of industrial metal elements. At the time, it was certainly the band’s most experimental offing, and now Moonspell has just re-issued The Butterfly Effect two decades later with some new tracks and remixes.
Moonspell is closing out its third decade as a band, having released 11 full-length studio albums and numerous splits over 30 years. They are also currently working on their 12th album, which will be released sometime in 2021. Vocalist Fernando Ribeiro, guitarist Ricardo Amorim and keyboardist/guitarist Pedro Paixão remain the band’s central core, For The Butterfly Effect bassist Sérgio Crestana and drummer served as the band’s rhythm section, a position held down these days by bassist Aires Periera who joined in 2004, and new drummer Hugo Ribeiro. Recently, Metal Nation caught up with Fernando to chat about the album’s re-issue, and all things Moonspell.
You have re released The Butterfly Effect, how has that process been?
“This is the start of a bigger plan. Four or five years ago, a partner and I created a record label called Alma Mater Records & Books. We decided to do this first and foremost to take care of Moonspell in Portugal. We also wanted to take care of the old repertoire of Moonspell called back catalog, and one of the services we wanted to have is Moonspell available throughout the world, and every record, everything we have put together, will be available to them. So we reached out to our former label, and every record was sold out. We saw an opportunity not only to bring the records back onto the fans radar but also for the newer fans of Moonspell to have them in their collections. We started off with Wolfheart to celebrate the anniversary and that went really well, cause now people buy records. Since we saw the success, we decided to re-release The Butterfly Effect which was an album from 1999, a follow up to Sin. Next year, we will release Darkness and Hope and The Antidote. I think everyone is happy. For me it is a pleasure to have these collectibles, because I am a record collector myself. With The Butterfly Effect in particular, it was a shot in the dark redesign from the original cover. I think the original cover was a bit too artsy, it didn’t expose or reveal the strength of that industrial electro crazy metal that is contained in the album and I think people really loved it. When you do a re release, I think you really have to improve it. This is why it is remastered and has extra songs and a different performance. We are quite happy and in these times of crisis it is also good for fans to know that there is still music. We are looking forward to playing some The Butterfly Effect songs live, which is what everyone has been asking me, and I say, ‘yeah, when we can play live again, *laughs* we will play one or two of them.’ I think it is a win win situation. These are limited editions that give a bit of a nostalgia market, which I am a big fan of.”
With your albums, there seems to be themes you stick to. Is this something that you planned, or happened by accident and you decided to roll with it?
“I think it is kind of random, the feeling in the moment. I remember with The Butterfly Effect I was reading a lot of science and I came across the notion of the butterfly effect. I had heard about it but didn’t know exactly what it was. I researched some more of the basic principle which is the butterfly flaps its wings in China and this can create a tsunami on the other end of the world. Of course, this is a metaphor for science. It is how they explain randomness and they use it to study ecosystems, behavior of plants, and anything else, but socially, it is a metaphor for life. Like nowadays with Covid-19, that originated by such a small gesture of eating an infected animal in China and now everything is stopped, it is kind of a butterfly effect. I just try to read a lot of philosophy and history, etc. I think the theme will come up by itself, it always has. Then when we have the theme, it is easier for us to write around it. It is like a script in a movie, the feeling of it, the butterfly effect cannot be the same kind of music as chasing dragons through the middle earth. It has to be a little bit of a different soundtrack. The Butterfly Effect came into existence when European metal was more meat and potatoes style with heavy guitars, double bass drum, high pitched vocals, The Butterfly Effect was just the ugly duckling in the middle of it all. *laughs* But, like in the story, the album ended up being, maybe not a beautiful swan, but something cool for fans.”
Moonspell goes through different evolutions.
“Yeah, I get asked, ‘why have we changed so much?’ We were never completely happy with what we did. I remember the first mini-album we recorded in ’94, we were amazed we had come up with it, then after a couple of months of hearing it, we thought that was not really what we were trying to do. It has stuff that we didn’t really like back then, so we did Wolfheart, which was a much more together album and it became legendary for the European metal scene. Then with a couple of years of touring on it, we thought, nah, we need to move on and so forth and so forth. I think that is the dynamic of the band, not completely satisfied with what we did, even though it seems like a big deal when we get out of the studio. We always find something that we could have done better or further, so I think that is what keeps us doing so many records. Now days we are re releasing stuff, but our new album is way into progress.”
You have mentioned previously that the new studio album will be very personal for you, is that still the idea?
“It is a bit too early because we are still working on the songs, and sometimes I will say something in the past and it turns into something different. An album is finished when we start playing it live, I think. Even though it changes sometimes with arrangements to fit with the other songs of the setlist. I see a personal red line with the themes that have started with Wolfheart especially after Night Eternal. I started thinking about the end and the beginning, which is the great philosophical question and I can write a thousand albums about that and nothing else. I think Night Eternal was a very apocalyptic album that came out in 2009, then we had Alpha Noir which was about starting again, then we had Extinct which was about things coming to an end permanently not only the animals that get unfortunately extinct, but also our friends, favorite musicians. 1755 was written in our native language Portuguese, it was an album about the earthquake in Lisbon. This new album will not be about Portugal stuff, it is going to be about stuff that everyone can relate to. It will be in English as well, and it will be recorded with UK producer Hyman Morelesiano, who did the last Paradise Lost album as well as the first Ghost album. All the great bands. We are going to the UK in October. It will be a much more mature album when it comes to lyric writing and song writing, not that the others were childish, well maybe some of it is childish in retrospect like Vampiria but it still has its charm. Right now, it is trying to catch the spirit of time so I think its going to be very personal confessional album and I hope the fans can relate to it.”
You do have many lyrics containing Philosophy and History.
“I am a very curious person. I studied philosophy in university. Philosophy was the mother of all sciences, by philosophers obviously not by mathematicians *laughs*. Philosophy has always been there to judge and criticize even other sciences, but I consider it a science in the art of thinking. I get excited about learning about something new and it occupies my brain for weeks. This is a bit of who I am to have this curiosity and spirit. History is also a great subject because you can almost project the future by learning your history. I like to read about history all over the world. It almost calms you down with everything going on this year because the world has gone through so much that this virus will definitely affect us but probably not take us down.”
*Here we talked books for about 10 minutes, if you are interested in what Fernando enjoys reading, send a message my way and I will let you know what he said on this part. It was a long interview, so I had to begrudgingly cut some of it out*
Do you get approached by fans about your lyrical content and are you ever told your lyrics have helped them in life?
“Yes, fortunately. I prefer songs that have an okay riff but great lyrics as opposed to a song that has a great riff and the lyrics aren’t something you can connect with. With Moonspell, fans really like to dig into the lyrics, sometimes it is a thing of the moment and sometimes I have to debate with them because I can’t always say why I wrote something. I do kind of like that though, I think it is a very virtuosic. Almost like a little Moonspell book club *laughs* In the near future we are going to make a subscription Wolfpack club. It is one of the ways of fighting the cash flow crisis. I am also going to have my own workshop on how to write lyrics and poems and discuss books. I like to pick other people’s minds about these things and other people’s tastes. I am a proud book worm and I have met many along the way so I think it will be a great way of spending some quality time talking about what inspired me and what inspired them. I get many people asking ‘why these lyrics’ it is almost like a soundtrack or a script for my life. To say here, I am going through this. When I came into music, I didn’t know about the therapeutic effect of music. I thought it was about entertainment and screaming as loud as you can onstage and bang your head fiercely *laughs* to get people’s attention. There are more layers than what I thought and fortunately our career has been long enough to find some of those layers.”
If you had something to say to the world right now, what would it be to give some wisdom and advice?
“I would say, ‘world stop kidding around and get serious’. *laughs* I think we can definitely do better and get serious about life. We need to take care our fellow being, because at the end of the day, like Mark Twain said, ‘there is only two certain things in life, death and taxes’. I don’t want to inspire anyone because I am a man with many faults, but I do have the conscious to always do better with music, literature, family, and I think that sense of improvement is what people need. Not to think that all is lost. Stay safe and stay healthy.”
Moonspell has been around for many years now and you can understand why with the continual evolution and beautiful lyrical writing. The Butterfly Effect is a re-release, and is an industrial, eargasmic, blast from the past. Make sure you continue to support Moonspell as they have many other tricks up their sleeves and much left to say. We need music now more than ever! Go buy some merch and keep the music going!