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Nothing Desultory About Their Music – Or Moonspell’s or C of F’s

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I’ve long been a fan of extreme metal, especially classic death and black metal.  But to my old ears, the greatest extreme metal is that which incorporates the vibe of traditional metal.

So what does that sound like?  It sounds like “Alma Mater” by Portugal’s Moonspell; it sounds like “Winter” by Sweden’s Desultory; and it sounds like “A Gothic Romance (Red Roses for the Devil’s Whore)” by England’s Cradle of Filth.  Oh, there are lots more examples, but these are three of the very greatest heavy-metal songs ever recorded.


I’ll bet you’ve never heard the exclamation “Aaaargh!” actually spoken by anyone but Charlie Brown, right?  Well, check out Moonspell’s “Alma Mater,” which begins with lead singer Fernando Ribeira (also known by the scarier moniker Langsuyar) singing/shouting/growling the best “aaargh!” you’ve ever heard.  Then the band starts churning relentlessly, building the song with a compelling riff and half-scary, half-goofy lyrics (“She speaks to me in colours/That I can’t really understand”), grinding away for six delightful minutes.


Great band name, don’t you think?  And yet absolutely inapposite, because these guys are doing anything but going through the motions.  “Winter” is a terrific, classic death-metal song with, again, a killer riff and mock-horrifying lyrics.  They really sell the song, and the best of it is the earnest traditional-metal feel.

Cradle of Filth

I know that these guys aren’t taken seriously by a lot of “real black metal” fans.  But here’s my challenge: sure, listen to the whole song, but pay careful attention to the fast, fast, fast driving sections that begin at 4:55 and 7:47   (though you won’t want to skip Sara Jezebel Diva’s naughty bit[s]  between those sections).  I have told more than one friend (well, they used to be friends) that I consider those few bars the absolute apex of heavy metal – and that’s saying a lot from a lifetime Slayer fan.


We all know that Black Sabbath created heavy metal with the song “Black Sabbath,” and every other metal band – traditional and extreme – really has only tinkered with the promise of that song.  But these three tinkerings are among the best.  Later I’ll suggest a few other bands and songs that come close to fulfilling Sabbath’s dark promise.




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