There is probably some sub-set of Moonspell's following that rued the band's decision to shift from their ritual black metal roots of Under the Moonspell and Wolfheart to a more Gothic rock-focused medium, and to these the one-shot side project Daemonarch must have come as some blessing, since it somewhat returns to those years of mystic, occult exploration. The lyrics to this were written when Fernando Ribeiro was but a teenager chasing Satan, though I assume they undertook some revision before this final project, but otherwise we are presented with an album worthy of Moonspell themselves, though perhaps not as memorable.
Hermeticum is a whirlwind of tribal drums, thick and simplistic metal chords and atmospheric keyboards suited to any orgy of the damned, or castle of treacherous, diabolic mysteries. But the band also incorporates a lot of dynamic exploration and some searing guitars that very much mirror their work on a Wolfheart or Irreligious. Through it all, they manage to somehow keep the writing fresh and catchy, especially on a few of the tunes that might have better served the band as standout tracks for their main band. This is all Moonspell members. In addition to Ribeiro, we had Sergio Crestana, Pedro Paixao and Ricardo Amorim in their recurring roles, and perhaps that is where the strength truly lies, in the cohesion of this band of morbid brothers.
"Corpus Hermeticum" is a favorite here for the very catchy use of the keyboards, both symphonic and 'cute' in that light, striking piano technique which flows off the swell of the guitars and orchestra hits with poppy precision. The haunting folly of "Samyaza" is perfect for any haunted house parlour, the vocals like those of some grave tending usher welcoming you to an abode of creeps and frolics. "Incubus" uses a great vocal atmosphere, Ribeiro delivering some of the most aggressive rasping of his entire career, and all manner of mysterious sounds at the edge of the perception beneath the solid beats and blood-glistening guitars. Then there is "The Seventh Daemonarch", a pretty steadily rising charger that would have fit in perfectly with Wolfheart, in particular the soaring, manly vocal force. The bleeding, desperate streams of opener "Lex Talionis" are also worthwhile.
In fact, there are really no stinkers across the whole album. It's all moody and effective work, though varying in the level of seriousness one might take it for. The band have also included a cover of Bathory's "Call from the Grave", set to a pompous level of production with requisite crashing percussion and some added depth. A good choice, and a good band to pursue a cover song (I love what Moonspell did with Depeche Mode's "Sacred"). Hermeticum sounds quite fantastic, a dark and fun trip through the band's devilish roots, which had at this time been supplanted in their main band for more 'relevant' fare (though still intelligent and well written). The lyrics might seem a little dire or primitive, but then that's the source from which they were inspired. I'd easily recommend this to a fan of any and all Moonspell up to Sin/Pecado.
Verdict: Win [8/10] (guilt is growing)