Spun In Darkness
posted on 11/2007 By:
The living dead…
Our shambling friends have certainly managed to lumber their way into the mainstream, no? Hell, they’re so damned popular right now I wouldn’t be surprised to find Pottery Barn trying to push a set of frilly dinner mats featuring our undead friends bursting forth from long forgotten graves. In any case, heavy metal and zombies have been walking hand-in-hand for many, many moons, and despite the fact that the living dead have been shoved into our brains (…brains…BRAINS!) to the point of excess recently, I still find myself enjoying the hell out of thinking about our adorable deader-halves. And zombies are exactly what come to mind each time I listen to Spun In Darkness’ debut album, Birthright.
Now, before you get too excited with thoughts of the perfect zombie metal album, I’m gonna let some air out of this party balloon right now: Birthright is far from perfect. In fact, I have a feeling a sizeable portion of our readers would be piss-bored trying to get through all nine tracks in one sitting, despite the album’s relatively short length. This is basic, throw-back death metal in the vein of Spun In Darkness’ founder’s first band: Goatlord – a lumbering, endearingly slovenly, evilly shrouded band that garnered more than its fair share of underground props by scads of metalheads back in the early 90’s. Plod forward fifteen years and we find drummer Jeff Nardone essentially picking up where lords of goats left off, but with an added smidge of groove mixed into the death/doom attack.
Back to the living dead…
Birthright sounds like an album played by zombies, and it's not just because of the obvious lyrical content. The songwriting is nearly unbearably incomplex, the music rarely breaks from a rottingly mid-pace, and one can damn near smell the decayed brain-breath wafting from the speakers as the monotone vocals crepitate from the cryptliest of crypts. There’s some delightfully fetid riffs floating about as well: “In Cold Blood”, “Reborn Dead”, and “Crust of the Ghost Effect” (the shining beacon of this record) all sport flashes of riffs so corrosive they’ll immediately conjure grave worms in your eyes the second they hit your damned ears. But just like any moderate zombie flick, the delightfully gruesome scenes are just too far and few between to net a wholly positive result. There are flat spots throughout this record that do nothing but drift by nearly unnoticed: “All Must Die” (despite its flourish of Blood Ritual era Samael towards its end), “Arrival of Prey” (featuring a choppy, fresh start that sticks out like a sore thumb), and “Bonesaw” all need some extra garnish to help save them from indifference.
Also worth mentioning is the relatively strange production found on Birthright. The first five tunes (following a short intro) need to BRING DOWN THE FUCKING GUITARS. Seriously. There are teeny moments when you can just barely catch wind of some nice, bubblin' bass-play, but these short moments are scant and definitely leave one wanting to hear more. And by George Ramiro’s beard! You’ve got one of thee classic slooooow playing drummers behind the kit - DON’T SMOTHER HIM! Oddly enough, the last three songs employ a slightly different, more cavernous production that suits the evil atmosphere more suitably, much the same way Mercyful Fate did back in the day.
Despite my being fairly critical of Birthright, I think this new effort from Mr. Nardone shows promise. Personally, I’d love to see them shave some of the groove, strengthen the ancient Samael influence, and run with the cavernous production with less emphasis on the guitars, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what direction they decide to take next. Until then, if corpses churning out decent death metal is your idea of a suitable special of the day, I’d advise you seek out some samples. While I certainly wouldn’t consider Birthright an essential purchase, there are enough gruesome elements to occasionally land it in my rotation.
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