The Spiders Sleep
posted on 8/2008 By:
Like most of the rest of the batch of albums Australia’s Obsidian Records recently left on the front porch of Metal Review headquarters, The Spiders Sleep is over a year old. We like to hit stuff while it’s fresh around here, but the fact that this album has some miles on it doesn’t matter much in this case – from where I’m sitting there’s been little to no buzz or even general awareness of this album since its release, and that’s a shame. Hopefully this belated publicity effort will send a few curious ears ‘Neath’s way. They’re definitely deserving.
In this case first impressions don’t count for much. The Spiders Sleep’s promo page trumpted the album as one of the best underground metal albums Australia has ever produced (I’d love to quote more accurately, but said promo page was promptly lost–my office assistant is so fired). Muttering something about Destroyer 666, I set the disc in the tray and pushed play. Off the bat, the drum-tight, rolling riff and full throated clean vocals had me thinking I was due for another bout of Nevermore worship. But before I could put pen to paper ‘Neath very quickly became something else. Now, one can make a pretty decent sized list of bands and styles to throw out there as comparisons to these Aussies, but the common denominator is "progressive," and ‘Neath plants that progressive pivot foot and then rotates through styles extreme and less so. The most prevalent and easily identifiable of these is Opeth’s brand of proggy, not-so-death-metal, but less often the band plies something recalling proggy not-so-black-metal modern Enslaved, and proggy not-so-metal Tool. Toss in some gloomy keys for doomish good measure. It’s an ambitious, classic approach that spawns legends when it works and is woefully ponderous when it does not, and ‘Neath measure up reasonably well. Though nowhere near the master class of the bands listed above, these guys manage to mostly avoid the "clone" tag as well as make an argument that they’re a band to be watched, at a minimum. Less focused stylistically than, say, Disillusion’s Back to Times of Splendor, but more so than Frantic Bleep’s The Sense Apparatus, the album falls in the middle of two expertly executed progressive albums, and even if it ends up falling just a hair below their high watermarks, if those comparisons make you perk up, your ears you need this album in a big way.
As much as I’ve made of the band’s progressive varieties, as stated above, the strongest single influence shining through The Spiders Sleep is Akerfeldt and Co’s famous progressive, melodic quasi-death metal. As soon as they abandon the Nevermore-ish riff opening the album, you’ll give an "oh, now I get it" response, as they let loose a deathly roar and chugging riff. They then interject a spidery Tool-like riff, but mostly it’s songs in the key of O. While ‘Neath manages to avoid being completely tattooed with the dreaded "CLONE" stamp, there are some moments when they tread too dangerously close to their Swedish muses, such as on the middle section of "The Silk-Laden Whore," which briefly feels like plagiarism. But bands ape Opeth for a reason, and when they do so with enough of a voice of their own, as ‘Neath often do here, what lacks in innovation is made up for in execution. Although ‘Neath can’t accurately be labeled as black metal, even the proggy type, there are stretches of the album that recall the masterful Enslaved, in many ways a parallel to Opeth. For instance, the title track, which opens with some nice clean crooning, then alternates between vocal styles, from a deathly roar the throat constricts and the lips draw taut and a blackish rasp that follows seems a better foil to the rat-a-tat drill press march of the drums. The band revisits similar ground during sections of "Sordid Grim Lie". As you’d expect, these songs are all lengthy, meandering between heavy and acoustic and extreme and clean vocals. A standard M.O., but it works well here. The end of closer "Blank Identity Crisis" blends in an almost modern FM rock like style of vocals and melody, and the result feels slightly out of place and a bit weak in comparison, which is an unfortunate way for this impressive album to end. Definitely a band worthy of your time if what they do is what you like done. Worth the effort to track down.
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