posted on 7/2009 By:
I realize it doesn't always behoove our readers when we reviewers step outside our respective "genre comfort zones" to cover new releases, but it's an inevitable occurrence on occasion, and it honestly helps folks such as yours truly to stay fresh and on top of new trends instead of simply covering doom, black and the traditional/power end of the spectrum from one month to the next. And besides, although I don't consider myself the most qualified on staff to cover Dark Castle's particular style, I'd say I easily know enough about tunes of this ilk to keep from making a complete dick of myself, so let's dive in...
I'm not even sure the best way to go about describing this specific classification -- sludge? Post sludge? Crusty sludge with a progressive slant? -- who the hell knows. What I do know is that this Floridian duo would fit snugly alongside a Bay Area Grayceon, Giant Squid and Black Cobra tour, without really sounding like any one of them. Hopefully that gives you a pretty good indication of what to expect. It's essentially "newfangled metal" with a sludgy, slightly progressive lean that apparently has great appeal with the bespectacled, flannel-wearing, unkempt hair-flowing, vintage metal shirt wearing, heavily tattooed crowds we've all seen peppering metal shows across these United States.
Initial spins didn't really do Spiritual Migration justice. The material is more straightforward and less progressive on the surface when compared to the band's peers, likely because they're comprised of only a drummer and one guitarist. But Dark Castle does a wonderful job of using the simplicity of rhythm & riffing to cast a truly soothing blanket under which the listener can cozily nestle. In fact, if I had to define Spiritual Migration in one word, it would probably be "blanketing." It's fuzzy, meditative and darkly comforting, but it still holds true to the style's emphasis on sludgy riffs (sans solos), a hard-drivin' rhythm and rasped vocals that do little more than add another smidge of "metalness" to the stew (honestly, guitarist Stevie Floyd's rasped vocals sound every bit as familiar as nearly any other female fronted band playing a similar shtick).
Dark Castle have their own little way of embellishing the standard formula, however. Peppered around the edges, mostly during intros and outros, we hear psychedelic synths and weird, warbling keys that add a slight hallucinatory element to the overall scape. And Stevie really gets a chance to flash her nimble fretplay during the album's most terse offering, the beautifully flowing acoustic instrumental self-titled track. Between that pretty little tune and the way she throws down the perfect measure of quick, echoed tremolo picks throughout, I'd say she's one of the more promising guitarists in this particular sub-genre today.
Spiritual Migration may not be the most original album you'll hear this year, but it's a smooth, dare I say, mellow, interpretation of the style that's likely to appeal to any fans of this burgeoning branch of metal. I'm glad I checked 'em out, and I look forward to seeing where they take us next. Recommended!
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