One of the undisputed pleasures of music is that leap into the unknown when you encounter something new and exciting. Before the prospect of reviewing reared its enticing head, it was always my pleasure to go to the local record shop and to choose something truly random based on a sleeve sticker, perhaps, or the artwork and it was in that way that I discovered Botch, The Catheters and Bujeria – all worthy bands that I enjoy to this day. True, there is much pleasure in the latest album by a well-loved band and now that review CDs arrive on a semi-regular basis I’m always thrilled when a familiar name appears, but finding something entirely new – that’s what makes reviewing so thrilling.
Spires win instant points from the off thanks to some remarkable packaging. Geiger-esque, the amazing design was created by Daniella Morrison, and it instantly stands out from the month’s other releases because it is a simply stunning piece of art. The press release, as these things are want to do, gushes praise upon the release claiming all sorts of wonderful things for Spires, but in this case the claims are largely true and with no word of a lie, the record is now on its third spin and I’m still finding new things to enjoy and appreciate within the music.
So who are Spires? A four-piece progressive metal act (for want of a better description) from Manchester, Spires have drawn influence from so many sources that comparisons vary wildly from song to song, so much so that to term the band ‘unique’ would probably be the fairest way to move forward. One comparison that does leap from the Press sheet is that of Mastadon and certainly in one respect Spires do deserve to be linked to that band – their album is a bolt from the blue, a stunning, inventive and mesmerising release that inspires the same awe-struck intake of breath as ‘Blood mountain’ did when it was released and that alone should be enough to tell you that you want this album.
However, while the Mastadon comparisons are helpful from time to time, other elements including Opeth, Pink Floyd, Deftones, King Crimson and Tool could all be likened to the band with an equal rate of success and failure – in short Spires sound like Spires and for any band kicking out their debut that is a phenomenal achievement. The album itself (entitled ‘spiral of ascension’) is an eight track, sixty-five minute effort that packs endless levels of detail into epic songs that ebb and flow through lengthy cycles. Opener ‘Equilibrium’ is a dense, rumbling track that initially allies the band towards the technical death metal side of things, but from the off there’s something deeper about Spires. A clean vocal that is very Opeth ushers us in the direction of that band before that also turns out ot be so much smoke and mirrors and a chorus that utilises both deathly growls and impassioned clean vocals that are pure classic rock throw you off balance once more. The music too seems to be pulling in so many directions at once that it should, by rights all break down into a hideous mess, yet such is the powerful musicianship of this band that it remains tighter than a Playboy Bunny’s swimsuit and there’s a visceral thrill to Spires music that never lets the tune become secondary to concerns of musicality.
This is the pattern that is repeated over the course of the record – the unexpected keeps you on your toes and you can never take anything for granted. Astonishing riffs raise their heads but vanish just as quickly leaving you gagging for more before you’re overwhelmed by a new riff that’s twice as jaw-dropping and so it goes. One can only imagine the endless late-night jam sessions, the tortured hours of practice and the countless live shows that went into the band perfecting this astonishing blend of styles, but it was worth it and you would never imagine that this was the band’s debut if the fact hadn’t been trumpeted loud and clear from the press sheet – so confident, precise and brash is this piece of work that you would be forgiven for thinking it was the culmination of a decade-long career.
So often is British metal overlooked in favour of the bigger, louder, higher-budget US counterparts that fans tend to forget that we have an exciting, healthy scene right here in the UK. Spires are a band who have absorbed the very best of the progressive end of the metal scene and imbued it with a heart and soul that is entirely their own and for that alone they deserve to be huge. The sort of act capable of genuine cross-genre appeal thanks to the myriad variations in their songs and the sheer talent on display this is a mighty debut that deserves to be shouted form the rooftops. If you call yourself a metal fan, or hell just a music fan in general, you need this and you need it now. A truly outstanding piece of art, where Spires go next is anybody’s guess, but this is truly amazing.