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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Album Review: Spirits Of The Dead – Rumours Of A Presence

A quick glance around reveals just how far this modern obsession for all-things retrospective has come. From the re-emergence of the flared trouser or a penchant for all things eyeball-meltingly fluorescent to our longing for the foods we grew up with or the analogue sounds that so inspired our forebears.

Throwing in their two penn’orth, the suitably-monikered Spirits Of The Dead have gone for the latter and have set about exploring their own heroes’ musical echoes. This latest album of theirs has emerged laden with strong psychedelic and lush folk elements. It reeks of all things Floydian and Zeppelian. Its propulsive drive wraps itself around the subjects of death and the sea, drowning us in an incandescent tapestry of lyrics. But does it stand out from the sudden crowd of like-minded groups that has formed, all of them seemingly staring over their shoulders?

Having preciously dipped my toes in the melting pot of their 2008 self-titled debut and emerged with my pinkies dripping of King Crimson, Dead Meadow and Black Sabbath goo, I can assure you that they haven’t watered down their music any. Whilst this may start with the sun in its eyes, it quickly finds some shadows in which to lurk. In fact, the deeper you venture, the more inventive and impressive their music becomes. Naturally, everything within is enveloped in a warm, fuzzball production, like it’s been wrapped in cellophane and kept near the radiator for several decades.

Openers “Wheels Of The World” and the more expansive “Song Of Many Reefs” offer up big, meaty mouthfuls of 70s folk rock that echo the silken, pulsating rhythms of goliaths like Fleetwood Mac, Zeppelin and Emerson Lake and Palmer. A step back and “Golden Sun” hones the nostalgic vibe, removing the harsh, top-end chime of the guitars to leave a tone that glows with gentle proggy touches. The thick, spongy bass within provides the finishing touch – a comforting, warped groove to bolster the craftily-hooked chorus.

They haven’t fully shaken off their inability to keep the music flowing throughout. The staggered drop-off into the album’s mid-riff is a little off-putting leaving the listener struggling to connect the dots and continue their journey. “Dance Of The Dead”, a seemingly unfinished one-riff lope, spends its woefully-brief minute-and-a-half simply rising and falling like a ship lost at sea, and “Rumours Of New Presence” chaotically splits its focus, frogmarching us from a spacey, Hammond-dominated number into a dark, panic-stricken Sabbathian march.

Thankfully, the final trio of the “Red Death”, “Seaweed” and “Oceanus” are all tracks worth hanging in there for. The former is full of menace and obeyance to the forefathers of doom, with vocalist Ragner Viske giving it the full stoner growl and Ole Øvstedal’s chords shaking the ground like falling rocks, whilst the latter couplet tout an acoustic hush and a psychedelic vocal warble that thrust the soft tones of America’s “A Horse With No Name” at the majesty of early-Tull to really drive home their more folky leanings.

So, yes, it’s an album that may not be faultless, but quibbling over such small things seems a little petty when you consider the quality of the remainder. Spirits Of The Dead aren’t just copying their idols here, like retro giants Graveyard and Witchcraft they are paying them the greatest tribute by reinventing these quadrageneric artistic touches to fit a thoroughly modern template.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/11/spirits-of-the-dead-rumours-of-a-presence-the-end/
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