Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Review: Spirits of the Dead

Label: White Elephant Records

Released: September 29, 2008

Even those who love prog rock often understand that its shortcoming stems from putting the head before the heart. While no genre in rock can compete with prog's technical prowess, it's still often dismissed as self-indulgent and lite where the true spirit of rock n roll is the exception, not the rule. That leaves any band that takes the prog road with quite an uphill haul.

Enter Spirits of the Dead and their self-titled debut with its own flavor of prog that endeavors to remedy some of these musical ills. They open up the prog sound with psychedelic meanderings and then ground it with 70s hard rock fuzz, giving it a spaciness to freak out to as well as a grittiness to hold on to. When they drift away from that hard rock basis, the music can wander a bit as on "The Waves of Our Ocean," but a dose of stoner rock on "Red" and the super-sludge of "Spirits of the Dead" make for a wild album that can be both light and agile as well as crushingly heavy.

Most importantly, Spirits of the Dead don't get overburdened by their own technical abilities. They show off their chops when needed, but they're just as given to slow, plodding rumblings as they are to elaborate, precise passages. They can be jarring or lulling and that fuller sound is simply the result of a willingness to get outside of the accepted boundaries of their chosen genre. While their influences lie in the past, their vision looks to the future, setting them apart from so many of their peers.

The album will apparently be re-issued on vinyl (in Europe at least). The silver foil stamped image has beautiful, intricate detail that deserves 12 inches square at least to adequately enjoy.

Satriani: 9/10
Zappa: 7/10
Dylan: 7/10
Aretha: 7/10
Overall: 8/10


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