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Ambient black metal of the good kind - 75%

MikeyC, June 22nd, 2016
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Obscure Abhorrence Productions (Limited edition)

This little-known Australian band Spire have been doing their thing in the shadows, releasing a couple of EP’s before they finally broke through with their first full-length album in 2016. Going back to the start, and their first self-titled EP showed that this band was already ahead of the bell curve.

The opener of “Gum Twelve” sets the mood of the EP. Harshly-produced black metal with a tinge of ambient. You’ll be instantly comparing this to other bands that have gained popularity such as Midnight Odyssey or Darkspace. The melodic, haunting riffs poke through the fuzz enough to give you an ethereal, other-worldly experience like the aforementioned bands provide. They are not designed to invigorate or energise the listener, but rather relax them and paint a tranquil yet foreboding picture. The flowing black metal riffs are hardly memorable but do their job with such eloquence that it’s hard to not be captivated by them.

The drumming is a little busier, with the double kick and the fills coming out. It sounds like they wouldn’t properly co-exist with the guitars, but they provide a great beat and are produced at a good volume in comparison, although a few decibels quieter may have given the riffs slightly more room to shine. Nevertheless, the drumming is great for what is required here and is pulled off to perfection. The vocals are merely more than throaty rasps and operatic noises floating through the music. If you think of a less jagged Attila from Sunn O))), you’re on the right track.

Picking out individual tracks for special mention is quite the challenge, since all tracks contain very similar themes of black metal with ambient overtones. I suppose “M Thirty One” and “Star Trails” are the two token interlude tracks with some cool sounds that do not take the focus away from the other tracks. Otherwise, the songs all meld together into one big half-hour story of space, stars, cosmos, and tranquillity. None of the songs really push beyond mid-pace, save for perhaps “NGC Five Four Two Six and NGC Five Four Two Seven,” which is where the first use of off-beat blasting, or blasting of any kind, makes an appearance, and even then the riffs keep the song grounded in mid-paced territory.

So what’s the verdict here? I think Spire does what it needed to do and did it quite well. The riffs are quite nice and conveys a lovely backdrop of sounds, while the drumming provides formidable groundwork, and the vocals fit exceptionally well within the context of the EP. It could be a while, if ever, this band gets its spotlight, but they should be content with this opening EP to what is hopefully a long and successful career.