Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Spires - Spiral Of Ascension

Self Released 2010

1.Equilibrium 2.The Infinite Descent 3.Nightfall 4.Broken Hourglass
5.Symmetry 6.Martyr 7.Spiral Of Ascension 8. A New Prayer (Bonus)

‘Progressive’ is a description which can sit uncomfortably when discussing issues surrounding extreme metal. The boundaries can often be blurred between progressive and extreme metal and often when a band describe themselves as one, they actually sound like the other. However, Manchester’s Spires have managed to encapsulate a mix of progressive metal and extreme metal and blended it into a style which could be described as extreme progressive. ‘Equilibrium’ probably sums this style up best, a melting pot of influences, melody and heaviness colliding brilliantly. Harsh screamed vocals sit comfortably amongst cleanly sung (but with a harsh edge) vocals whilst guitars switch from heavy extreme to acoustic and back again. ‘The Infinite Descent’ tears open in a blaze of black metal inspired riffing, accompanied by the harsh screamed vocals before the more melodic guitar takes over, time signatures vary giving the middle section of this track a very technical feel whilst the cleaner sung vocals add progression whilst remaining extreme (similar in approach to the likes of Akercocke).
‘Nightfall’ is an atmospheric guitar interlude, very classical acoustic guitars soaring over a rain filled and thunderous background, haunting yet compelling. ‘Broken Hourglass’ see’s the melody continued, opening up with pure atmosphere, touches of Opeth on show, maybe even some Dream Theatre. This is where the band loses their extreme edge and the progressive elements are in full flow. However, the band never forgets their extreme metal foundations, with the heavier guitars and screamed harsh vocals being re-introduced, but only selectively. This is a 14 minute monster of a track with the music being the main factor, the vocals definitely taking a back seat here, used sparsely. Seven minutes in and the track takes on a whole new feel, down-tuned heavy guitars bringing the track to an almost standstill, growled vocals drenched in reverb giving an emotionally charged doom sound and a new element to the bands sonic arsenal. Definitely not one for the faint hearted or narrow minded as there’s a lot on offer and a lot of progressive melody. ‘Symmetry’ is another extremely melodic track, acoustic guitars played alongside the main electric guitar which adds a lot to the band’s sound. Sweeping guitar solos add even more melody and atmosphere, again the bands more extreme influence taking a backseat to the bands progressive edge. It can feel very heavy going at times, but the music buffs will lap this up, taking in all the complexities of the bands sound and making sense of it all.
Thankfully ‘Martyr’ sees the re-introduction of the heavier guitars and screamed vocals, the track taking on an Egyptian or Arabic feel, another one of bands influences subtly placed into the track and a nice addition. Melody and cleanly sung vocals again take over proceedings; the harsher and heavier vocals used extremely sparingly which is actually a shame, as they work really well over both the heavier sections and the more progressive elements. It’s not very often the pace rises, but we see it here and when it does, the double kicks get a good workout but as with a lot of the bands heavier elements, it is extremely short lived, the progressive melody and cleanly sung vocals favoured. ‘Spiral of Ascension’ is another 14 minute monster, acoustic guitars and emotionally charged cleanly sung vocals leading the way. You always get that feeling that each song is building up in momentum and about to ‘let rip’ at any moment, which sadly (for this listener at least) never really happens. The band are obviously extremely talented musicians and very good at what they do. Music students into metal will wank over this, listening to every note and analysing it to the ‘enth degree.  The further into this cd you listen, there’s a feeling that the band are moving ever father away from the limited extremity seen in some of the previous tracks and starting to take on a whole metal/rock approach, forward thinking perhaps! Appealing to a whole new breed of music fan whilst retaining some extreme metal elements to keep some of the more broad minded extreme metal fans relatively happy. Atmospheric, progressive and intellectual metal played with pure skill, this can be extremely heavy going at times and is definitely not going to appeal to fans of blast and grind extreme metal, however Spires have a lot to offer and offer it well. Definitely one to chill out to rather than bang your head to!
7.5 Out of 10

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