Saturday, 8 November 2014

Spider Kitten - Behold Mountain. Hail Sea. Venerate Sky. Bow Before Tree EP (Review)


Album Type: EP
Date Released: 27/10/2014
Label: Undergroove Records

'Behold Mountain. Hail Sea. Venerate Sky. Bow Before Tree'. CD/DD track listing:

1. Lindisfarena
2. Bearded Axe
3. Gore Swan I: Of the Land II: Of the Sea III: Of the Sky

Bio:

From their beginnings in 2001 as a 2 piece band with no drummer, through multiple experimental line ups featuring some of Wales' finest musical alumni, these last 13 years have seen the 2 longest standing members Chi (guitar, vox) and Al (bass) steer the band through a prolific amount of albums and eps. Bringing us up to the present day with the longest running line up, also featuring Rob (guitars) from UK sludge merchants PUS and Chris (drums, vox) from much missed UK noise rock kings Taint, Spider Kitten bring you - 'Behold Mountain. Hail Sea. Venerate Sky. Bow Before Tree.' Following on from the success of their last album 'Cougar Club' Spider Kitten's brand new offering sees them still employing that same ultra heavy groove you've come to love. But instead of the mantra-like psychedelic vibe that ran through their last album, this time they tap into an altogether more ancient vibe, from the tribal brutalism and groove of the 1st track 'Lindisfarena', through to the downtuned mountain-shaking heaviness of track 2 'Bearded Axe', which seamlessly flows into the 3 part ethereal epic that is the final track 'Gore Swan I. Of The Land. II. Of The Sea. III. Of The Sky.' which sees them drift from lush acoustics, to epic doom, to traditional classical music to quite possibly the heaviest crescendo they have ever committed to tape. 'Behold Mountain...' sees Spider Kitten at their most raw and visceral yet emotionally epic and delicate. Surely a candidate for one of the heaviest yet most unique releases of 2014.

The Band:

Chi Lameo | Vocals, Guitar
Alex White | Bass, Vocals
Chris West | Drums, vocals
Rob Davies | Guitar

Review:

Gladly, there’s nothing feline about what this band name may otherwise suggest. These are evil bastards. Their sound is a dense, dreary pit that envelops you in the cavernous, bong hazed atmosphere of heavy psychedelic sludge metal. It’s gripping stuff. Listening to this album is like taking a beating in a piss and booze soaked alley: You’re left in the dark, bruised by the impact of it all and to top it off you’ve only gone and pissed yourself amidst it all. It sounds like it too…Perhaps I’ve taken that metaphor a little too far, but the point remains the same – Spider Kitten are a dramatic band. They leave a lasting impression upon you. And, to briefly extend upon that metaphor further, this is a beating that you can’t help but crave a recurrence of the following night. It hurts, but you won’t forget it.

Yet, amongst all that there are some astounding transitions across this record no least as on ‘Lindisfarena’, which goes from vast shadowy guitar tones and booming bass to an almost meditative state in a heartbeat. It’s immensely fluent.  The journey never jolts, it just draws you further into its crooked plot.

“The album is a wretched, tormented exploration of Norse sagas and Eddas, painstakingly researched with the utmost respect and homage to the ancient peoples and religions of Scandinavia,” we’re told in the excitable press release announcing their recent signing to Undergroove Records.  Add to that the fact they sound like the creepy, lingering memory of a recent nightmare and it’s stupefying that this band is actually Welsh. With the music on offer here, it would be so easy to believe that these guys are indeed battle hardened Vikings who grew up living a savage and barbaric life, feeding off the fat of the land on savage, Norwegian plains.

“The intention we had was to simply ‘guff out some sludge,’” the press release goes on to inform us. But it all plays out so dramatically – and there’s that word again, dramatic. Drummer Chris West’s love for Norse and Viking mythology inspires the record’s lyrical themes throughout and their musical accompaniment is strides resolutely betwixt the boundaries of traditional Norse musicality and contemporary, earthy-shattering sludge metal. Low, droning cellos match that of the guitars, acoustics ending ‘Bearded Axe’ with you stood right there on those Norwegian plains, the wind in your hair. West fulfils his desire to explore the mythology – of particular interest to him because of his Danish lineage – in great and bloodied detail. Bear in mind also that their last record, ‘Cougar Club’, was a conceptual album based on an imaginary sleazy gothic bar – this band is hardly a one trick pony.   

The churning bridge riff in the aforementioned and excellently titled ‘Bearded Axe’ has more sonically in common with a lawnmower with indigestion than a guitar. It’s one of those evil sounding riffs you feel could only have been written with the help of Ouija board. The rest of the song is centred on Chi Lameo’s surprisingly celestial, melodic vocals and another gigantean sludge riff.

14 minute EP closer ‘Gore’ (split into three parts: Of the Land, Sea and Sky) may test your patience, but allow it to submerge you into its waters and you’ll be highly rewarded. More grumbling riffs, more revved up lawnmowers and religious prayer like vocals ensue throughout to great effect. While for some the long string section interludes, that builds like a gathering storm overhead, may be a little too long, it only leaves this writer appreciating the heaviness – and there’s plenty of it – as it pours out of those gathered storm clouds.

The track’s fade out may damage some of the its impetus, as the clang of swords and yells of battle fade in, but there is no denying that this is a quality record. If the Viking aspect seems a little gimmicky, it’s easy to look past – the songs don’t rely on niche elements for them to stand out from the rest of the sludgy pack. Their song writing alone does that. ‘Behold Mountain. Hail Sea. Venerate Sky. Bow Before Tree’ is a brilliant record.

Words: Phil Weller

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