Believe it or not the life of a music reviewer is not as glamorous as one would think. Yes, from time to time you’re invited to the likes of Thor‘s Rock Opera in some trendy part of New York City, you’re jet-setting off to Chicago with tickets to Alehorn of Power IX, or you’re the first to get your grubby mitts on Swallow the Sun‘s new triple album. Outside of those jaw-dropping moments though, reviewing consists of picking some unknown band/album off the promo sheet with your fingers tightly crossed hoping that what’s going to burst out of your monitors isn’t going to suck monkey balls. Aussie ambient/black metallers, Spire, was one of those random, finger-crossing, hope-for-the-best-expect-the-worst moments.
Active since 2007, Spire released their self-titled 7-track EP back in 2010 to a mostly a lukewarm reception with indicators that none of the ambient tracks could push through to something bigger or stood out on their own. A year later, the band metamorphosed their sound, releasing Metamorph, a 5-track EP featuring a cleaner production style, increased black metal intensity and more variety in the drum-work. Neither of these works ever crossed my path. Fast-forward to 2016 and according to the buzz Spire are set to release their debut full-length, featuring what I’m told should be regarded as “progressive black metal.” How could I resist?
In what I guess could be deemed a progressive move, Entropy kicks off with the opening track entitled “End.” The song begins with the grim atmosphere of Shining‘s early work shadowed by the doomy melodies of sad-boy bands like Insomnium or Omnium Gatherum. The track takes an age to really get going, but when it does you’re greeted by a few moments of Naglfar-like melodic Swedish style black metal. Vocals are cavernous, rasping and more haunting than in-your-face obvious, adding to the monotony of the song. On a whole, “End” goes nowhere fast, it’s inoffensive and there’s nothing about it that screams “must hear.”
Stylistically “Labyrinthine” and “(Remake)” follow seamlessly from the opening track. The only real difference being that “(Remake)” has zero vocals. Across a track of this magnitude that’s a risky move, despite some likeness to the milder side of Darkspace, it’s a throwaway effort that doesn’t pay off for Spire. The big redeeming quality of “Labyrinthine” ends up being that the vocals employed sound more didgeridoo than human. It gives a unique and very country specific feel to the the album.
“Void” and “(Unmake)” set your teeth on edge, definitively showing Spire‘s darker, heavier side, with the former being the only track I’d likely go back to (if any). “Void” starts off big and jarring, very much out of sync with the atmospherics of before. About a minute and a half into the song, the traditional black metal rasps are set aside and things develop a psychedelic haze, becoming more dramatic and theatrical – let your mind drift along the lines of A Forest of Stars on Shadowplay for Yesterday. Entropy closes with the title track and their biggest effort thus far, it’s a mighty undertaking of nearly fourteen minutes that goes through a some distinct tempo and style shifts in an effort to keep things interesting. For the most part it’s a re-hash of what’s come before. Expect more Insomnium Gatherum cheerlessness, instrumental and vocal atmospherics, pained didgeridoo-like groans broken by spells of blast beat intensive, Naglfar-stylized black metal unbalance and general disarray.
Despite Entropy having a good and clear production style that suits the instrumentation and vocal contributions, and some briefly interesting moments, Spire created a release that inspires neither interest or enthusiasm. Songs are lengthy, taking far too long to get off the ground, and there’s just too much similarity and stability from one track to the next to be able to keep the different phases of Entropy fastened within your mind. Shrug your shoulders and move on, I know I will.