Good friends make life bearable. Good friends with good taste in music make life worth living. In a world where a friend could be a nobody you “friended” on Facebook, musical taste is the perfect decider for the real versus cyber friends. To be my friend, for instance, you must be able to recite King Diamond‘s “Black Horsemen” forward and backward without hesitation. Though this prevents my own mother from becoming my friend, I must hold to these standards. I’m fortunate, however, because I have many friends that share my exquisite taste in music. If this were not the case, I would not have stumbled across Spellcaster and their newest release, Night Hides the World. Suggested to me by a member of War Curse, Spellcaster is a purveyor of the simple and the accessible. Fusing six-string details with strong vocals, these Portlanders combine Iron Maiden-esque hooks with Ghost-ish melody. So, sit back, stop unfriending people, and let Spellcaster‘s Night douse your world.
Like the forgers of ’90s black metal, Spellcaster have an interesting career arc. Bands like Mayhem and Darkthrone dabbled in death metal for one release while Spellcaster once proclaimed themselves a thrash band. Debut Under the Spell screams of old-school, semi-prog thrash metal. The riffs are there (the production isn’t) and the high-wailing vocals have similarities to the first two Iced Earth releases. You know what that means. They kinda sucked. Tyler Loney then moved from guitar to vocals for the follow-up and the Spellcaster I know and love was born. The self-titled sophomore release blew the debut apart like a sadistic bunny from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And Night Hides the World is the proper successor to Spellcaster. The vocals are stronger, the songwriting is more mature, and fans of the band will be ecstatic.
Night Hides the World gets things rolling right away with the upbeat and accessible “Aria.” The drums launch us into staccato guitar pluckings and almost Matt Heafy-like vocal arrangements. The vocals are a unique flavoring that don’t represent the rest of the album, but they wouldn’t hurt it either. “Aria” provides a first glimpse at the band’s ability to hammer out a riff in unison before the guitars take off in separate directions. These directions complete the song without meandering into the proggy or wanky. Throughout the record, their exists a main guitar lead that gets covered in beautiful melodies by the remaining guitar. This approach appears on every song, and the hookiness of the album is the direct result of this formula. There’s also just enough originality from track to track to avoid any staleness.
“The Lost Ones,” much like the opener, displays the band’s patented mix of groove and melody. The song’s intro smells like Ghost, but doesn’t reek of it. Its groove and verses definitely have that Ghost-like attitude, but when the chorus arrives, it unloads crate after crate of soaring emotion. Once the crates crack under the weight, their potent contents help shape follow-up “Betrayal” into the most passionate track on the album. This, along with closer “Prophecy,” are enough to make me buy the album. Long and epic, these songs house the album’s best riffs and best vocal performances. Loney’s alternating heavy-metal wails and doomy cleans play off the instruments in the most satisfying way.
“I Live Again” picks up the pace once more, acting as a B-side opener. Its simple, yet kickass, riffage takes hold and never lets go. The lead eventually breaks, but only to allow the beautiful chorus to take its place. Though there isn’t a bad track on the album, ditties like the title track and “The Accuser” lack punch. Their repetition is just enough to make their short run-times feel long.
Night Hides the World has a lot to offer. It’s soothing yet engaging, the performances are stellar, and the songwriting is simple—even if the actual fret-board theatrics aren’t. The bass has just as much presence as the guitars (check out “Night Hides the World”) and the drums are exacting. The latter is capable of cruising with soaring choruses and staring down chugging riffs. And the guitars? They fucking shred. Be it the soloing and synchronized maelstrom of “The Moon Doors” or the beauty of “Betrayal,” these boys can do it all. If only the dynamics were there so you could absorb the album’s subtleties. Regardless, this is an awesome release and the perfect follow-up to Spellcaster.
Rating: Very Good!
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: spellcasterpdx.bandcamp.com | spellcaster.us | facebook.com/SpellcasterPDX
Releases Worldwide: July 8th, 2016