Spider God – Black Renditions Review

Every once in a blue moon, an album comes along that speaks to me so deeply that I break the rules to cover it. This year, that honor belongs to what is perhaps the most thoroughly unexpected album to ever grace these spongy orifices: UK one-man-band Spider God’s mad science experiment, Black Renditions. I say mad science experiment because Spider God offers no new material whatsoever on Black Renditions—this, my friends, is a covers album. A pop covers album. I’m talking about Britney Spears, The Pointer Sisters, Backstreet Boys, among others.1 Each of these legendary singles slather themselves in corpse paint and venture bravely into the deepest, darkest snow-smothered forests, frolicking together in joyous harmony. And it is truly wondrous!

Spider God opted for stripped down and straightforward melodic black metal to craft these adaptations. Each cover faithfully recreates the spirit and structure of the corresponding original. However, the jubilant arrangements penned by this unnamed wraith elevate the material into fully realized melodic black metal alter-egos, distinguishing themselves from the typical cover in both quality and character. Vocals enunciate the lyrics brilliantly across the board, allowing fans to sing (or scream) along with ease. Guitars tremolo, buzz and squeal with wild abandon those core melodies which form the backbone of each hit, while bass lines reliably offer novel counterpoint. Percussion serves each song with the perfect rhythmic resonance to imbue every moment with hooks and grooves. Each cut is lean and mean, nary a single minute of the tight thirty-eight-minute total runtime wasted. The best part, though, is how much fun Spider God had with these tunes. They enthusiastically invite everyone to join in without inhibition through their music. It’s a wonderful quality that I wish every black metal act possessed.

Black Renditions is executed flawlessly. From the first enthralling “YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAHHH” of “Excited” (The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited”), I feel my entire upbringing shooting down from the top of my skull to the tips of my toes, bringing me back to times of great joy and moments of debilitating hardship, where songs like this helped mold and strengthen me. The fantastic “Dance” (Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”) only deepens that sensation, creating an expanding warmth within my soul that lifts me into the stratosphere. Found in the album’s center, my two favorite covers “Want” (Backstreet Boys’ “I Want it that Way”) and “Genie” (Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle”) take my emotions, excited enough already, and launch them straight into orbit. Spider God’s blackened interpretations of this pair are so impeccably detailed and exuberantly delivered that listening to them for the first time created brand new core memories. I will remember that moment twenty years from now with as much fondness as I do today for songs I first heard twenty-odd years ago. Such is the strength of these Black Renditions.

The back half of Black Renditions manages to be about as strong as the front, despite consisting of more current charters. While I would’ve raved over more 90s and early aughts material, I cannot deny the intelligence of Spider God’s decision to instead select items which hold a greater significance to younger generations. Closing duo “Love” (Twice’s “What is Love”) and “Stay” (The Kid LAROI’s “Stay”) bring gigantic overdoses of fun and fancy to an already delightful record; the former oozing the same cutesy innocence as the original through its frosty tremolos; the latter faithfully reproducing the same infectious bounce of the OG without resorting to base mimicry. “Heartbreak” (Kanye West’s “Welcome to Heartbreak”) further demonstrates Spider God’s uncanny talent for adaptation, pairing a highly differentiated arrangement compared to its source with an unassailable vocal performance. There’s really only one small falter, “Moving” (S Club 7’s “Don’t Stop Moving”). It’s big fun but somewhat less compelling compared to the others.

Spider God’s near iconic covers reinforce and refresh a delightfully varied collection of notable pop songs by inviting them with open cloaks into the wonderful world of black metal. They capture the essence of popular music across several decades, all skillfully reimagined to thrive within an inherently challenging aesthetic. Furthermore, the whole fucking thing is a vibe, a mood, and a moment—nostalgia and zeitgeist in equal measure—yet it feels timeless, like a cult classic in the making. As if that wasn’t enough to earn my recommendation, it’s also fantastic melodic black metal in its own right, putting a great number of established bands on notice. Simply put, Black Renditions deserves to be cherished in every music fan’s library as the Spider God-tier masterpiece that it is.

Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Repose Records
Website: facebook.com/spidergodband | spider-god.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: January 7th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Here’s the full list of songs covered here, in order: The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited”; Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”; No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak”; Spice Girls’ “Viva Forever”; Britney Spears’ “Baby, Hit Me One More Time”; Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle”; Backstreet Boys’ “I Want it that Way”; S Club 7’s “Don’t Stop Moving”; Zac Efron’s “Bet on It”; Kanye West’s “Welcome to Heartbreak”; Twice’s “What is Love”; The Kid LAROI’s “Stay”
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