Spillage is the brainchild of one Tony Spillman (get it?), a true journeyman of the Chicago metal scene who worked as a guitar tech for Trouble and appeared in Earthen Grave with Trouble alum, Ron Holzner. After the unfortunate demise of Earthen Grave, Mr. Spillage wanted to pursue his own creative endeavors, founding Spillage and releasing a self-titled debut in 2015 featuring Trouble‘s Bruce Franklin on guitar. Fast forward a few years and the band has a new lineup, with Franklin producing instead of performing. With all these connections to Chicago’s premier doom act, you’d expect sophomore opus Blood of Angels to be a chip off The Skull, and they do bill themselves as “power doom.” However, what they play isn’t doom metal in the classic sense.
Things open rather deceptively with the title track, an epic doom number recalling the early days of Solitude Aeturnus. Singer Elvin Rodriguez even approximates Solitude‘s Rob Lowe with a throaty bellow and an ominously powerful delivery. Hammond organs team with big, burly riffs for a solid, weighty doom ditty with a simple but effective chorus. There are a few clunky transitions and it’s a bit bloated, but it’s a legitimately good tune. Unfortunately, this sets the album up for disappointment as nothing else here sounds anything like it nor rises to its quality level. The remainder shambles between hybrids of metal and 90s grunge and bluesy biker rock, none of it especially well conceived or convincing. After the rousing opener, it feels like a precipitous drop to the simplistic 90s MTV sound of followup “Living in Hell,” which fails to impress with its mid-paced Alice in Chains wannabe grunge, despite a chorus that reminds me a little of Wicked Maraya‘s excellent Cycles album.
Things slide even further with amateurish rock ditties like “Rough Grooved Surface” and “Disappear,” both sounding like the original material of a local bar band that should probably stick to playing covers. Generic power ballad “Voice of Reason” goes nowhere very slowly, and things round out with an entirely non-essential cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Dirty Women.” There are some decent moments scattered about, like the Trouble-esque riffing on “Free Man” and “Eyes of a Snake,” but a few decent riffs do not a good song make, and neither of these cuts are going to bring me back after the reviewing is done.
Blood of Angels feels like a directionless mess lacking cohesion between songs. Sometimes keyboards feel shoe-horned in (“Eyes of a Snake”), and good ideas are diluted through repetition. It’s also too long at 51:30 and every track runs past the point of prudence by a minute or several, water-logging the entire enterprise. There’s real talent here to be sure. Elvin Rodriguez is a solid frontman with a great voice. He’s able to shift his delivery to suit classic doom, grunge and rock without issue. He just needs better material to sing over, and the writing is too often messy and pedestrian. Mr. Spillman and Nick Bozidarevic are able guitarists and at times they lock into some sweet riffs and grooves, but again, the writing is their Achilles’ heel bringing everything down around them and the listener.
Blood of Angels is the kind of album you wish was better, and Spillage is the sort of underdog act that’s easy to root for, even if you don’t listen to them much. If they delivered an album with songs as strong as the title track, I’d buy in, but alas, that’s not the case here. Spillage might not be the band to seize Trouble‘s mantle as Chicago doom kings, but maybe with a better sense of the musical direction they want to pursue, they could turn some heads in the future. I’m rooting, but as of now, not listening. Clean up in aisle Psalm 9.