When I was younger, I remember pre-ordering Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete for the original PlayStation, back when it was announced at my local Babbage’s in the fall of 1996. It would be a full three years later before it was released. In that timeframe, I graduated from high school, worked at Babbage’s then-competitor (Electronics Boutique), quit acrimoniously from said competitor, went Straight-Edge very hard, got unnecessarily angry at life and everything around me, gave up being Straight-Edge very hard,1 and moved around the same town three times, yet I still had my eyes on the prize. When I got the game, it didn’t quite live up to the expectations despite all the delays. This story suggests I possess the patience of that unfortunate Bible character, Job. However, instead of being infected with sores and having my crops and family wiped out, I’m being subjected (by choice, mind you2) to a never-ending string of bloated albums. And with that, we have Spanish duo Suspiral and their debut album, Delve into the Mysteries of Transcendence.
With a lead-off like the preceding paragraph you’re probably thinking “This may not be promising.” You’re right. Thankfully, this is only a 33-minute album. Not so thankfully, it’s also only comprised of three songs, with the shortest still clocking in at over 10 minutes. Opening track “Poisonous Essence” is thirteen minutes of multiple-layered guitars by “M.S.” with a skill level varying from “basic riffing,” “whammy abuse” onto “you picked that note? REALLY?” while bassist “A.T.” moans, hisses, howls, and struggles to get his chosen instrument to be somewhat audible over the overwhelming din of his bandmate. They’ve also hired a drummer, “M.P.,” who can best be described as sloppy and inconsistent. Also, I counted about six different riffs and song ideas, and not a single one could be considered engaging or good. Not even the post-keyboard fake-out ending at 12:00 could salvage this, due to some pretty sloppy arpeggios.
While the other two songs are shorter, they’re unfortunately no better. Final track “Art of Death” is the most consistent in terms of quality riffs, but even then the song’s length (over 11 minutes) and the band’s desire to put layer upon impenetrable layer of guitars over everything hampers the song significantly. I’ve been seeing comparisons to Darkthrone and Celtic Frost thrown about online, but Delve lacks the swagger and attitude of the former, and the ability to rein things in a bit (and by “a bit,” I really mean a whole lot) of the latter. The Wall o’ Guitars isn’t effective if the riffs aren’t there.
In terms of sound, just as you can have a loud album sound incredible, Delve succeeds in proving that you can have a dynamic record that sounds horrible. Bass is virtually non-existent, and the drums are buried beneath the tornado of guitars and cavernous vocals. But even with a better production job, the lack of focus and self-editing damns Delve to purgatory. Just because you can write a long song doesn’t mean you should. Fleshing out ideas is never a bad thing, and it will pay off in the long run in terms of repeated listens and a stronger fanbase.
When a listener spends a half-hour listening to an album that feels like a two-hour marathon, you’re doing it wrong. When you have songs reaching way beyond the ten-minute mark with no pay-off, again, you’re doing it wrong. Suspiral are a young act, so maybe the next go-around will be tighter, more concise, and somewhat memorable. In the meantime, I will find another means of transcendence.