There is a certain stagnancy that has attached itself to modern black metal. I’m not sure if it is due to the pure magnitude of bands that have crawled out of the woodwork within the last decade, or if it’s because it has somehow managed to seep into some sectors of pop culture, contradicting the core foundation of it’s true meaning.
Occasionally, though, something special pushes its way through the weeds and finds its way out. Something that commands attention, and rightfully deserves it at the same time.
Not much is known about SPIRE, except that they hail from Brisbane, Australia. Like a lot of other black metal acts, they are shrouded in mystique and secrecy. A faceless, formless group of musicians that have joined together to create a piece of art, an expression of suffering and despair that bends and morphs through opaque corridors ripe with despondency and decay. Spire manages this flawlessly on their debut LP, Entropy.
The album opens with “Ends,” an ominous and foreboding offering that begins subtly by exuding an uncomfortable build that quickly shifts into an unearthly assault of inharmonious cacophony. From the beginning, it is apparent that Spire’s musical craftsmanship is nothing short of excellent, incorporating atmosphere and ambiance with unhinged, frantic barbarity and precision. “Labyrinthine“ simmers and stews, slowly trudging through black and murky depths before exploding with intensity, a contrast that Spire has seemingly honed to a specific science.
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
“(Remake)” – a pensive and meditative interlude – stands out for me as it showcases the band’s ability to hit the brakes on the black metal barbarity that it demonstrates throughout most of Entropy. Instead, we are met with a wall of thick and droning haze, with trickles of reverb-soaked strings that slowly weave in and out of the fog, using wide brushstrokes to color an immersive portrait of grey and black hues. It is a reflective and ruminative piece of art that speaks of everything and nothing at the same time. It adds an element of fragility, something delicate. A welcome and fitting reprieve from the onslaught.
“Void” and “(Unmake)” follow, tearing through the haunting mist that “(Remake)” left behind with blackened cruelty. Spire’s sound continues to swirl and swell from slow, seeping desolation to straight forward blast beat laden, nightmarish dissonance, creating a dense and cavernous atmosphere that is both enthralling and alarming all at once.
Closing the album is the nearly 14 minute long, sprawling epic “Entropy.” “Entropy” is a perfect analogy of itself, sharing an amalgam of all of the traits that make this album special, along with its title. It slowly builds tension, swelling and swaying until the cup spills forth acidic dissension, exploding with blast beats and razor-sharp riffage that cuts to the core. The turmoil then resolves, bending into a melancholic dreamscape that fades into nothingness. It is beautiful, yet it is ugly. Contemplative, yet distressing.
With Entropy, SPIRE have delivered a work of art that is as mesmerizing and haunting as it is unsettling – a harrowing journey through dense passageways rich with discordant expression and stirring atmosphere. A spiraling declaration of contrasting elements that builds towards everything and nothing all at once.