OfSpireIf you’ve been following any of my mumblings you will know that I have become a bit of a fan of this Edinburgh progressive sludge-doom band over a series of EPs. So yes I really like their music. Really. So why should you continue to take notice of anything I say? Well, it’s up to you but simply put I don’t give anyone a free pass and everything I have previously said about them I stand by and anything to come I have no opinion on until I hear it. Don’t know them, never met them but love their previous releases.

This though, this is the exciting moment and the worrying one. The debut album. Four new tracks, fifty four minutes of sludge/doom in prospect. Can they really continue to push themselves and still write mesmeric, crushing music or succumb to one basic, bland riff per hour repetition?

Deep breath, Giz, we’re going in…. If you’ve never heard them, follow me Eh? See for yourself.

The opening of fourteen minute ‘Carrier Remain’ begins as so much sludge does: A twist of feedback, a slow repeating riff heavy and ominous that drags the album out of its hole. Vocals are low and growled, dry rattling and edgy. So much, so good but I wonder if this is it, if it just goes on and on like this? But I realise there is a weird tension even here and the moment that tempo and riff changes just softly, the delicate extra flick on the drums, you feel the music begin to wind like a low geared, deftly tuned engine. Nothing sudden, but a prelude; a slide not a grind drives it but the track still has that dense, heavy sound. There comes a spaced out drift and a rise and fall pushes into the riff. Then it pulls apart; the excellent drumming shifting and the bass taking the spotlight. Counterpoint notes of melody highlight it. Then they come back together and they fall into a dirty, fuzzed bulldozer riff. Wonderful.

‘Fathom’ lives in a dark place; slow guitar sounds interlaced with the band’s nicely judged use of keyboards to build a disturbing noise that rises from a frightening depth, bass notes left alone in the end. An instrumental that is slow and worrying and might fit on the Cryo Chamber dark ambient roster or some unfilmed, cold Lovecraftian inevitability.

The bass continues, holding that ending thread and leading us into ‘Upon The Spine’ where as the vocals come in we are given the taste of something that twists another facet of the band into the grey light. There is a feel that recalls the Warhorse apocalyptic doom classic ‘As Heaven Turns To Ash’ with the vocals, a dust mote of Dragged Into Sunlight briefly, but it pulls past those into the stark, skeletal melody that Of Spire & Throne do so flawlessly. There is so much tension, so much beautifully judged build up and release and it sounds so live that you close your eyes and you’re in a dark gig, half light and dry ice and the great riffs vibrating through you. Transporting.

And then silence. It just ceases, leaving you questioning immediately where you are, what is supposed to happen now? What am I supposed to do in this space, alone?

Listen. I’m supposed to…

Twenty seconds; is that a crackle? Thirty; a scratching. A soft feedback, keyboards hiding the riff until they are too close to hide any longer. ‘Gallery Of Masks’ has that layering on of sound and the trance like nod that Earth bring. At last there is a kind of warmth, a softness even, that holds you gently. Some sharp guitar melody, feedback, riff and vocals to slow fade.

“The spirit and the self via riffs, space and slow bludgeoning” says their Facebook page and that is the essential truth. Of Spire & Throne understand space and texture like few others. They have a Neurosis like grasp of dynamics and tempo and the intensity of a silence held. They know when the unified bludgeon should pull apart and let the separate instruments bask in the crepuscular spotlights; both drums and bass used superbly as leads here and there, pushing the progressive qualities. They have that Earth instinct of when to just ride the riff and when to slide from it. With their debut they have carried on into the textured landscape of their Toll Of The Wound so and have created a sonic space, a sanctum, where light and shade, noise and delicacy, utter monolithic bludgeon and imaginative progression intertwine beautifully. It’s art, yes, but it its still emotional, compelling, dizzying music beautifully executed.

Congratulations, gentlemen. Hopes exceeded. Blown. Away.

Temples Festival should look at this lot, really. Perfect fit. Perfect.

(10/10 Gizmo)