Spectres – Dying

Spectres - Dying

Spectres – Dying

The Barnstaple-born but firmly now Bristol-based Spectres have followed a satisfyingly old school career path to date; choosing to grow at a healthy organic pace through a string of collectible short-form releases (predominantly on the self-built Howling Owl label) and relentless gigging (with the likes of The Vacant Lots, Lorelle Meets The Obsolete and Perfect Pussy) before delivering a full-length album.  Such cumulative creativity and camaraderie in the lengthy run up this debut studio LP – released on the increasingly reliable taste-making Sonic Cathedral label – has clearly been invaluable.

Rather than having rushed to capture and over-stretch the first flushes of studio exploration with a premature first album, the much-awaited Dying logically extends upon the Spectres’ story so far whilst standing-up as a more mature and ambitious statement in its own right.

Although self-described as far from being an easy listen, the bleakly-anointed Dying is a remarkably cohesive affair, wherein the previously-released “The Sky Of All Places,” “Family” (formerly known as “Sister”) and “Lump” have been re-worked to fit an overrall sonic arc that finds the foursome sculpting expanded interconnected soundscapes of strong emotional intelligence.  Although seemingly keen to retain noise-rock credentials, the album benefits from its intuitive ebbing and flowing, relying as much as on guttural guitar pedal-pounding as it does on nuanced moods and textures, for which singer-guitarist Joe Hatt’s dense lyrical tracts and Sonic Boom’s mastering must take some specific credit.  With co-founder Adrian Dutt’s interlocking guitars and the well-anchored rhythm-section of bassist Darren Frost and drummer Andy Came also integral to the live-in-the-studio recording process, Dying is still very much an ensemble effort throughout.

Hence, after the short atonal instrumental curtain-raiser of “Drag” the foursome galvanise together with a steely collective purpose.  Surging from the soaring early-Swervedriver prowl and judder of “Where Flies Sleep” through the swirling revamp of “The Sky Of All Places” and on to the almost anthemic “Family” (which masterfully shoves Smashing Pumpkins’ “Cherub Rock” and Sugar’s “Tilted” through an Isn’t Anything blender, with backing vocals from guest Oliver Wilde buried in the mix to boot), the opening tract of Dying builds upon more familiar Spectres territory.

For the close to mid-point of “This Purgatory” a more far-reaching and epic vision is brought into focus, with atmospherically dank strung-out passages overriding the visceral bursts of noise.  For the more concise ensuing “Mirror” the band’s brutal streak returns, albeit with abstract guitar clank and scree akin to Confusion Is Sex-era Sonic Youth revealing that although many of the same influences are still being dug into the mining is now far deeper.  For the utterly immense “Blood In The Cups” a nagging circular riff and throbbing bass line swim through stormy churning and mesmeric pools of reflection.  Whilst the relatively brief shoegaze-blizzard of “Sink” and an even more violent regurgitation of “Lump” bring things back to more immediate sonic impulses, the closing nine-minute “Sea Of Trees” draws proceedings to an alluring adventurous end, with amniotic warmth and meditative rhythms gradually rolling into and being submerged by waves of sprawling dissonance.

Whilst there are many bands raiding similar sonic chemistry sets in search of equivalent sonic elixirs, Spectres are evidently in it for the long-haul rather than fleeting flying and crashing Icarus-like notoriety, which this more than promising long-player steadfastly confirms.  Undoubtedly too, Dying is a best swallowed-whole concoction; one which might overload the sensory digestive system at first but still leaves you wanting more when you’ve recovered.

Sonic Cathedral