When I was looking for best of 2014 albums that I missed, I stumbled across Spectral Lore’s III. Last post I said I was going through a black metal phase, and this is the album that got me in the mood for it. I always find black metal hard to review, so I wasn’t going to do this one. I changed my mind.
As far as I can tell, Spectral Lore is a one-man Greek band that has been putting out music for about 10 years now. The sound of the album is a nice mix of old and new. It has a polish to it which allows you to hear what is happening, but keeps a raw, dirty side too.
The album kicks off with one of the biggest walls of sound of the album which almost made me quit the first time through. The song is not representative of the whole, and I’ve come to find a lot of interesting interior movement in it. I’ve come around to like it now for how the interior chaos fits together to make a larger static overall sound.
The album often comes down to quiet moments with an arpeggiated cleaner guitar sound, and then layers in more and more to build up to harsh climaxes. I imagine that the sparseness gets to be a bit too much for too long for many people, but I like that the album dares to push the boundaries. Most of the time it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but at least an attempt was made to do something interesting.
Melodically, the album is hit or miss. Some songs have a lot of care put into crafting an interesting melody that comes and goes and gets developed. Others have almost no melody and consist entirely of arpeggiating and noodling. This never posed a problem for me, because the non-melodic parts still have a lot of complicated depth and atmosphere to them.
For example, the end of “The Veiled Garden” could easily be written off as an uninteresting long taper. But there is a subtle wood flute (maybe?) in the background to create the atmosphere. These subtleties are easy to miss the first few times through.
Many might find the album to be too long (it is divided into two parts) or too bombastic and grandiose at parts. I complained recently about Periphery’s length, but that was different. There was obvious crap on that album that they spewed out and decided to keep. This album basically holds my attention for the whole 85 minutes.
Spectral Lore certainly has no problem drifting away from the black metal aesthetic. The album sometimes verges on rock or post-metal. The whole second half is influenced heavily from quieter folk melodies and even ancient chanting. It all fits together and flows beautifully from one section to the next.
Overall, I give this album a 9/10. I have no idea which song to link for a sample, so I’ll just post to the first track which will lead to the whole thing on their bandcamp: