Vancouver power trio Spell are, of course, going to encounter one or two lazy comparisons as they go about their business – a bombastic Canadian three piece with prog leanings? surely not! – and whilst every now and then they do pull something out of the sonic hat that’s already been marked ‘Rush‘ or, less often, ‘Triumph‘, their music is just as likely to make you think of yet another Canadian triumvirate of power – namely, Toronto’s Cauldron – as it is anyone else.
This is a good thing, as there is definitely a more metal than pomp or prog edge to Spell at this point in their career, three albums in. That said, Sibyl Vane has a real Thin Lizzy circa 1979 swing to it, and the band often use an eighties synthwash as a backdrop to their main musical thrusts, giving at times the music a skewed whiff of names like The Mission or Fields of the Nephilim.
It’s an almighty mashup, if truth be told, and at times the listener can be forgiven for getting a little confused as to where the band might head next. The main driving force for cohesion appears to be shared between co-vocalists Al Lester (who also drums) and bassist Cam Mesmer, both of whom favour a sort of quasi-NWoBHM approach to their phrasing, which again goes some way to pushing the metal aspect of the music. Neither is a particular vocal star, but they both have a mannered style which definitely adds a bit of a unique edge to proceedings.
Talking of the NWoBHM, the album’s fourth track, Primrose Path, has a real British tang to it, but there are as many tracks, tracks such as the excellent The Iron Wind, where you won’t be able to put your finger on any pointer to the band’s influences. This is where the Spell sound is at it’s strongest, and where you start to hear the band forging a formidable identity of it’s own…
I don’t want to start crazy talk about the formation of new movements, but there are hints that this sort of late seventies/early eighties-inspired power rock might be making a bit of a bid for stardom in 2020; Norway’s Hex A.D. are operating in very similar territory, for instance, mining from deep seams of inspiration largely untouched by other up-and-coming metal bands. Spell are right in there too, displaying a pleasantly bedazzling knack for fusing direct melodies with more arcane song structures and often-bludgeoning riffage; it’s a beguiling mix, and an exciting one too as the band continues to forge it’s own identity. If grand statements like Dawn Wanderer or the quite superb Deceiver are anything to go by, this is a career upswing that’s going to be well worth watching, and more importantly, listening to.
Opulent Decay is out now.