I knew that I was digging Spiricom’s Opening the Portal before I got around to looking them up on the internet, but when I did, it became clear to me why I was enjoying it. One half of Spiricom is the very talented Steven K. Smith, whose work I have enjoyed in the past, whether under his own name, as A Signal in the Static, or as part of Dolmen with Jason Sloan. Pairing up here with guitarist Marc Cody, Smith handles synth guitars, keys, percussion and programming. Opening the Portal retains much of what I quite like in Smith’s work–raw and aggressive, grit-spattered post-rock with an attitude problem. Cody is the lead guitarist here, his work moving from the bright, shiny sounds of indie rock to metal-worthy, industrially crunchy guitar chords. Over that, Smith layers treatments and atmospheres to give us a perfect mix of the hooks and emotional content of the melodies and the gut-check rawness of the treatments. For example, the catchy song that’s sitting in the midst of “Another Way to Another World” is textbook post-rock with a melancholy tone, but it’s filtered through a dense gauze of distortion. It’s not that I find this a super-original approach; it just happens to be extremely well done here. I have to note that I quite like the first track, “After This World,” for the way it reminds me of Suspended Memories (Steve Roach/Jorge Reyes/Suso Saiz), between the clacking percussion and the animalistic, drawn-out sighs of the guitar. There’s a hint of tribal hiding in there. The duo also drive home their theme well in several spots. The Spiricom of the title was an invention said to be able to communicate with the dead, built in part with the help of someone who had died 13 years before it was created. (No, seriously.) To that end, we get distant, ghostly wails haunting the background in “I Feel A Presence,” which is where the aggressive metal feel really kicks in to take the focus away from windy pads and a slow-picked melody (give it two minutes). Hear it again on “A View to the Other Side” as Smith grinds these sounds through severe distortion, amping up the anguish of the screams. It works very well.
There’s a lot to listen to packed into Opening the Portal‘s 38 minute running time. It’s a very visceral release and it stands up to repeat listens. Cody’s playing is superb whether he’s taking on a quiet and reflective melody or slashing across your face with razor chords. Great chemistry is at work here, and I hope to hear more from Spiricom.
Available from the Spiricom web site.