Not to pander, but any friend of Djam Karet’s is a friend of mine–especially if they can rip and groove like DK, which Spoke of Shadows does on their debut, self-titled release. Prog fans take note: this album has the complex structures and algebraic time signatures you adore, ramped up by Mark Cook’s spot-on Warr guitar riffs. (A touch guitar with what is technically called “an assload of strings.”) Cook partners up with drummer Bill Bachman, whom he told to “Play what you normally would not be allowed to play in other bands,” and a host of guest musicians and together they just let it mother-effing rip. Bachman’s heavy metal thunder anchors the work here and drives a spike right through you to hold you in place while the band lights it up around you. It’s pure, well-tempered adrenaline. Cook kills with savage fretboard runs starting right off the bat on “Dominion,” and the energy rarely abates from there. “Harbinger” kicks off sounding very much like Tony Levin’s Stick Men–and trust me when I tell you that is a potent compliment. Hard notes are hammered on against gorgeous, twisting bass runs as it sets up its structure. Tempo shifts and jazzy structures are all over this piece. It’s a great display of the combo of technical skill and rain-hellfire-on-’em attitude that makes us love prog. I don’t who gets the flaming guitar solo around the 90-second mark, but kudos to you, sir. You may have briefly stopped my heart. This one throttles down nicely at the end, floating to earth on Bob Fisher’s flute. Fisher has a chance to show off his rock side on “Images” by cranking off spitfire trills that would make Ian Anderson blush. On “Tilting At Windmills,” Bachman lays into the double bass kicks as bass-heavy chords rumble the floor. Drops give Fisher more space here and allow the listener a little breathing room. Nice modulation here as the quiet passages get cut off by volcanic resurgences of the metal attitude. As is sometimes the case with prog, there are brief moments when Spoke of Shadows dwell a little too much in art-rock fanciness. The end of “Pain Map,” for instance, drags a bit and makes me think about skipping over it. Compared to the rest of the release, it just feels weak. But the strong parts of the album absolutely outweigh those very few lesser moments. This is a work to dive right into, give it plenty of volume and listen to these superb musicians rip it up. Many thanks to the lads of Djam Karet for bringing Spoke of Shadows to my attention. More, please.
Available from Firepool Records.