Spiral Arms - Freedom (SPV/Steamhammer)

Masterful stuff...
Release Date: 
21 Oct 2013 - 11:30pm

Well, well, well… I’d always assumed that Spiral Arms – featuring Craig Locicero of Bay Area thrash notables Forbidden and Tim Narducci of nu-metal also rans Systematic – were just another one of the absolute plethora of stoner metal bands that have sprung up over the last few years, all beards, vests and Sabbath worship without actual recourse to talent or inspiration. And although Freedom, their second release, kicks off with a suitably bowel-rattling blast of lower end riffage in the form of Dropping Like Flies, it isnt long before you realise there’s more – a whole lot more, in fact – to this excellent act.

Take the excellent Exit 63 for instance, where the band sounds for all the world like Tesla jamming on a long lost, never released Skynyrd outtake – one listen here and you realise that this band is really quite special indeed. Narducci is blessed with an archetypal American hard rock voice, equal parts gritty, soulful and melodic, which means that this band can basically turn it’s hands to anything in the fields of classic metal or rock and come out smelling of roses.

After Exit 63 comes the excellently brooding Blackmoon Rising, a grungy, dark, slow burning track that builds into a supremely riff-heavy bastard of a song come chorus time, its grinding, mesmeric central riff offset by some nice melodic touches from keyboardist Brad Barth.

Drugs and Alcohol is less cerebral, more dynamic, as the title might suggest, harnessing a bludgeoning riff straight outta the latterday Orange Goblin songbook;  it’s simplistic battering provides the base for some nice soloing from Locicero and axe cohort Anthony Traslavina, and this riff homage continues on next track Dealer. Dealer is the seventies brought to stunning modernity,  four minutes of snakehipped riffs (every song has a riff you’ll find yourself humming days afterwards and wondering where it came from) and a greasy vocal from Narducci. It’s Grand Funk Railroad duking it out with Free, and I bloody love it.

Lovers Leap wisely drops the pace a whole bunch, being a miserablist ballad that you might imagine Alice in Chains cooking up in their heyday, all sumptuous acoustic strumming and pensive vocalising. It’s the perfect antidote to the furious rocking that’s just been assaulting your eardrums, it’s fragility highlighted by the bludgeon that went before.

However good any of this is, though, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet, as the man once said.  The ace iin this album’s pack is the stunning title track. A heady synthesis of just about every key player in seventies rock, it is pure and utter sonic nirvana, it’s only drawback being that, at a little over five and a half minutes in length, it just aint long enough. An absolutely glorious song, it sends shivers down the spine every time I hear it’s gloriously simple yet gorgeously effective refrain.

Masterful stuff then – certainly essential listening if you love classic rock of any stripe – and with enough tough riffage to keep the metalheads happy it’s hard to see who won’t find much to enjoy here.