Album Review: Spectral Voice – Sparagmos

Album Review: Spectral Voice - Sparagmos
Reviewed by Sam Jones

If there’s one band that always on my tongue when considering underground metal, it’s Spectral Voice. Formed in 2012 out of Colorado, United States, the band has an unusual existence being that their roster is predominantly made up of Blood Incantation members, so if one band is active the other is not, then vice-versa. The band had a steady climb, releasing numerous Demos and Splits alongside Blood Incantation and Phrenelith. Then, in 2017, Spectral Voice unleashed Eroded Corridors Of Unbeing, a landmark record of modern death/doom that absolutely destroyed people’s expectations. Whilst the band hadn’t followed it up with another album, they maintained activity with Splits alongside Undergang and Anhedonist and a Compliation of their Demos together as well, but finally announced in late 2023 the band declared they would at last return with Sparagmos, their first album in seven years. With a record that’s destined to have fans foaming for its release come February 9th, I knew I had to get in on this work. So, continuing their partnership with Dark Descent Records, this is Spectral Voice and their 2024 record: Sparagmos.

I simply love how, after seven years, Spectral Voice return with a new album and it’s just four tracks. There’s nothing massively grandiose about the record itself from an immediate glance, they don’t bless us with a swathe of material because each track is massive in of itself; forty-five minutes split into four tracks dictates each piece will be lengthy and, with an average span of twelve minutes, it gives us an idea of what the band have in store for us. There may not be much in the way of quantity but Spectral Voice, having garnered considerable rapport with their debut 2017 record, are set to demonstrate there’s an abundance of quality lurking within. Adhering to their established sound, Sparagmos doesn’t burst out of the gates but, like a monster eerily creeping it’s hand through the cracks, this record slowly unveils its malice before hitting us with that first, explosive hit of riff before unveiling the full magnitude of the band’s horror.

It’s honestly been a good moment since I checked out some death/doom but, straightaway, Spectral Voice remind me why they’ve been amongst my favourite bands of this style; everything the band do, every change of the riff’s chords, to the methodical drumming, to every instance of vocal utterance, is implemented to drown us within a sea of immersion. One does not simply “listen” to Spectral Voice so much as one is held entirely captive by their performance, it doesn’t take long for the band to demonstrate that their earliest, fame-deriving, works weren’t some chance fluke, but the result of dear time and effort. As I listened, even before the first track was through, I ceased thinking the band as a “band” compiling various members together to create the sound on display, and instead perceived Sparagmos as something that must have been dug up, excavated, unearthed. The band’s demonic soundscape evokes an otherworldly force, made sentient, and it’s that primeval netherhell jutting forth this record. In doing so, the band’s immersion is absolute.

Album Review: Spectral Voice - Sparagmos

While the slower tempo has oft been viewed as Spectral Voice’s forte, Sparagmos tends to highlight, far more than I can recall the band having done so in the past, an abruptly sharp transition between going from slow to fast. The majority of the record is drenched in this crawling, subterranean aesthetic the band make clear is their natural affinity but there are a few times, the length of their tracks bearing in mind, the band change things up and quicken the pace. When this becomes the case, the band assume a more blackened style whereby it’s not merely faster but the overall essence of their sound takes on a collectively visceral exterior, as if we’d cut ourselves gravely were we to attempt harnessing it as the songwriting continues. When doing so, the vocals too, already the tenebrous delivery, jut out with an altogether scraping, afeared texture to them which, when combined with the faster tempo, only plunges us further into this nightmare, seemingly terrified of the riffs on display. In this respect, the band have gone even further than Eroding Corridors Of Unbeing by establishing an ethereally unhinged record that feels like a dream on the precipice of shattering.

I do believe the production is better on this record than their first release, primarily because while we can thoroughly enjoy the crushing soundscape Spectral Voice are famed for, at no point did its huge weight feel a chore to withstand. If anything, it was actually a joy to know the incredible bulk this record was throwing at me and knowing I could easily bear its load. The band’s performance is gargantuan and they aren’t afraid to really get heavy to the point where nought else penetrates our engagement with Sparagmos; its demand for attention is absolute, utterly commanding and we never seek to turn away from the commitment this album requires of us. Like throwing concrete slabs down upon us from multiple stories high, breaking our bones, we simply spit teeth out, begging it to be done again. The guitar work possesses vast scope as riffs play out into the distance without losing strength but I can still pick out the clarity of those chords too; The drums throw incredible power our way but, a refreshing discovery, they haven’t been buried within the mix, enabling cymbals to crash and ring unchallenged, detailing the room we still have to breathe here. Leave it to the modern masters of death/doom to craft a record with such a cavernous aesthetic without destroying their audience’s senses at the same time.

In conclusion, Spectral Voice have, on their hands here, an absolute dynamite album, one that isn’t merely going to raise eyebrows but is bound to rip heads round to their direction. If, in the near decade since their last album, people have forgotten what made this band such the devastating force to begin with, Sparagmos will remind people within minutes just how much power their riffs possess. I feel like the band went into a much angrier direction this time round, for their riffs, especially at speed, really embodies this seething, boiling tension that’s ready to explode beneath the surface but doesn’t come to until the absolute, final moment when hell is let loose. The soundscape isn’t as all-consuming this time but it plays to the band’s advantage since we can thoroughly breathe and take stock of where we are and where we’re going all the while the songwriting is ripping our skin to pieces. It just straddles that line enough for us to recognise it’s power and mass without it becoming a hindrance to our capacity to perceive its brute strength. Aforementioned beforehand, this album only sports four tracks but the sheer amount of material and enjoyment to be found within is exceptional, and even at forty-five minutes long and as ruthless it’s songwriting harnesses, I felt like I could go right to the start and go through it all again with ease. What a stellar release. It wouldn’t be amiss to predict this amongst many people’s best albums of the year come 2024’s end. I just hope Spectral Voice don’t leave it another seven years until their next album. Outstanding record.

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