Spider Kitten – Behold Mountain, Hail Sea, Venerate Sky, Bow Before Tree (Undergroove Records, 27 October 2014)
Hello out there in Internetland, how’s everyone doing? — (Really, I’m only asking out of habit. No one ever answers me. For the record, I see the stats for this website, and I know how many of you are visiting each day — would it really hurt to say hello while you’re here?)
Anyway, the important part is that you’re here. And you’re in for a treat, because (of course) I’ve got some great music I’d like to share with you. Introducing: Spider Kitten, a Welsh band that has been kicking around DIY-style for well over a decade, in some form or another (I understand that the group has featured anywhere between two and seven members over the course of its history). Presumably, the name — much like Iron Butterfly — is meant to evoke images of widely contrasting concepts. In this case, apparently, those would be that the band is vicious and frightening, as well as cute and cuddly?
Regardless, this is indeed a band who have spanned a wide array of styles throughout their history — and its members have their hands in many other projects ranging anywhere from black metal to Americana. On the particular album we’re discussing today, we’re presented with a heaping helping of sludgy doom, kicked up a few notches with some epic arrangements and plenty of Viking themes…
Behold Mountain, Hail Sea, Venerate Sky, Bow Before Tree has been described by its creators as an album that was never intended to be. That is to say, the songs contained herein began as an experiment, where the band was just working through some stuff creatively, in order to prepare for their next album (for which they had pretty specific ideas in mind). But somewhere along the way, it seems, these compositions took on a life of their own, and grew into something altogether different. And this was combined with a fascination with Viking culture and heritage, with themes and lyrics containing information that had been exhaustingly researched. At the end of the day, three new songs were born (one of which is further divided into three parts) and the album that wasn’t supposed to be made insisted its way into existence.
Opening track “Lindisfarena” introduces the Viking concept right off the bat, taking its name from The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, an important site in British Christian history, which found itself raided by Vikings several centuries ago. The song starts out with the sound of war drums, which is then built upon by low-tempo sludgy riffs that never really relent for over five minutes, until they ultimately dissolve into a contemplative and almost chant-like aftermath. This is followed by the similarly low-tempoed (with some rather crunchy riffs, yet at the same time featuring distant, spacey vocals) “Bearded Axe” — another name that reflects the warring tendencies of Viking culture.
The brief acoustic outro of this second song leads perfectly into the nearly-fifteen-minute “Gore Swan.” Made up of the sections “Of the Land,” Of the Sea,” and “Of the Sky,” this epic piece has its roots in actual epic poetry. Introduced by an acoustic guitar duet in a vaguely English folk style, we are returned to the sludgy stuff soon enough. A pair of verses each end with a hymnal delivery of the album’s title, and then the incorporation of a cello into the mix. The second time around, the other instruments all fall away as multiple cello parts combine together into a fugue of sorts, with a back-and-forth motion accompanied by nautical sound effects.
The final part reintroduces the heavy guitars, while keeping some cello and adding in an organ into the background for good measure. Here, the various layers give the impression building up to something monumental. Indeed, about a minute and a half from the end, there’s a bit of spoken word buried amidst all the other goings-on; listening closely reveals this to be adapted from a passage of the Völuspá, specifically, from the section describing the events of Ragnarök. It doesn’t get much bigger than that, but frankly these songs seem to hold up to the subject matter more than adequately.
You can preview the album on Bandcamp, and buy a CD while you’re there…
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