Wildspeaker – Spreading Adder (Prosthetic Records, 23 June 2017)
“Spreading adder” is one of several nicknames for the eastern hognose snake; others include “hissing adder” or “hissing viper,” “blow snake” or “blow viper,” and “puff adder” — this last one despite the serpent being entirely unrelated to the similarly-named highly venomous species found in Africa. These derive from the reptile’s defensive behaviors which include a display of spreading its body like a cobra, hissing aggressively, and feigning attack.
Spreading Adder is the brand-new album by Dallas-based troupe Wildspeaker, just released this past Friday by Prosthetic Records after a handful of self-released efforts over the past three years. Self-produced by the band and recorded in bassist Garry Brents (also a member of Cara Neir)’s own studio, the album comes across with every bit of viciousness and ferocity as its namesake animal.
The quintet (the line-up also includes vocalist Natalie Kahan, drummer Ricky Rivera, and Nelson Favela and Zak Pitts on guitar) are currently in the middle of a tour across the U.S. — but unfortunately we’ve just learned that they’ve had a bit of a van mishap! Click here for more details on that story, including a link to a Gofundme page to help with needed repairs — or you might also consider buying a copy of their new album or other merch to help get them back on the road. (The remaining scheduled tourdates will be listed in the comments section below, but you probably ought to keep tabs on Facebook to see whether there is any new information.)
The term “crust punk” is a pretty broad umbrella that can encompass a wide variety of musical styles and components, and this Wildspeaker album covers pretty much all of them at one time or another. Always with a dark and murky aesthetic, and featuring vocals every bit as scary and ophidian as you might expect based on the title, the album starts off real slow and sludgy in “Apparent Death,” while the title track is much faster, incorporating more of a punky and D-beaty sound; “Shadow” is slow and doomy for the most part but then “Still Life” exudes a raw, blackened punk feeling.
One of the most peculiar things about the spreading adder is its ability to convincingly play dead by rolling over onto its back when feeling threatened, carefully watching the source of the threat to “resurrect” when no longer observed — to either escape or to strike again if necessary. Similarly, Spreading Adder has a tendency to suddenly begin to creep very slowly, but then without warning, to go back on the attack with lightning quickness. Songs like “Elegy” shift tempos a few times and exhibit numerous unexpected direction shifts; “False Mourning” starts off rather fast with chuggy death metal guitars, then slows to more of a low-tempo death metal style, before exploding back into more of a blackened vibe. Other good examples include “Cinders” which features breakneck blastbeats and blackened guitars, but slows down midway to a misery-filled crawl; and “Petrified Forest” which also slows down a bit from its initial d-beat pacing, but later cranks up to a near-insane tempo.
A couple of my personal favorites here include “One Sinking Stone” with its guitar arpeggios giving off a vibe like an atmospheric death metal waltz; and the final (and longest) song “Renewal” which, after its crackly-growly bass-only intro, also has somewhat of a waltz-like feeling throughout, filled with lots of layers of noisy guitars and atmospherics, and some of the record’s most impassioned and tortured vocals — until everything dissolves, leaving almost tender-sounding guitars near the end, which ultimately fade away to nothingness.
But all of the tracks here are worth checking out — enough similarity in tone and mood to avoid sounding disjointed but enough of a variety to keep the listener engaged, all tied together with layers of feedback and gloomy atmosphere segueing from one vitriolic and miserable composition to the next.
Spreading Adder can be previewed through Bandcamp, below, and is available to buy right here.
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