Tuesday 9 January 2024

Spidergawd - Spidergawd VII (2023)

Country: Norway
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 9/10
Release Date: 10 Nov 2023
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While they may have the least inventive album titles since Chicago, Spidergawd instead choose to pour invention into their music and this is another immense album from them. I gave Spidergawd VI a 9/10, so they were up against it to match that this time out. I've been away from writing music reviews for a couple of weeks as I nailed down a film zine with a particularly urgent deadline but I listened to this a lot over that time and it keeps getting better. It was always going to be at least an 8/10 but I'm enthused by it enough to warrant another 9/10.

I think it was the instrumental section late in the second track, The Tower, that's what started me onto the path to a 9/10. The opener, Sands of Time, is a strong song to kick things off, but it's not a particularly unusual one, with a sort of Magnum-esque effortlessness. It's very commercial with a clear arena rock influence, often with a Sammy Hagar era Van Halen vibe to it as well, but it's very tasty too. It's impeccably written and impeccably performed. It just doesn't carry much in the way of invention.

The invention I expect from Spidergawd arrives with a delightful carnival-style intro to The Tower, almost in a way that Dire Straits might do, though their opportunity for this one would have been Tunnel of Love and they went a different way. A minute in, it finds a proggier vibe but with riffing like Tank. This is an impeccable groove and it only gets better when it shifts into that instrumental section late in the song, which is gorgeous, starting a trend that continues unabated over the next few songs.

Dinosaur is better again and it's a great example of a song that grows on repeat listens. It may be my favourite of the first seven tracks, though Bored to Death comes close. That has another neat galloping groove and another great instrumental section, this one longer too, though there are backing vocals floating over the top at points. These are sublime songs and the saxophone I tend to expect from Spidergawd nowadays shows up early on too. I had missed that, because it's not as prominent on this album until we reach the closer. I kept catching glimpses of it but it vanished in most instances as if it was never there to begin with and I was merely dreaming.

As we shift into the second half, Your Heritage and Afterburner continue in much the same vein, especially the latter. Every one of these is a good song while it's being sung, Per Borten I believe handling that perhaps exclusively here, as I only see Hallvard Gaardløs credited on bass. He does an excellent job and I don't want to cast any shade on his mike work, but every one of these songs also elevates when it evolves into an instrumental section. This band, with Borten again leading the way on lead guitar, find magnificent grooves as easily as falling off a log and grow them well enough that I found myself wondering what an instrumental Spidergawd album might sound like.

I believe Your Heritage is the first single this time out and that may make sense. It's close to being the shortest song here at just over four minutes—only Afterburner is shorter—and it's the one I'd call closest to their Thin Lizzy style, in the riffs and also in the solo. It's another good one, because there are no songs here that aren't good ones, at the very least, but it's a long way from the ones I'd call out as favourites.

Before I get to the closer, because that's absolutely my favourite, above the various gems I called out on the first half, I should mention Anchor Song, because it's the only other song here. There's a real weight to its intro, which is the heaviest moment on the album. The song proper calms and emulates the tone of much of the rest of the album, but there's also a slight alternative vibe to it as well. It also features another fantastic riff. But to that closer.

It's called ...And Nothing But the Truth and it's the epic of the album, even though it's only a little longer than five minutes and not close to the six minutes of The Tower, itself hardly long when we start talking prog. This one ratchets everything up to eleven and unfolds as an absolute peach of a closer. It starts out with the saxophone of Rolf Martin Snustad and builds through acoustic chords reminiscent of Pink Floyd to a more emphatic version of everything we've heard thus far. Borten's more emphatic with his vocals and even more emphatic with his guitar, delivering my favourite of many favourite guitar solos. There are maybe six songs here, out of eight, that absolutely blister through their last minute or two, but this one has to end an album rather than just a song and it's easily up to the task.

So, yeah, this is a second 9/10 in a row from me for a Spidergawd album. They're less proggy than even I'm used to and I only came in with Spidergawd V. However, they're still absolutely on top of their game and this is highly recommended Norwegian hard rock indeed.

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