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Spoke of Shadows - Spoke of Shadows CD (album) cover


Spoke of Shadows


Heavy Prog

3.99 | 10 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars A modern progressive band and album instantly in need of more attention, exposure and praise is U.S band Spoke of Shadows and their superb self-titled album from 2014. A collaboration between multi-instrumentalist Herd of Instinct member Mark Cook and session drummer Bill Bachman (who's also worked with Neal Morse), along with numerous collaborators from bands such as Djam Karet, Thought Chamber and others, their debut work is simply one of the finest instrumental works that appeared last year. While it may initially take some influences from the heavier `Thrak'-era King Crimson period onwards, there's also dark jazz flavours, slinking electronics and even little traces of chamber prog worked in as well. Cook's bass is the absolute standout of this disc, gliding and weaving throughout every second of it, his performance truly the equal of Bill Noland on the second Eccentric Orbit album `Creation of the Humanoids' from last year as well (look into that one, progressive listeners!), and you won't find more varied and spontaneous drum execution than what Bachman delivers here.

The Crimson influences permeate much of opener `Dominion', a brooding concoction of eerie Mellotron choirs, thick distorted bass murmurs, imposing drum rattles and slimy mud-thick metallic grinding over angular guitar unease. The melancholic yet impossibly beautiful `Images' is carried by near-orchestral Mellotron veils, creeping Tool-like guitar tension and spiralling flute in the finale. Gentle late-night jazz ambience tiptoes through the reflective and heart-breaking piano and singing bass of `One Day', then `Harbringer' brings back the attack with snapping drums, relentless bass chases and unravelling guitar trails racing with devilish glee. Traces of the melody of `Lost One' could have almost been lifted from a Seventies Italian horror movie, wistful flute dancing around heavier monolithic guitar intimidation.

No surprise to find one of the longest tracks here, the seven-plus minute `Pain Map', is one of the most ambitious pieces, including everything from droning hums, strolling bass grooves, skittering jazzy drumming and reaching electric guitars. Although probably one of the heaviest pieces here, the reigned-in hard riffing never becomes too obnoxious or dominant, and listen out for the spacey electronics bubbling around an orchestral chamber prog outro. `Persona' is initially a more sedate romantic guitar piece with flute trills and very low-key electronic grooves that gently transitions into perfectly controlled electric guitar fire and drum eruptions by the final minute.

More lonely Mellotron sighs and weeping flute throughout `Splendid Sisters', then powerful metal drumming, plodding dinosaur guitar grunt and Goblin-like Mellotron slices leave `Tilting at Windmills' sounding not far removed from the heavier later Porcupine Tree moments. `Accord' is a thoughtful bass rumination over serene synths and wavering draw-out guitar chimes with just a hint of classical prettiness breaking through, and both `Dichotomy' and album closer `Drama of Display' reprise those chiming elongated drawn-out Crimson guitar notes with infernal Mellotron, rolling drums, and even psychedelic backwards effects.

Spoke of Shadows are truly Progressive as opposed to lazily recreating the vintage Prog sounds of old in fawning and slavish devotion. Nineties-era King Crimson may be starting point for them, and fans of that band should easily enjoy what they discover here, but Spoke of Shadows take it much further - tasteful and evocative instrumentals full of constantly shifting light and dark moods, dynamic playing and always remaining melodic with a very modern sound. The duo and their musical guests have already set the bar for future works incredibly high here, so hopefully they're not going to be a mere one-off project.

Four stars for the perfect soundtrack to early A.M hours!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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