06. New Eyes
Despite boasting a line up of some of the more prominent up and coming acts in the Australian progressive rock and metal scene, including Chaos Divine, Circles and Ne Obliviscaris, one of the more surprisingly memorable performances at the recent Melbourne leg of the Progfest tour was given by a young band by the name of Kettlespider. Considering their somewhat silly name, which wouldn’t be out of place on an early 90s grunge band, it would have been easy to overlook them. However, what they delivered was an entirely refreshing set of instrumental prog which, while heavy, created a captivating mood of hope and optimism, a mood which pervades their debut album, Avadante, released earlier this year.
While a wholly instrumental album, we learn from the short opening track, ‘Introduction’, that Avadante charts the journey of a man confined to a comatose state. Of course, this is not new thematic material for a metal or progressive band to explore. What is unique, however, is that rather than weaving a dark tale of loss and despair, Kettlespider have created an album that is not only quite uplifting, but is also emotionally sophisticated and devoid of the melodrama that often undermines the impact of lighter progressive rock and metal. I suspect that the absence of vocals is a significant factor in this respect, and there are few if any points on the album where it could be said that vocals are missed. This is due in no small way to the beautifully sensitive guitar melodies created by Scott Ashburn and Haris Boyd-Gerny. However, it is also because the song writing here is so youthfully earnest and genuine that one can’t help but be caught in a moment of contentment.
Compositionally, Avadante has a number of predominant features, including the arpeggiated and syncopated guitar and synth motifs that form the foundation upon which most of the songs are constructed. In and of themselves, these motifs are relatively straightforward, but what sets them off is the chronometric drumming of Simon Wood and the varying rhythmic patterns he lays down as the motifs roll repetitively over him, which is particularly the case in ‘Discovery‘. Furthermore, oddly metered time signatures abound on Avadante, which are not only essential in developing the subtly intricate rhythmic matrices that are evident in these songs, but also ensure that despite their fairly mid-paced tempos, the songs move forward with a feeling of perpetual motion – as if like clockwork.
While melodically sensitive and rhythmically technical, Avadante is still an album of powerful grooves, enhanced by crunchy guitars, the rich and almost creamy undertones of Colin Andrews’ bass, and the harmonic layers of Geoffrey Fyfe’s synth. At times, however, such as in the album’s heaviest track, ‘Revelations‘, the production could be bigger and more powerful. There are also times when the tracking is not quite as tight as it should be, and a solo piano section at the end of ‘Comatose‘, which is clearly designed to be one of the more dramatic moments of the album, falls flat due to a hesitant performance from Fyfe.
Though raw, Avadante is a thoroughly engaging debut effort from a young and inexperienced band blessed with that rare ability to blend their songs with technical prowess and emotional depth, and they are certainly a welcome and exciting addition to the ever diversifying Australian progressive music scene. Already working on their second album, it will be interesting to see whether they can harness their potential by developing a more mature and polished sound whilst retaining their fresh and exuberant point of view.
Kettlespider – Avadante gets…