First off, yes, that is the album’s title. Secondly, let’s get to the review. Deep breath and here we go:
Chaos is an element often cited in the creation of extreme music and beyond. Chaos magick for instance, that half joke half occult practice, has seen a surge in popularity past the 90’s, and many are the music reviews which use the adjective “chaotic” to describe metal. But what is often dubbed as chaotic is actually something a bit more subtle; nothing that’s truly chaotic makes enough sense for our brains to parse it as music. True, bands move on this spectrum and some of them (like Unexpect for example), veer closer to the truly scattered, but most of them inject some sort of control into the mix which makes chaos palatable and understandable.
The measure of the chaotic band then is, ironically, how much order they inject into their basic pandemonium and how they inject it. Based on that measure, Spires of the Lunar Sphere is one of the more interesting bands operating in metal today. Their 2015 debut, Pangea Ultima, was a shocking experiment in what happens when you turn the dial on discord almost as far as it can go; it blended glitch electronics, metalcore, grind-like aggression and video game music into one challenging whole. One album is fine and all; it was certainly impressive and, perhaps even more surprisingly, highly enjoyable. But the true test is whether Spires of the Lunar Sphere could do it again (and again), proving that they actually had control over the chaos and that their first effort wasn’t a fluke. Well, was it?
No, it really, really wasn’t. SIREN (take the fair face of woman and gently suspending with butterflies flowers and jewels attending thus your fairy be made of most wondrous things) (henceforth referred to as SIREN in this review) is everything that the first album was and then some. It is, yet again, a bewildering denial of the ordinary borders of extreme metal, using a highly salient and corrosive approach to electronics, track structure and aesthetics to break down the over-seriousness of metal and create damn fine music in the process. Where to begin? Probably in the beginning; walking such a twisted road requires attention. The first trio of tracks also serves us well as a beginning point, as they continue many of the building blocks of SIREN.
“Sweets Cemetery” gets things going with an off-kilter melody, utilizing the famous trope of the disharmonious idyllic harmony. This sweet, childish and supposedly innocent theme is classically twisted, hinting at the bizarre juxtapositions of the album at large. SIREN then leans into the trope with “HYPERGAZER 77”, turning up the synth tones and their presence right before the track explodes into what can only described as August Burns Red played through a Nintendo 64 as the latter frays at its existential edges. The guitar chords are accentuated with glitching synths and a dreamy mid-passage which recalls the sweeter beginnings of the track before transitioning into “Midnite In The Garden Of Vulva”, which is where things get really interesting.
That’s because it exemplifies one of the traits most admirable about Spires of the Lunar Sphere. This is their ability to craft actual tracks from out of the chaos, instead of being satisfied with the kind of scattered flirtation with a host of ideas that many other bands fall into. They know when to put a stop to the magnificent but ultimately short lived mayfly of the first few tracks and make an actual track. “Midnite In The Garden Of Vulva” is still frazzled and challenging, don’t misunderstand, but it has more cohesion and a progression which reminds the listener that they are, after all, listening to an album. It focuses on the more aggressive sides of the band’s side while never forgetting to add in weird breaks, electronic samples in the background and more to create a common language with the rest of the album.
This kind of “aural islands” is what makes SIREN work so well. The Mr. Bungle influenced “Purple Eyes” (which also features, near its end, one of the best synth/guitar unisons I’ve ever heard), “Drac’s Night Out” (one of the best tracks this band has ever written) and other, more traditionally constructed tracks that are nonetheless backed by the signature chaos of the band, all give this album shape and form. In between them lives anarchy unleashed, a sometimes frustrating but ultimately rewarding listening experience which slips loose the dogs of musical war and gives flight to each and every one of the band’s fancies. Because of this “order in chaos” approach, SIREN is simply a marvellous album; it challenges you, it assaults you, it reveals wisdom and meaning but it also flies off the handle, shocks you and leaves you asking “what in the fuck just happened”?
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=1980013575 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small track=67844692]
SIREN (take the fair face of woman and gently suspending with butterflies flowers and jewels attending thus your fairy be made of most wondrous things) was released independently on October 16th. Please consider supporting the band if you’re able to via their Bandcamp above.