Portugese one-man experimental/progressive metal outfit Spiralist’s Eternal Recurrence is one of the most intriguing records I’ve had the pleasure of stumbling across this year.
In addition to its striking cover art, the album consists of four radically different compositions. First is the shortest of the album’s offerings, the seven-and-a-half-minute “Sun Ra” – a blackened progressive metal number that brings to mind modern progressive metal staples such as Enslaved, Leprous and even Between the Buried and Me in its combination of harsh, spacy textures and driving rhythmic flourishes. If the rest of the album had simply repeated this formula I’d still be raving about it, but the rest of the record is even more ambitious in scope.
Second track “Tansmutate” reminds me of Neon Ballroom-era Silverchair as much as Between the Burried and Me in its clean-sng piano-led refrains which build up to a chaotic, extreme metal climax. The album’s eponymous fifteen-minute closer sounds more akin to Porcupine Tree due to its blend of classic, sunny-sounding prog rock elements with darker undertones and again, builds to a cathartic, blackened post metal crescendo. It’s third-track “The Unknown” that really stands out though. The eleven-minute-long song is an ominous electronic instrumental that manages to stay thematically and emotionally engaging throughout.
The band also explore industrial and electronic music in much more succinct and abrasive form on last year’s The Future EP, while their older material leans far mor einto black metal to equal succes.
An project this eclectic in its approach to extreme metal demanded the Anatomy Of treatment, and Spiralist mainman Bruno Costa came through with and expectedly diverse array of influences.
Tool – Lateralus (2001)
Tool were immensely important to me on a personal level even before Spiralist came into existence. Discovering Lateralus clearly marked a point in my life where there was a “before” and there was an “after”. And what still gets me isn’t Danny Carey’s incredible drumming technique or the mystical and occult themes on the record, it’s the great songs the band wrote and an atmosphere that I’ve heard plenty of bands failing to replicate. It made me realize that it was more important to make the listener feel something than to come up with wild guitar solos for every song I wrote. The title track is still one of my favorite songs of all time.
Leviathan – Scar Sighted (2015)
I started Spiralist in the summer of 2016, which was admittedly not a good time in my life. Dark and heavy music, like Godflesh or Deathspell Omega, helped me cope with some of the issues I was facing. But nothing helped quite like Scar Sighted. Knowing that Jef Whitehead had created the whole thing by himself and made a recording this fucking good blew me away. I was immediately hooked by the uncanny atmosphere of the album, the sinister vocals and the relentlessness of it all. its influence on Spiralist’s [much more black-metal-leaning] first album Nihilus is undeniable, and It showed my that there was a path forward.
Code Orange – Forever (2017)
People can whine all they want about the days of yore when Code Orange played nothing but hardcore punk, but this album is a crowning achievement in modern heavy music and I frankly don’t think I can be convinced otherwise. With Forever, they created an absolutely apocalyptic record. I had never heard anyone fusing hardcore, industrial, alternative rock and power electronics; I had never heard a blistering track suddenly stop with a jarring sample and start again like there was a glitch in the matrix; I had never heard a band go apeshit on an album’s first three tracks and then come out with one of the best singles in metal in years (“Bleeding in the Blur”) like it was no biggie. Also, the band’s sheer amount of confidence mattered to me, making me realize that it’s ok to be proud of the work you put in. I just wish “Hurt Goes On” was longer and closed the album.
Miles Davis – Bitches Brew (1969)
This album was a gigantic reference point when I was writing Eternal Recurrence, and I haven’t heard many albums in my life that sound this out there and free. There’s a real sense of adventure and discovery with Bitches Brew, as you never quite know where the music is going, or if it is going anywhere – and then you realize that maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t have to. I know that Miles Davis‘s “Electric” period has yielded many classics, but this, to me, is the pinnacle of that period.
Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile (1999)
Eternal Recurrence was written and recorded some time ago, and in the meantime a lot has happened in my life. I had a breakdown in early 2022 and started going to therapy, finally tackling things that should have been dealt with a long time ago – again, one of those moments that separates the “before” from the “after” – although this one might have been bigger than anything in my life up until now. Although people won’t be able to hear it for another year or two, I’m currently still dealing with a lot of things in the form of music. Nine Inch Nails‘ The Fragile showed me that you can be transparent and open about your feelings and your inner turmoil, and it has given me something I can relate to. It’s ok to be unsure, tired, disappointed, angry, depressed; it’s ok to feel fragile.