Spider God – The Killing Room ("hyper-melodic" black metal)
At the beginning of 2022, little known UK black metal act Spider God descended to infamy with their album Black Renditions, which contained a collection of pop covers, from the likes of Brittney Spears, Justin Bieber, Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston, The Pointer Sisters and even S Club 7. It wasn't very good, and with their original album Fly in the Trap dropping at the end of that same year and proving rather unremarkable, it seemed it was back to the underground for them. Christmas day 2023, however, saw the divine arachnids emerge once more, with a rather different offering, which again proved rather intriguing and might actually be pretty good this time.
The record is not without its gimmicks, with the band presenting it as "Part one of a two-part concept album, ... [which] expands the true crime themes of their first record to tell the story of Faustus, an ex-band member who went missing under mysterious circumstances after becoming embroiled in a deadly online game known as 'Possess the Devil'". The song titles are also written in Japanese this time for some reason, lending a certain air of J-horror to proceedings. Its release date also doesn't seem incidental, with opening track "入場 (Enter)" paying both lyrical and melodic homage to "Come All Ye Faithful", and I'm sure I've heard some other Christmas carol references scattered about in there as well.
As eyebrow-raising as its gimmicks are, The Killing Room also quickly catches the ear. Initially, the album seems a more stripped-back and riff-driven take on Spider God's "hyper-melodic" raw-black metal template, with their ravenous, high-pitched tremolo bringing to mind Astronoid's similar "hyper thrash" approach, or even a raw black metal extension of the lush, floaty aesthetic invoked on Deafheaven's Sunbather (2013). It's all well and good for what it is, but a few tracks in things really start to get interesting. Fourth track, "Silicon Witch" takes a sudden turn into post-punk territory, coming off like The Cure meets mid-period Sigh, and by the time the organ-laden title-track rolls around the band find themselves sounding more like a tripped-out, new-wave Kvelertak than anything particularly ravishing or grim. The vocals, which never shift from a heavily distorted rasp might prove a hurdle for some, but persevering with The Killing Room is likely to yield unexpected rewards, if it doesn't pull you in first.