Spectral Haze – Demo (2012, digital downlolad)

Spectral Haze hail from Oslo, Norway, and have four members. This band appears to be a supergroup of sorts, with members previously doing stints in Purple Hill Witch, High Priest Of Saturn and Resonaut. A cursory glance at their Facebook page shows images of blissed out guys wielding Gibson guitars and Rickenbacker basses in time honoured tradition, yet the band touch on some distinctly new musical ideas throughout their work here.

Track one, Forging an Astral Void, starts out with an echoed guitar riff with a twanging country edge. To me this is very reminiscent of the post-apocalyptic cowboy music of Fields of the Nephilim, and this eerie and shamanistic atmosphere is heightened further by the wolfman yelling of the vocalist. Individual lyrics are entirely lost, with the vocals heavily saturated in reverb and mixed to the back of the music. This allows the twin guitars to work closely, and at times the track freewheels with the grace of Levitation-era Hawkind, complete with soaring lead guitar work and pummelling bass lines.

Track two, Kali Magick, starts with a low key rhythm guitar part which is joined by bass and drums. The bass tone here is perfect, matching closely that of Geezer Butler’s early work in both grind and warmth. Tremolo-heavy guitar work, sometimes exploring Klezmer intervals and note clusters but often featuring the same Morricone twang as the first track, dominates here. The lupine vocals also make a reappearance as this track slowly stomps along, pausing at regular intervals for tom-heavy drum work. The track picks up in tempo half way through, and the band run through riffs reminiscent of Monster Magnet or Orange Goblin in their tonality; blues runs dominate here. The lower-tempo tremolo passages of the intro are revisited before the track finishes.

Track three, Kashf (Gaining Familiarity with Things Unseen Behind the Veils), follows. What a name! This track is a lower-tempo doom lope with the same Yiddish guitar lines of the first track. The riffs are again nicely elliptical, building a groove from repetition, with tight work from the rhythm section allowing the lead guitar to again cut loose. This track again breaks into a more frantic tempo, becoming almost as messy and undisciplined as Phallus Dei era Amon Düül II jamming, with those wolf cries again apparent in the back ground.

Track four, Tribe of the Cosmic Crow Giant, has more of a direct spacerock overtone than the previous tracks. The track is full on from the beginning, with the vocals again reduced to an ambient texture draped over the charging rhythm section. Like the first track, the drummer occasionally lapses into a surf-rock style back beat which works oddly well for such heavy music. The track has the same insistent beat as Deep Purple’s Highway Star, only without any trace of bloated neo-classical soloing. Instead those Yiddish guitar phrases are again soloed. Perhaps the guitarist is attempting to mimic ‘Eastern’ music in the same spiritual vein as Al Cisneros’s Tibetan-Chant-for-Rickenbacker post-Sleep Om project. Either way it is nice to hear a guitarist move out from the simple blues progressions that can otherwise keep this style of music firmly tethered to a pub rock vibe at times.

Overall I enjoyed this demo. The chiming guitar parts, reminiscent of Spaghetti Western soundtracks, gives the music a subtly different doom flavour that helps the band stick out from competition. As a demo it sounds really well recorded, though the first two tracks were preluded by gaps of silence on my copy, which initially gave me cause for concern. The vocals are buried in the mix, so any hope of interpreting the lyrics is completely lost. However, in their own way, the vocals help add to the overall mystical and esoteric vibe of the music, taking it beyond the usual territory of blues jamming and transporting it further out into the cosmos.

For more information you can visit the Spectral Haze web site at: http://spectralhaze.bandcamp.com

Reviewed by Alan Bragg

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