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Kettlespider - Kettlespider CD (album) cover




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3.92 | 92 ratings

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4 stars A Spider's Journey

After thoroughly enjoying Kettlespider's first album, Avadante, a wonderful instrumental concept album that told a compelling story about the battle for a soul at the point of death, I have been eagerly awaiting a follow-up. Earlier this year, the band teased us with their "Eight Legs of a Spider" project, releasing one track each month on bandcamp. Eventually, they withdrew the songs to compile them into a new album. At last, the eponymous album is here, and, after seven complete listens, I can say that the wait was worth it. Everything about this album - its manner of release, the song titles, the artwork - suggests that this is a concept album like its predecessor, but it demands attention and patience to tease that meaning out. Like Avadante, "Kettlespider" is compelling and wonderful.

The artwork is unusual: a black-and-white schematic for assembling a robotic spider. This fits the original "Eight Legs of a Spider" concept. With the music, it suggests more: life can be viewed as pieces or cycles that, if properly coordinated, build a good life.

The introductory track is "Climber," a short playful number that begins with some cramped riffs and opens up into soaring guitar melodies and dreamy atmospheres. The spider has awakened to life.

"Circus" is a very busy, cheerful piece that is by turns robotic and expressive. Suggestive of a circus, busy street market, or public square, life is a contradiction here - often pleasant but sometimes threatening or mysterious. The band employs trumpet for the first time, and it lends a wonderful color to the surroundings. As in Avadante, rappings on a woodblock usher in a new phase, accompanied this time by one of the best guitar solos I have heard from this band. Increasingly robotic and heavy beyond this point, the song comes to a satisfying and intense conclusion.

"Samsara" is a Sanskrit word meaning "world" or "wandering" and signifies some kind of change, often cyclic. Although perhaps the weakest track due to its brevity, this does herald a change as a lullaby grows into something unwieldy that collapses and burns itself out.

"Break the Safe Pt. 1" ushers in the album within the album. "Break the Safe" was a BBC lottery game show and family board game, and the song title may be suggestive that life is a game of sorts. Mournful moaning on the guitar leads to some powerful riffs and gothic keyboard work that segues to a creepy-crawly ostinato on the guitar. When the song winds down, we find ourselves at death's door.

"Anubis" is the most bizarre track I have heard from Kettlespider: a true danse macabre. It opens pleasantly enough but slowly, inexorably, descends into something quieter, more meditative, and darker. The trumpet returns in a murky, genuinely otherworldly segment that leads to a startling dance of the dead. Once again, keyboards help set the tone. The dance (of spiders or skeletons, take your pick) ushers us into a dark, smokey lounge, complete with jazzy trumpet player and pianist. Although an interesting place to visit, it's not a place to remain, and our spider moves upward toward a better life than this death presents.

Compared to the slick production of "Anubis," "Life" is edgy, dirty, and heavy at the onset. Assuming a rondo-like form, the song alternates the hard passages with interludes that are meditative, jazzy, or soaring. Eventually, the music takes wing away from the dirty city into the expansive heights above. The grime never completely leaves - life is like that. The song ends with a sense of triumph.

"Rebirth" is driving and expansive. In brief, a beautiful guitar melody gives way to a mysterious ostinato pattern, akin to a spider building a web, that morphs slowly and inevitably into a new, writhing melody. Everything before has led to this moment. The changes, depression, and determination to go on culminate into an complete embrace of change. The piece fades into a confident space.

"Break the Safe Pt. 2" is the catharsis of the album: a bright, beautiful exhalation. The prize has been won, and life is good again.

I still enjoy Avadante, but "Kettlespider" confirms that this band is now better, stronger, and continuing to grow. "Climber" and "Samsara" are perhaps too brief for their own good, but they make their contributions to the whole very nicely. The album within the album - both Break the Safes and everything sandwiched in between - is remarkable and tells this new story effectively with a little help from the song titles. Overall, "Kettlespider" is excellent, and I give it four stars for now. It may really be a 4.5 star album worthy of rounding up, but time will tell.

The digipak album, which I purchased, includes a booklet with more schematic diagrams, three photos of the band, and a photo of their mascot (?). Anything by this band merits owning as a physical copy. My only regret is that Inevitable, Tundra, and Evolution - not available on physical discs - were not included as bonus tracks.

PlanetRodentia2 | 4/5 |


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