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Kettlespider - Kettlespider CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.92 | 92 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Kettlespider' - Kettlespider (78/100)

It's surreal to think it's already been five years since I first heard Kettlespider. It was 2012, and they had reached out to me personally for feedback on their debut Avadante, then newly released and full of potential. Kettlespider's tightly-wound instrumental prog already displayed a skill well beyond their years; on a more personal level the band's sound really mirrored my listening tastes around that time.

Fast-forward a fifth of my lifetime, and I still remember Avadante and the band responsible for it with warmth. Since that introduction my life has changed dramatically, and my musical headspace along with it. I've probably heard a couple thousand new albums since then; the fact I still fondly recall Avadante arguably lends more to this band's credit than anything I could have said at the time.

When a new band knocks it out of the park like that on their first go, the natural conversation to have next is whether they'll live up to the potential. Five years is a long time for anyone to sit on their second album, but I've got to imagine life has been just as busy for the guys in Kettlespider. Even if everything has changed around them, the things that made me love this band are still here with this self-titled return.

As familiar and derivative as the style itself is, Kettlespider were special for the fresh way they approached it. With a lot of the instrumental prog rock/metal I've heard, the musicians involved tend to use that liberation from vocals as an opportunity to go wild with technical instrumentation. If the common complaint people have with tech- happy instrumental bands like Canvas Solaris is that they're somehow lacking heart, the "soulful" alternative tends to involve inordinate amounts of tender David Gilmour solo worship. Those emotional bands still miss the point of what's really often lacking in this style. But Kettlespider knows.

The common preconception is that proper, concise songwriting is contrary to instrumental prog on multiple levels. Kettlespider are lively musicians with a dynamic range of proggy influences. You've got the heart of Pink Floyd, all the way to the bombast of Dream Theater. None of that would have justified me remembering Kettlespider for this long however. It's the tight, melodic approach to composition that lends this band their distinctive personality. Sparing the vocals didn't lead them away from writing palpable earworms and would-be choruses into their music. There aren't any overblown solos on this album, no longwinded freeforming, nothing that could really be seen as inessential to the structure of the music. Across the eight songs here, to varying extents, Kettlespider have effectively translated pop songwriting sensibilities onto an instrumental progressive format.

Each of the songs (or "spider's legs" as the band thinks of them) are immediately enjoyable and cozy, in part due to my obvious nostalgia for prog rock and Kettlespider, but not least of all for their tendency to keep the experience light and friendly. Don't get me wrong-- they still come across as very technically nuanced, but technique's never more than a means to an end for them.

Kettlespider's self-restraint lends them a middle-of-the-road accessibility by instrumental prog standards. They feel consistently focused, and while this comes at the cost of never getting to hear them really letting loose, it's an easy thing to live with when the songwriting's this good as a result. The only significant thing that weighs against the album is the sense that their parts all feel derived from other prog bands. There are many sections that sound directly torn from the script of one of their influences; nothing sounds like it was it was completely born with them. Kettlespider's material can feel like a collage of prog I've been familiar with long before 2012. It's no more true here than with Avadante. If anything, it makes that uncommonly

It's easy to imagine a breezily uplifting track like "Circus" passing for an above-average Dream Theater instrumental with all unnecessary padding scrubbed away. "The Climber", "Circus", "Anubis" and "Life" all particularly feel like we're catching Kettlespider on the best of days. I've listened to this album many, many times over the last few months, and although comparisons to bands like Dream Theater are guaranteed by certain parts here, the accessibly technical vibe of their music feels most akin to Joe Satriani; playful and bountifully talented, but never testing the listener's patience to demonstrate it. Five years was a long time coming for Kettlespider to make this album, and I'm glad to have experienced it. They reminded me of the comfy joy I felt listening to Avadante; in that sense, this is everything I could have asked for.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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