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Spiral - The Capital In Ruins CD (album) cover

THE CAPITAL IN RUINS

Spiral

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

2.56 | 5 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Part 1 of a sobering Sci-Fi Trilogy

"The Capital in Ruins" is the first installment of an ambitious trilogy by the New Mexico band called Spiral. As I understand the storyline the tale is something of a twist on the 19th century short story "Rip Van Winkle" by Washington Irving. In the original Rip was a rather lazy old guy who fled up a hill to escape his nagging wife, only to fall asleep for 20 years leading to shock when he returned to his village to discover all the changes which had taken place. In the Spiral version Rip is a scientist who using nano-technology discovers a way to conquer disease at the molecular level and give immortality. He tested himself first with good results but the process was painful and unpleasant. So he tinkered with the procedure to make it more comfortable and easier to go through. After achieving this feat he began to inoculate his fellow citizens, eventually giving his gift to everyone. A few years later everyone began to die off due to a problem with the changes he had made. His initial treatment worked due to the strength, but by lowering the dosages for comfort he inadvertently screwed it up, causing the host immune system to reject it leading to death for everyone. Rip's nano-machines shut down as a defensive reaction putting him in a long sleep-like state. He awoke one day to dead and lifeless planet, all alone. This sets up all kinds of cool story lines.

"....he was a scientist that really wanted to help his people but ended up killing them. We loved the idea that the nano-machines would keep him alive forever, but since there were no humans left on the planet, he would be alone. I feel the music in Capital really captures the loneliness he feels. We decided to give the album a happy ending. He finds a copy of his daughter's DNA and clones her." -Aaron Frale from our PA interview

"The Capital in Ruins" feels like a major shift from the first three albums. I adore the first three recordings, in fact I prefer them to Ruins, yet there is no doubt they upped the ante here. The sound has changed also with much more emphasis on guitars while earlier works seemed more keyboard/electronics laden. Guest guitarist Casey Mraz was brought in to bolster the guitar side of the sound and he doesn't disappoint. A jazz guitarist by trade Mraz would become a contributor as his schedule allowed. Everything about the album feels somewhat epic, from the ambitious storytelling to the dramatic titles to the size and scope of the songs. The five prog-sized pieces total 73 minutes including two 20-plus minute monsters.

It begins with "Beyond the Edge of Time" which lives up to the rather lofty name. Brooding drone effects swirl around to set the mood, soon followed by a cool sequence of guitar chords. It picks up steam with Neil Young/Crazy Horse styled electric guitars and drums as the story described above is told. After a lengthy jam-band vibed solo over scrunchy rhythm guitars we get another coda of lovely acoustic guitar winding down.

"The Art of our Dwellings" is wonderful. Ominous and heavy, this is the sound of Rip realizing he is alone. Nature reclaims her throne as the cities are now empty of humankind, our architecture now the lone representative of who we were. Vocals here are manipulated by various techniques to express fear and horrid loneliness over a repeating riff, occasionally broken with organ or electric guitar. Chris Boat has been working this way since his teenage days when he was more interested in creating sound and recording than being a guitar hero. You can hear him playing with the feel of the vocals here.

At 23 minutes the title track makes it clear that this is not the album for those who want the quick kill. Rather than giving you a nice melody and on your way, Capital takes its sweet time to set up atmosphere and mood, and even then it lays back and explores it from different angles, tries variation, lumbers on. Time is needed to convey the moment when Rip finally awakens from the long slumber. Now awake, he is alone. Everyone is dead except the plants and animals as he deals with the realization and tries to recognize his old surroundings which are overgrown. There are many beautiful guitar oriented sections and some superb vocals from guest Denzel Thompson, who is Chris' step-father and the man who turned him onto music decades earlier. My favorite moment though is an out-of-the-blue drone section which drops at about 4 minutes in and lasts for quite a spell. It's hard to explain, but my mind is almost put on pause when this section hits, I am mesmerized. After being charmed by the music suddenly it all falls away and you're left in this drone section which I believe represents Rip standing alone, looking around, and hearing only the birds. No traffic, no people, no human related sound. Just imagine.

In "The Memories Speak" we are introduced to Rip's wife, or at least to her memory. Somehow Rip's obsession, sitting alone is his old home haunted by memories, has trapped his wife's spirit and prevented her from moving on. She pleads with him to be released. Rip's wife is given a voice courtesy of guest Senda Shallow whose lovely vocal is backed by a softer trippy guitar and welling keyboard, then another section where a more distorted guitar and drums kick in.

"Without Others" is another epic 20 minute giant to close the album. Here Rip finds a bit of his daughters DNA from some previous experimentation and has the idea to clone her. Like him, she would be immortal once inoculated with the machines. Whatever ethical considerations he may have had about bringing back his daughter to an empty world could not compete with the sentence of being alone forever. The musical journey is another mid paced guitar marathon. I'm not sure if Mraz has all of these leads or if Chris and Aaron are jamming along here but the intertwining lead and rhythm parts are enjoyable and inspired. While listening to these jams I thought they conveyed the feelings of his conflicted excitement quite well.

In summary "The Capital in Ruins" is an ambitious beginning to a wonderfully interesting story. Usually I couldn't give a rip (no pun) about song lyrics as I'm primarily a music guy, but with Spiral the stories actually have me reading the lyrics. That is rare for this listener. It's a good album without question but as far as my personal rating that's as high as I can go. There was something missing for me on this one. I enjoyed Jensen and Machine much more, and my initial spins of Traveler tell me I prefer that one over Capital as well. But every Spiral album is different so don't be surprised if you like this one better than my favorites! The band remains my favorite discovery in quite some time.

Finnforest | 3/5 |

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