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Spiral - Mind Trip in A Minor CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.47 | 13 ratings

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4 stars Beware the snake. He always takes half of what he gives.

Spiral is a prolific band from the southwestern United States whose surroundings influence every fiber of their surreal and dark progressive rock. Chris Boat and Aaron Frale are self proclaimed children of the desert. Having grown up amongst the lonely stretches of cacti and stars they note that their music "breathes sand." That tradition certainly continues in their latest epic release titled "Mind Trip in A Minor." It was intended as one long track but had to be split into chapters for website considerations. The album is a diversion from their massive Ruins trilogy but it features yet another strange and provocative story that is the Spiral trademark. This time out the Spiral duo welcome a new member to the fold, guitarist Chris Walker. They are also joined by some wonderful recurring guests in Casey Mraz and Felicia Karas.

"Mind Trip" is a journey indeed and once again Spiral creates music and storyline which support each other. Here the tale is like some dark fable where one is trapped in a cyclical nightmare. Our character awakens in a horrible dream littered with bodies and visions, he travels through a maze and finds a little girl who joins him. Never far away is the snake who represents collective fear and things unknowable. I won't give away the conclusion as it will be more enjoyable to discover yourself. But the point is that the music perfectly mirrors the darkness of the tale, where the repeating musical phrases convey the fact that story repeats itself over and over. As always, the question is how to stop the madness and we don't know if our character can. The feelings this would invoke are expressed quite well by the band and they are not always pleasant. Spiral has made some difficult albums and "Mind Trip" is no exception. If you have trouble with harsh sounding albums you'd best start with one of their earlier works.

This album requires the patient listener unplug from the world's distractions and enter the trip as an involved party. Ominous and thick, heavy and chunky guitars move like tanks across a battlefield....often slow and lumbering with a similar oppressive drumming. Chris and Aaron share vocals I believe, but I think it is Chris who can create the sound of dying with his shrieks....he will be relatively quiet and eerie with this shimmering effect on the soft vocals, disorienting and uneasy for the listener....and then he will just unload and God help you if you're not prepared. It can be extremely harsh, unpleasant at first, after some time the approach unveils itself and makes sense. It can make for a powerful listening session for the listener willing to commit to a dark room and good headphones. They also nail the lead guitar work wonderfully...this time out the leads have a more focused, succinct edge which I appreciate more than simply long form jamming.

After an unrelentingly savage opener is the marvelous "Cave in the Oak" which reminds me (again) of an Antonius Rex track, so visual, with haunting guitar chords and these keyboards that sound like harpsichord first and then wordless female vocals later, with simple melodic keyboard notes, floating atmospheres, and heavy bass line. Really sweet track! "In the Desert" is another breather from the heavier tracks at least with the music. There is a nice acoustic guitar line that repeats and repeats, again the circular, while the story discusses the "naked bestial creature" eating his own bitter heart with enjoyment. The only moment of levity comes in "A Face in the Sand" when our character meets a little girl, the lone bit of sweetness in this dark world. Both already understand it will not end well but choose to spend the short time together anyway. She has been trapped in the nightmare for ages and he genuinely wants to help, for which he will pay a heavy price.

The album alternates several times between long, grueling rock pieces and shorter, softer interludes which offer time to regroup. It eventually culminates in the horror of "The Snake", a 9-minute depiction of "everything you fear". More brutal drumming, extreme vocals, and heavy power chords that explode in finale, before a softer guitar solo and more pleasing keyboards drift off into the next tale down the line. The closing track is quite special. Felicia Karas returns and does what she always does for Spiral. Her strings introduce a completely different and exquisite color and texture to music that can be quite intense. Set against sad keyboard lines and acoustic, her violin to me represents the gaze of the two characters on each other as our story reaches its sad conclusion (or does it?), and in fact she doubles them up....laying one violin line over the other....a very cool effect!

Once again the album art is fantastic and worthy of your wall. "Mind Trip in A Minor" would be on my list of memorable 2012 releases and you can get a copy or sample a stream at

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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