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THE DEATH OF BILLY JENSEN

Spiral

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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Spiral The Death Of Billy Jensen album cover
2.67 | 4 ratings | 3 reviews | 0% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 2010

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Jensen's Theme 1 (1:18)
2. Dirt (6:23)
3. Jensen's Last Words (3:24)
4. Jensen's Theme 2 (1:03)
5. Jensen's Little Sister (8:03)
6. Jensen's Little Sister 2 (4:50)
7. Child Of The Earth (4:45)
8. Cripple (3:41)
9. Jensen's Theme 3 (1:09)
10. Jensen's Death (5:57)
11. Mother (6:42)

Total Time 47:15

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Chris Boat / keyboards, bass, guitar, voices
- Aaron Frale / guitar, voices

Releases information

Self-Released (2010)

Thanks to DamoXt7942 for the addition
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SPIRAL The Death Of Billy Jensen ratings distribution


2.67
(4 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(0%)
0%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(25%)
25%
Good, but non-essential (25%)
25%
Collectors/fans only (50%)
50%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

SPIRAL The Death Of Billy Jensen reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Epic tales begin

Chris Boat and Aaron Frale who comprise the duo known as Spiral claim to be "desert born", children of the American southwest's sand and cacti. Theirs is one of the most interesting musical projects I've heard in some time. A sound that comprises heavy prog, psych, space, and doom all in one very strange basket. It sounds like "Saucerful of Secrets" era Floyd mixed with the dark Italian sound troupe Jacula, spinning unspeakable tales from desolate corners of the human psyche. They are prolific and are obviously in love with what they are doing, you can feel it. These guys are immersed in capturing the wealth of ideas currently flowing and it certainly drew me in. They have the same sense of excitement for their project that a boy has for that first Ant Farm, or that Kevin Smith has for his comic books. Infectious and authentic. As with Jacula, not everyone is going to take to the uncompromising sense of independent creativity at work here....these guys are not going to please the bubble gum prog crowd, but for those they connect with, these guys are going to be hugely admired some day.

As with any new discovery that piques my curiosity I try to go back and start from the beginning. "The Death of Billy Jensen" is the bizarre story of a family that "lived for generations birthing exact genetic copies of themselves. Every generation the youngest Jensen (Billy Jensen's little sister) kills all of her brothers one by one. After each kill she becomes miraculously pregnant and rebirths the brother she's just killed. After each of her brothers has been reborn she gives birth to herself, her head caving in as her younger self crowns and so on, until the entire family is renewed." So, how's that for something different?

The music is even more interesting than the wild storytelling. I wonder if these guys have ever heard of Jacula, because minus the Latin sťance chant, they often sound like Jacula reborn. Wide open desolate keyboard landscapes set the stage, from spacey synth atmosphere reminiscent of 60s psych-rock to dirty organ sounds, to some occasional patches of what sound like harpsichord, all drenched in the mood of the piece. Lots of room is left for the sounds to breathe and percolate, I love that, how they don't force too much stuff together into a noisy mess as many bands do. Instead the instruments are given room to be effective. The singing and spoken narrations are told via dry, almost possessed sounding vocals. These will be off-putting to some but I really love the approach....it sounds more cinematic to have vocals that inhabit the characters than listening to some guy simply sing with the usual melodic intentions. These guys crawl right into the bodies of the characters and you feel it. "Dirt" is incredible with vocals that sound like the Goa'uld system lords lecturing their enslaved.

The intensely unique keys and vox are presented over an early 70s influenced (I would imagine) hard/heavy sound with the big basslines and ominous drumming, which I think in a Jacula review I referred to as the "funeral sound." The guitar playing is pure freedom, free from the formulaic expressions heard in so many quarters....here the leads and rhythms are supporting the soundtrack along with the keys, occasionally taking control with heavy riffing, crunchy power chords or spooky leads. In fact in "Jensen's Little Sister" they use lonely banjo notes slowly picked over a sludgy bass line, just wonderful how they explore different ways to put forth the eerie vibe. The last thing I love here is how they tie together the longer pieces with the short three part interlude sequence "Jensen's Theme, parts 1-3", a creepy little earworm which nicely maintains the conceptual feel. Again, attention to detail abounds. I'm afraid there is no happy ending in the closer "Mother", a subdued look at the character's stifled memory expressed with a repetitive and simple keyboard motif and a longing guitar solo.

An amazing debut album for those who like the strange and the creepy, Spiral will become a legendary cult band I suspect. They celebrate that sense of abandon and wonder that few bands inspire in me anymore. Yeah, I love the weirdness factor, but more than that it feels like these guys truly care about creating a world for their listeners to explore.

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#641538) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review by VanVanVan
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Let it never be said that Spiral lacks ambition or imagination. This debut album mixes influences from post-rock, ambient music and even noise to tell a fascinating, dark story about reincarnation, murder and rebirth.

Unfortunately, just as the proverbial man's reach exceeds its grasp, so too does The Death of Billy Jensen's ambition exceed its musical execution. Though the band's aspirations to genre mixing are admirable, the music is often lackluster and in too many cases is even subpar. Add to this the fact that the production often leaves the instrumental tones sounding like they came from a cheap synthesizer, and you're left with an album that has a lot of good ideas and an unfortunately small amount of success to show for it.

"Jensen's Theme 1" is a very atmospheric piece, with swirling, airy drones making up the majority of the sound. There's a very simple melody that's repeated over and over as well (the titular theme, perhaps), but it's used very sparingly and this first installment of "Jensen's Theme" is essentially just an intro to "Dirt," which follows much in the same vein. Almost a dark ambient piece, "Dirt" is composed primarily of low, crackling sound effects, some minimalistic chanting sounds and some distorted spoken word lyrics. I'm certainly not averse to minimalistic music as a general rule, but in my opinion "Dirt" goes on for far too long given the amount of ideas that are actually present in the track. It's a shame, too, because there's a stellar build in intensity towards the end which is marred by the fact that so much of the rest of the track hasn't had much going on (even by the standards of minimalistic music).

"Jensen's Last Words" takes a bit more of a structured approach, with defined guitar riffs and coherent vocals. Unfortunately, it's here that another of the album's major flaws reveals itself: the guitars on this album sound to me like they were produced in Garageband. The tone is flat and mechanical and there's not really any depth to the sound. I normally don't comment on production in reviews because I think good music can usually speak for itself, but here I dislike the tone so much that it actually does detract from the listening experience for me. The distortion on the vocals as well leaves me cold; it just makes them sound very one dimensional. That may have been intentional, I don't know, but it's not to my taste.

"Jensen's Theme 2" unsurprisingly reprises "Jensen's Theme 1," and unfortunately I don't think this track really improves on the problems that have plagued the last two. The instrumental sounds are still mechanical and one dimensional and the single, slow, repeated melody does not, in my opinion, add much to the pacing of the album as a whole. The sudden cutoff doesn't help its problems with cohesion, either.

Thankfully, "Jensen's Little Sister" is a little better. Though I still have some issues with the instrumental tones used, this track manages to get past them by not leaning on the instrumentals to do too much of the heavy lifting on the track. Rather, hauntingly distorted vocals take center stage for the first half of the track, with only minimal backing from the instruments. This section of the track works very well because of its simplicity: the textures, while not my cup of tea, mix very well and the overall effect is interesting. Unfortunately, the second half of the track reintroduces the guitar tone that I find so distasteful and lets it riff at the forefront of the track for a good 3 minutes, something which hampers the effectiveness of the beginning of the track.

"Jensen's Little Sister 2" is, in my opinion, probably the most successful track on the album up until this point. The textures sound far more natural and the atmospheric melodies of the instruments match the haunting vocals as well as they possibly could. Even when the track moves away from minimalism into a more orchestrated section it doesn't fall prey to the same problems that the first installment of the track did. Textures are used far more understatedly then was the intrusive guitar on part 1, and it never feels like the execution of the music is exceeding the ideas behind it.

"Child of the Earth," despite a promising barrage of noise that begins the track, ends up being, in my opinion, probably the weakest track on the album. Essentially just a long reprise of "Jensen's Theme" with vocals over it, the track epitomizes almost every flaw that has appeared on other parts of the album: the unfortunate guitar sound dominates the track, and it does so while essentially playing the same melody for four straight minutes with only minor periods of variation. The distortion on the vocals leaves them sounding, more often then not, out of tune. The one bright spot is the lyrics, which are excellent and very interesting (as they have been throughout the album); however, the way they are presented leaves a lot to be desired, in my humble opinion.

"Cripple," on the other hand, works pretty well, returning to the motif of minimalistic/ambient music behind spoken word narration. As the album's concept is one of its strongest attributes, this narration works very well, making the album seem far more cohesive than it actually has been up until this point. The backing music is excellent as well, understated and non-obtrusive, enhancing the lyrics and not trying to override them. Some traces of distortion in the background ambience show that, for whatever complaints I have about Spiral's use of textures, they undoubtedly have a good ear for sonic construction.

"Jensen's Theme 3" is another simple reprise of the first two "Jensen's Themes" and there's not much to say about this one that I haven't already said about the first two sections, though there is some interesting variation between instruments that makes this probably the strongest installment of the three.

As the album's titular event occurs in "Jensen's Death," the music takes on a gravity that has been lacking up until this point. While the guitar tone continues to bother me quite a bit, the rest of the music is quite good, with an insistent and interesting drum part and probably the strongest vocal section on the album. Here the vocal distortion is used to give the singing an incredibly raw sound, and as a result the vocals come off as genuinely vitriolic and passionate rather than flat. The newfound somberness of the music matches this quite well, and as a result "Jensen's Death" ends up being a fairly strong track.

"Mother" concludes the album on a fairly good note, with deceptively happy keyboards playing a repeating pattern under some faint vocals that come off as nothing so much as broken. The singing is really the highlight of the track, ranging from the aforementioned tone of quiet despair to some quite powerful wails. The keyboards serve quite well in their role as backing instruments as well, with the accursed guitar only appearing briefly.

Overall, I'll say this for the album as a whole: there are a lot of very cool ideas. Many of the vocal sections are haunting, dramatic and even downright scary, and the fact that the group was able to pull that off without coming off as corny is impressive. Similarly, there's a lot of very nice ambient and drone music scattered throughout the album, and most of it highlights excellent instincts on the band's part. Unfortunately, for every minute of truly inspired, interesting music, it seems like there's about 3 minutes of bland or even downright unpleasant parts. I really can't stress how much I dislike the guitar tone; again, I'm usually pretty tolerant but it very nearly ruins the album for me entirely (and that's not an exaggeration). Similarly, for every moment the vocals seems tense and atmospheric, it seems there's a moment of atonal wailing into a poor-quality microphone. Again, that's not a problem in and of itself (atonal wailing can be cool) but, in my opinion at least, it's not pulled off well here. Unfortunately, it all culminates in an album that I have a very hard time getting through without pressing the "skip" button.

1.5/5, rounded up

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Send comments to VanVanVan (BETA) | Report this review (#743808) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Neo Prog Team
2 stars rom the homecity of the mighty Heisenberg, Albuquerque in New Mexico, started this extremely prolific duo of Chris Boat and Aaron Frale in late-00's.While Frale provides vocals and guitars, Boat appears to handle all the rest of the instrumental armour: keyboards, bass and guitars, while he also sings in Spiral's works.They made their debut via bandcamp in July 2010 with the album ''The death of Billy Jensen'', a weird concept album talking about the Jensens, living in a house in the desert and having a unique ability to bring to life exact genetic copies of of themselves, after the youngest of the family members kills all the rest and regiving birth to them.

Spiral displayed all the elements that more or less followed them in their career.The duo played a modern Psychedelic Rock, often led by heavier guitar tunes, featuring plenty of vocal distortions, always led by the raw electric guitars with some supporting keyboards and sinister, ambiental soundscapes.This might appear to be some great musc on paper, but the mass of sampled voices and the constant mania for producing downtempo textures and minimalistic images definitely do not belong among the album's peaks.The concept seems to lead the music here, the deep lyrics are supported by the appropriate soundscapes and, depending on these, Spiral deliver angry riffs, slow-paced lead guitars, spacey underlines and even orchestral atmospheres.The cohesion between the different climates is among the most efficient elements of the album, what really hurts Spiral's debut is the rather one-dimensional electric patterns and the lack of instrumentally richer moments.Lots of spoken parts, effects and the aforementioned ambiental ideas are closer to a film score and not a proper album to listen at home.The more energetic passages though allow the duo's talent to be unleashed and the potential is certainly there.

I can see this as the perfect soundtrack for a related movie, but for a regular album ''The death of Billy Jensen'' has some obvious flaws.Free bandcamp release, modern Prog maniacs should propably have a listen to Spiral's debut...2.5 stars.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#1195592) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, June 18, 2014

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