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SPIRAL

Psychedelic/Space Rock • United States


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Spiral biography
"Space Rock On A Distant Quasar" SPIRAL were shaped rigidly in the infinite space in late 2000s by two constantly-spiral players named Chris BOAT (keyboards, bass, guitar, voices) and Aaron FRALE (guitar, voices) for playing their desert music (much influenced by 70s era Floyd and Tangerine Dream) amongst dunes and cacti. They've actively released albums in collaboration with a couple of guest musicians like Casey MRAZ (guitar) or Felicia KARAS (violin) via their bandcamp and released several physical CDs since their full length debut "The Death Of Billy Jensen" was released in July 2010.

The prolific band is now a 4-piece adding Chris Walker and Bill Hatfield as they prepare to release "Our Final Days on Bellicus Prime" in May 2014.

Spiral official website

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SPIRAL Videos (YouTube and more)


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Buy SPIRAL Music


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More places to buy SPIRAL music online Buy SPIRAL & Prog Rock Digital Music online:
  • AmazonMP3: Search for SPIRAL DRM-Free MP3 Downloads @ AmazonMP3 (USA Only) | AmazonMP3 (UK Only)

SPIRAL shows & tickets


  • Spiral - Cloud Kingdoms Tour + Hectic Sun + Tensionzero on 24 Apr 2014
  • Spiral - Cloud Kingdoms Tour on 25 Apr 2014
  • Spiral - Cloud Kingdoms Tour + Mel Tripson + Black Sunflowers on 27 Apr 2014
  • Cloud Kingdoms Tour on 15 May 2014
  • Koncert zespolów: Spiral, Besides on 23 May 2014
  • Spiral + N A O + Traces to Nowhere at Wypieki Kultury, Warszawa on 7 Jun 2014

SPIRAL discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

SPIRAL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.33 | 2 ratings
The Death Of Billy Jensen
2010
3.00 | 1 ratings
Citizen
2010
4.00 | 1 ratings
Machine
2011
2.56 | 5 ratings
The Capital In Ruins
2011
4.00 | 1 ratings
Your Kindness Let A Monster In
2011
3.86 | 18 ratings
The Traveler
2012
3.41 | 8 ratings
Mind Trip in A Minor
2012
3.00 | 1 ratings
A Parasite's Guide to Rewriting History
2013

SPIRAL Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Live on Matijevic Hill
2013

SPIRAL Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

SPIRAL Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

SPIRAL Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
Azimuth
2009
3.00 | 1 ratings
Mother
2010
3.00 | 1 ratings
Imagine the Void
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
Senda's Song
2011
0.00 | 0 ratings
Beyond the Edge of Time
2011
0.00 | 0 ratings
Without Others
2011
0.00 | 0 ratings
Ruins
2011
1.10 | 2 ratings
In The Desert
2012
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Red Giant Stirs
2012
3.00 | 1 ratings
Photographs
2014

SPIRAL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Photographs by SPIRAL album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2014
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Photographs
Spiral Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
3 stars Death. Prelude to the next Spiral chapter....

Spiral's journey of into the hot barren afternoon of their musical landscapes continues in the new year. The two track single "Photograph" is a prelude to their next upcoming full length album this spring, which will be called "Our Final Days on Bellicus Prime."

The first song "Photograph" is a rumination on death told in two or three different scenarios I believe. The three different musical sections are all very cool, the first a sort of longing, slow chord exploration very much in Spiral style with tortured vocals. The second jumps to a full blown metal guitar with huge, skull shattering power chords. And the third is the contrasting break, the breather section that again features the violin of Felicia Karas. I just love it when they do this. Spiral is so heavy and intense that these sections are really complimentary, they can be violin, or female voice, other times they have used keyboard drone, the effect is really quite perfect...giving you a taste of beauty, a moment to compose yourself....and then WHAM! Back to the mayhem...... The lyrics in the final section were especially moving to me. Someone who lost a loved one clings to their digital footprint, their journal, status updates, photos. She is dead and all he has is her written word past and his future is pouring through them, trying to feel something. Not too hard to imagine such a sad scenario.

The second track "Zombie" was an outtake from the Bellicus sessions. The is bread and butter Spiral, a slow, brooding gila monster two-step with a delirious solo by Casey Mraz, another frequent Spiral contributor. It certainly is soundtrack for zombie encounter nightmares. If these two songs are any indication the upcoming album should be another interesting chapter. I'll be waiting for it in the next dusty town down the highway, with burrito and a sweating bottle of beer, watching out for those characters from the Spiral stories, past and future...... As always, fantastic ideas for their cover art.

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 Imagine the Void by SPIRAL album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2010
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Imagine the Void
Spiral Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
3 stars Spiral are a very unique psych-doom-stoner-thrash band born of the desert sands. "Imagine the Void" is a two-track single from Citizen, one of my favorite Spiral albums to this day despite the fact that they have released much more elaborate works since. I like the story behind the album, which recapping goes something like this: man is trapped in a soulless futuristic society controlled by machines, where humans are forced into labor not to produce things of value, but to keep them occupied. I guess we're pretty much there.

At night he stares up into (what he thinks) is the sky and imagines traveling out into the infinite darkness. He rubs his hands over his smooth metallic face and feels the area between it and his neck. After a few years of this he begins to think that maybe his head has too many layers and perhaps one of them ' the outermost ' is not his own.

Musically the tracks are a bit more economical than later Spiral which is often heavy and crushing. In contrast "Imagine the Void" almost sounds "lighter" at times, not a common feeling on their albums, but it cruises along with the guitar lines direct and driving and the vocals more tempered than usual. I love the ringing chords and vocals in the first half, before it breaks into a tasty electric solo. "Citizens of the Earth" has the same linear guitar feel but with a much more intense vocal. Lots of fuzz on the guitars and urgent, layered vocals leave a feeling of desperation.

Both songs are very cool as usual but I'd urge newbies to jump right into the actual albums instead. Most of them have cool stories and concepts that benefit from getting the entire feast. Check out Spiral at their Bandcamp page linked at their artist page. Beware that they are pretty heavy and dark, so if you like sunny happy prog this is not your band.

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 The Capital In Ruins by SPIRAL album cover Studio Album, 2011
2.56 | 5 ratings

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The Capital In Ruins
Spiral Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

2 stars For their fourth full-length release the New Mexico-based duo decided to take their sound to another level, the one related to long epic compositions.Additionally a concept around an almost mad scientist named Rip was developed by Chris Boat and Aaron Frale.Rip invented a machine able to change organic material, theoretically solving the problem of immortality.Rip was the first to be injected with a strong dosage and several people over the years were injected with smaller dosages.The result was the whole humanity to be sampled by his machine, but all of them were finally dead except Rip, who tried the strongest of all dosages.For the first time Frale does not appear as a vocalist and Senda Shallow/Denzel Thompson help the duo on vocals along with Casey Mraz on lead guitars.The album ''The capital in ruins'' was released in May 2011.

A pair of 10-min. epics and another pair of over 20-min. ones along with a shorter track complete for over 70 minutes of Psychedelic/Progressive Rock music, full of obscure atmospheres, stretched guitar textures and lyrical passages.The sound of Spiral is still based in an excessive deegree on mono- or dual electric guitars with atmospheric moves, extended solos and long, scratching riffs and the main problem remains the generally one-dimensional sound.Keyboards are used only sporadically and the best moments come from Boat's very good lyrical performance and the fair amount of haunting moods created by the sharp electric guitars.However the overall feeling is that most tracks are overstretched without any particular reason and a length close to their previous albums would have been definitely more convincing.Some acidic soundscapes with minimalistic effects apparently help the flow of the concept's story like on the long self-titled composition, which is basically built around these soundscapes, some basic riffs and Boat's expressive voice.The atmosphere relies on psychedelic lines strengthened by some heavier guitar-based tempos, although there are no high gears in a rather downtempo work.The last, melancholic track ''Without others'' is definitely the best of all.Very emotional lyrics, strong early-70's PINK FLOYD influences, light psychedelic grooves, total absence of fillers and a grandiose ending section with orchestral keyboards and powerful guitars show again what was already known: The potential for Spiral is still around.

''The capital in ruins'' suffers from the basic problems regarding Spiral's style: over the top guitar-based soundscapes with few variations beyond this familiar path.Following the story line will help the listener appreciate the release more and thus the album seems like a decent recommendation for fans of modern, atmospheric Rock...2.5 stars.

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 Mind Trip in A Minor by SPIRAL album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.41 | 8 ratings

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Mind Trip in A Minor
Spiral Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

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 thespiral.bandcamp.com.

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 Mind Trip in A Minor by SPIRAL album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.41 | 8 ratings

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Mind Trip in A Minor
Spiral Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group Moderator / Psych / Avant / Neo Teams

3 stars Met more energetic, more drone desert rock, with unsuitable artificial noises.

Suppose "Mind Trip In A Minor" might be another place where "The Traveler" has got on. Their play, just like squeezing heavy sandstorm out, is heavier, deeper and tighter than on the previous creation indeed, and especially Chris (Walker) plays the guitar more simply, more sensitively, and more directly, in fourth / fifth tracks "In The Desert / A Face In The Sand" ... sounds like the masterpiece in this album for me, very challenging. Basically dry and hot sunbeam sounds are in the same vein of "The Traveler", but quite simple riffs have got more of drone and more of slime like delicious death agony. Although enough "Neues" cannot be heard anymore, their strong policy / guideline for "Desert Rock" should be maintained I imagine. Upon this point their instrumental section can be terrific. On the other hand, let me say that I wonder the reason they'd processed their voices with an effector. Their voices may be far from good, but unpolished, smokey voices could have been one of their mysterious addictions of sound, right? Yes, whether fine or poor, their vocal can be one of their characteristics on playing. Artificially effector-based voices can be only vexing noises for me, that might kick their original fantasy away sadly.

For us progressive rock freaks, what does the word "progressive" mean? A pleasure to find something new I consider. We will find something newer upon their works in future ... hope so.

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 Your Kindness Let A Monster In by SPIRAL album cover Studio Album, 2011
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Your Kindness Let A Monster In
Spiral Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
4 stars Suicide, fear, abuse, violence. It's the Spiral holiday album.

"For me, Kindness is probably the most intense listening experience I've had with Spiral. I remember listening to a rough cut of "The Man Who Never Left" late one evening after my wife had gone to bed. The room was completely dark and I came to a point in the song where Chris uses a very strange effect on his voice and whispers "There's only fear outside" over and over. It actually freaked me out. I love it when music works like that." -Aaron Frale, from the ProgArchives interview

"Your Kindness Let a Monster In" seems almost like some creature who willed itself into the Spiral world with ferocity. While the band were working on their epic "The Traveler" in the fall of 2011, they were detoured by this project. They made quick work of it in order to release it on Halloween, as the material was dark and appropriate, thus it became known as the Spiral holiday album. But then something strange happened. The Monster decided it wanted to be more than just a quick thought between "Capital" and "Traveler." It wanted the same love and attention that the RIP trilogy was getting. Like any good parents would do, Aaron and Chris returned their love and attention to the Monster, recording more material and re-recording existing parts. They re-released a new and final version in January 2012. While I never heard the previous version it was undoubtedly a good call to flesh out this work. It harkens back to the "Billy Jensen" album and is another real gem.

"Monster" succeeds so well at capturing the dark lyrical themes contained within. The music feels like it wants to withhold secrets, it gives you clues, but it always feels as if there is something hiding around the corner. It also feels constricting and confining, a monkey clinging to your back, pressuring you to keep your mouth shut if you want to remain alive. And yet it is Spiral in their most adventurous of spirits. While the first two RIP albums are very good they feel more structured and guitar-centric, more jam oriented. Monster has some of that, but like Jensen there is more textural variety, more surprises, more willingness to let the keyboard interrupt the jam for pure sound exploration. There is a great balance of light to heavy in both instruments and vocals. And there is superb flow to the album. It moves along like one sinister character shuffling down the alley, the five tracks all complimenting each other beautifully.

"Sticks and Stones" is fantastic, with forceful parts that build and dissolve into occasional sad melodic bits, especially great is the little guitar solo beginning around 5:50. Love those first chords and how sad they feel. "Jenny" has an elaborate beginning that sounds like Felicia's strings are back but I think this is a keyboard part. Completely ominous keys are joined by this repeating guitar motif that goes on and on. "Father" is the cool short track separating the four longer pieces, it cleanses the palate though doesn't lighten the mood. It features organ and this repetitive, doomy pattern which is very oppressive, then softened just a bit by piano. A fantastic moment! "The Man Who Never Left" captures the isolation and irrational fears of the agoraphobic character, using carefully crafted vocal treatments as mentioned above. Frightening and fascinating. While the comparisons to Jensen are understandable it must be acknowledged that Spiral have increased their sound palette and finesse with this particular venture. The keys, the heavy stoner guitar sound, the intense vocals, the soft interludes, these are the common Spiral ingredients and they are very effective tackling this difficult subject matter. I want to include the following description about the themes of the songs right from the band, as always the storytelling is very integral to the Spiral experience:

"I spent a lot of my childhood in a very small town. This album is my attempt to look back at the way the town worked from a more mature perspective. Everyone was very proud of their hospitality and friendliness, but it seemed like everyone knew some horrid secret about someone else. So and so's son shot himself out in the field (Sticks and Stones (The Suicide Song)) and so on. Also, when someone was strange or different they usually wanted to be left alone, which, of course, made everyone pay more attention to them. The Man Who Never Left is about an agoraphobic. Unfortunately, his fear of the outside world draws the outside world to him. All the local kids stare at him through his windows and ring his doorbell over and over. Jenny Hurts her Little Brother is about an unnatural relationship between a brother and sister living with their abusive father. And finally, when anything truly violent happens in a small town, it quickly passes into the stuff of legend (You Kindness Let a Monster In). I'm sure all of these things (and worse) happen in large cities, but in small towns every oddity, every strange taboo and act of violence is talked about over and over again until it becomes an oral tradition. I wanted to tell these stories like I heard them growing up, full of darkness and fear." -Chris Boat, from the PA interview

I feel no shame in being the resident Spiral fanboy. This is my kind of band, unique and with personality, and "Monster" is a real favorite. And again, another perfect album cover that captures the music.

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 The Red Giant Stirs by SPIRAL album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2012
3.00 | 1 ratings

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The Red Giant Stirs
Spiral Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
3 stars This is really no single!

They say everything in music has been done before. Has this? This two track single is longer than the original 4-track album. As Spiral explains "The Traveler" was originally conceived to have three long tracks, one by each band member. When one member left the band Chris and Aaron extended their remaining pieces big time. However they changed their minds and edited the long pieces down, then wrote two more songs for the version of The Traveler as released. This single is designed to give a taste of the original concept for The Traveler. The glorious "uncut" versions presented here have "The Red Giant Stirs" clocking in at 40 minutes and "The Caves of Anamnesis" logging over 30 minutes.

"We were going to leave it (The Traveler) at that but people were constantly curious about the long versions of the songs, so we caved to pressure. Here they are, the original epic length versions complete with full length solos, jam sections, and the full length ambient piece for 'The Red Giant Stirs'. We know this release is self-indulgent and a little pretentious, but we figured what the hell, if people want to hear it, why not let them." -Spiral

It was a great call to release this. These already formidable songs which exude feelings of loneliness and isolation are augmented with extended ambient sections, longer solos, more time for everything to wash over you. It's the kind of release that is a journey so don't rush this. Practice active listening here. The heavy jam band vibes seemingly go on forever which is kinda the point as you are supposed to feel that sense of what Rip is going through. I love the spooky vocal section in Anamnesis and the new opening of Red Giant. I would probably recommend the standard version of Traveler first as the two extra tracks are also good, but if you like that album you really need to hear this one too. I never go over three stars for singles but I have to say this one is really special and we'll call it 3 1/2 stars. An alternate exploration in the storyline of Rip and Anomaly, a chance to hear a band's original vision alongside their final product. Pretty cool stuff!

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 The Traveler by SPIRAL album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.86 | 18 ratings

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The Traveler
Spiral Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Part 2 of the Sci-Fi trilogy

"The Traveler" is the second installment of an ambitious trilogy by the New Mexico band called Spiral. 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.

However in Part 1, "The Capital in Ruins", Rip's intentions turn out in disaster as he accidentally kills everyone on the planet while attempting to give them immortality. He awakens all alone and the album covers him dealing with this loneliness. At the end he finds some of his daughter's DNA and makes the decision to clone her.

"We wanted the Traveler to continue the story line but also convey the fact that he lives for eons. Think about how many stories can be told about a guy roaming the universe for eternity. It's like Doctor Who (one of my favorite television series), with the sort of unlimited story potential. We decided to focus on his relationship with Anomaly in order to focus the lyrics. The reason the sun explodes and he becomes The Traveler will be revealed in Anomaly. The rest of the songs are short stories at various points in Rip's life. Unlike Dr. Who (who regenerates into a new 'doctor'), the nano-machines constantly maintain his body so Rip never really changes. He stays constant." -Aaron Frale from our PA interview

"The third part will be called Anomaly and is the story of Rip's daughter. After Rip clones Anomaly he injects her with his nano-machines and she basically becomes invincible like he is. She is also the first human that is born with the nano-machines which gives her a unique outlook on death. The first time she dies is when she is eight. Of course, her machines revive her soon after. After this initial experience she becomes obsessed with catching death. By the time she's 15 she's died hundreds of times." -Chris Boat from our PA interview

Both "The Traveler" and the eventual third release "Anomaly" continue the rich Spiral tradition of storytelling by these two friends who happen to both have master's degrees in writing. The music as always compliments the story structure in a very direct way, with sounds that attempt to weave a backdrop of mood and atmosphere. Peril, loneliness, guilt, perhaps madness, these are some of the elements Spiral address with the four very long pieces on The Traveler. This is an album for a patient listener, the band demands you involve yourself in what is happening as opposed to simply craving easy entertainment. Long, weaving guitar jams with subtle shifts, shadowy keys, and often tortured sounding, sometimes near screaming vocals.

The duo brought in some extra firepower on this album to flesh out the instrumental sections and it gives Traveler a larger presence. Casey Mraz, Chris Walker, and Chris Beasley contribute great lead guitar work while Denzel Thompson is back with more guitar and vocals. (Walker has just recently joined Spiral in the spring of 2012, so they are now officially a 3-piece. Congrats all!) During the break in "The Red Giant Stirs" there is a fantastic organ interlude with spacey effects, another thing I love about Spiral, they take unpredictable breaks and add unconventional sounds, and they'll take as much time as they feel necessary to let it sink in (as in the drone section from the previous album).

"An Epiphany Near Vega 9" has the most lovely yet sad introduction, almost late 60s Floydian feelings, before a powerful introspective vocal ensues. So raw and therapeutic are the competing players here, intense vocals, laid back acoustic guitars and drum, sweet leads. And then the mournful keys come back. I think Vega 9 is my favorite. "R.I.P. Rip" features a slight change-up to the jam band feel of the previous tracks, with a more animated vibe and quicker changes, some light and some heavy. I like the quieter vocal parts over hazy keyboards, and the sections where this big booming bass drops from no where to push you around. Behind that are effects laden wordless vocals which are quite effective. A strumming acoustic and a crying electric lead sends off Rip as he locks his controls and surrenders to the void. Or does he?

The Traveler is an album which takes some time to appreciate, which I think is the case for Spiral overall. Those who look past the prickly, somewhat ominous exterior, those who can come to terms with their often aggressive vocals and relentless pursuit of sound are in for a treat. It's not supposed to be pretty, polished, or easy necessarily. But as you peel away the layers of the cactus, you begin to appreciate the hard work Chris and Aaron have put into their sounds and stories, and you notice the subtleties within the heavy sound. I find it all pretty fascinating and unique compared to many "prog by numbers" acts out there. I wish them continued success.

The Traveler is quite an achievement and in my estimation an excellent work. (If you want to know more about this project, look for our PA interview with Spiral, then head to their Bandcamp page: thespiral.bandcamp.com)

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 In The Desert by SPIRAL album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2012
1.10 | 2 ratings

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In The Desert
Spiral Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Epignosis
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

1 stars On this EP by Spiral, the first song, "In the Desert (Mind Trip in A Minor Part 4)" has a few guitars in the Phrygian mode with those Roger Waters copycat vocals shouting over the chords. It is entirely repetitive and has already worn out its welcome after a couple of minutes. The lackluster guitar solos don't add much excitement. Plain guitars in a minor key open the nine-and-a-half-minute second track, "Our Final Days on Bellicus Prime," while a monotonous voice quavers through an unfortunate tremolo effect. The subsequent guitar solo is fuzzy and fat. Eventually keyboards take over the chords the guitar was playing. In case the listener has dozed, the band choses to spend the final few minutes with thick distorted guitar, tempestuous screaming, and a repetitive percussion. I cannot recommend this, because it mostly relies on the same pair of chords and the same mood throughout. It is a pity the titles are the most interesting aspect.

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 The Death Of Billy Jensen by SPIRAL album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.33 | 2 ratings

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The Death Of Billy Jensen
Spiral Psychedelic/Space Rock

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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