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Spiral - The Traveler CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.76 | 29 ratings

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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:

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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