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Spirits of the Dead – Spirits of the Dead

Spirits of the Dead LP

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

NORWAY’S Spirits of the Dead are a band for any heavy rock lovers who can’t resist lengthy guitar solos or a keen sense of foreboding.

Influenced by the epic, heavy sounds of Melvins, Dead Meadow and Black Moutain as much as they are their personal masters of the past – Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin – the four-piece includes guitarist Ole Ovstedal and vocalist Ragnar Vikse.

Together, they make quite a potent force on the rock scene, even if their eponymous album, Spirits of the Dead – which is being released in a UK special edition – is a pretty niche taste.

Early on, it’s great… fully evoking the memory of the ‘70s acts they often seek to emulate, while delivering a couple of hugely impressive songs.

White Lady/Black Rave, for instance, sets things rolling with some funky, even Doors-like organs and a propulsive rhythm section, before suddenly slowing down the tempo for some deeply trippy psychedelic interludes.

In that regard, Spirits of the Dead are every bit as good as other contemporary acts like Wolfmother in delivering a keen mix of classic rock values and modern appeal. The guitar solo at around the three and a half minute mark is also great.
There’s another busy, bustling slice of funky disco rock on the hip-shaking The Waves of Our Ocean, a keen mix of surf rock and ‘70s disco glamour that sits comfortably in both music scenes, complete with a cracking chorus.

The mellow Wild Dream carries a vague Derek & The Dominoes meets Zeppelin vibe that provides a welcome change of pace, and evidence that they can do a variety of styles, while Red opens in sprawling, tantalising fashion, layering in some flute-like sounds amid its organs and drums. But then the album takes a turn, almost mid-song.

When the singing drifts into a chant-like “red is the river” and the drums start to pound in tandem with some crunching riffs, the album seems to swap allegiances from classic rock to slightly more modern harder rock/metal.

Admittedly, Red is content to shift tempos… flitting between both, but continually undoing the cooler, mellower moments with the pounding riffs. They’d call it ambitious; we think it’s a mess!

T.I.T (Traveller In Time) then strips things back down into more trippy, mellow territory and even nods to Bowie’s Space Odyssey, but somehow doesn’t pull it off as well.

While the final two tracks hit Black Sabbath territory more blatantly, with massive guitar riffs, mighty choruses and a more modern sound to the fore. Of the two, Fields of Gold contains some genuinely compelling guitar work and would have made for a thrilling final track.

But title track Spirits of the Dead brings it to a close instead, and is a massive slab of Sabbath-esque doom that burdens the album with a ‘heavy’ tag it doesn’t necessarily deserve. It’s a disappointing end that leaves you pining for the brightness of the earlier material.

That said, Spirits of the Dead do have their moments and there certain moments worth investigating.

Download picks: White Lady/Black Rave, The Waves of Our Ocean, My Wild Dream, Fields of Gold

Track listing:

  1. White Lady/Black Rave
  2. The Waves Of Our Ocean
  3. My Wild Dream
  4. Red
  5. T.I.T. (Traveller in Time)
  6. Fields of Gold
  7. Spirits of the Dead