It seems Desert Psychlist has spent a fair amount of our time this year (2023) reviewing albums from Norwegian bands, something we will not apologising for as the amount of good music coming out of Norway lately is frankly quite staggering. For a long time Norway has had a reputation for producing some of the gnarliest, most evil sounding death and black metal known to man but over the last few years a noticeable array of bands have emerged with a leaning towards a more psyched up hard/stoner and heavy rock sound. Of course we are not saying this a new phenomenon, these bands have probably been doing their thing under the radar for a long, long time it just that now those bands who have been long plugging away with their fuzzy riffs and driving rhythms seem to be getting noticed just that little more and are in turn inspiring others to push a little harder to get themselves heard. Having said all that Spiral Shades, Khushal R Bhadra (vocals) and Filip Petersen (guitars/bass,/drums), the subject of this review, are not strictly a Norwegian band, Peterson does indeed hail from Vennesla, Norway but Bhadra comes from Mumbai, India, the pair connecting via social media courtesy of a shared love of heavy doom and progressive rock. The duo first came to our attention at Desert Psychlist thanks to their 2014 debut "Hypnosis Sessions" an enthralling mix of swaggering Sabbathian proto-doom and heavy psyched up stoner rock that garnered all the right responses from all the right quarters. Unfortunately distance, illness and life in general meant that a quick follow up was impossible but rewards do however come to those with modicum of patience and this year the band return with a new album "Revival" which given that many thought this band and their music were lost to us is a fairly apt title.
Title track "Revival" kicks things off with Bhadra channelling more than a little of his eastern heritage into his vocals, retaining the slightly Ozzy-ish whine that informed much of the duos debut but adding just a hint of exotic inflection into his delivery. Peterson handles the instrumental side of things and it is testament to his skill as a musician that for this song, and for the whole album, you could easily be fooled into thinking you were listening to fully formed four piece band rather than just one extremely talented man. "Chapter Zero" follows and utilizes a little drone-like atmospherics and prog-like loud and quiet dynamics to achieve its goals and scores with both. There is a touch of theatre about next track "Darkest Night" plus some nicely placed shifts in time and tempo, you could just imagine Bhadra twirling a well waxed moustache and furling and unfurling a long black cape while performing the lyrics to this one. "Foggy Mist" follows and occupies musical territory sitting somewhere between Uncle Acid and Green Lung, a catchy tome almost impossible not to tap a foot along to. "Fading Away" finds Spiral Shades blending thrumming dank atmospherics with a lilting vocal melody to create a sound that is as insidious as it is delicious whereas "Witchy Eyes" wanders into Sabbath country but doesn't fully take up residence preferring instead to get a little pastural and rural. Final track "Twisted Realities" boasts, for its most part, a sound that runs along similar musical lines to Sweden's Sleepwulf but then muddies the waters with elements of post-doom and prog.
Those opting for a digital download are rewarded with two bonus tracks, the delightfully upbeat and retro "Dead By Dawn" and the excellent sneery and sinister "Cellar of Misery" plus a an extended version of the latter with added sampled narrative, each worthy of repeat listening.
Those out there with a penchant for the retro tinted witchy grooves of Parrish, Sleepwulf and Green Lung will throw their wicker cross effigies into the air with unbridled joy when they get a load of Spiral Shades "Revival", but so will those who came to this crossroads on a diet of Pentagram, Black Sabbath and Pagan Altar.
Check 'em out ....
© 2023 Frazer Jones