Spider Kitten, Spider Kitten, does whatever a Spider Kitten does…
In this case what this Spider Kitten does is deliver huge slabs of folk tinged psychedelic Doom with a modern twist.
The band have been around the Welsh scene for several years and through multiple line up changes, the band have grown and shrunk in numbers and mutated their sound into a unique, colossal heavy wall of powerful sound that is flavoured with expansive, almost grunge laced elements, and Alice In Chains style vocal harmonies.
Having signed for the legendary Undergroove Records and eager to make an impression, the band entered the studio after just one jam session and have gifted their fans with 30 minutes of new music as a stop gap before they record their heavily concept based, as of yet untitled, next full length album.
The result is the somewhat verbosely titled Behold Mountain. Hail Sea. Venerate Sky. Bow Before Tree, three tracks of powerful, exploration that is based around Norse Sagas and Eddas, inspired by drummer Chris West’s (formerly of Taint) Danish heritage. The subject matter has been painstakingly researched and throughout the dense, meandering musical journey there is a loving faithfulness to the ancient religions and customs of Scandinavia in the lyrics, themes and flavour of the music. From lofty, bleak moments that evoke soaring birds on wind swept coasts to drumming patterns that sound like the beating of oars on the open water. It is clearly emotionally evocative stuff and what started out as an urge to ‘stuff out some sludge’ has turned into quite a gem of a record.
Opening track Lindisfarena sets out the stall with up tempo riffing and an urgent drum tattoo with feedback like a battle cry before it collapses into a more traditional sledgehammer heavy Doom refrain that comes over like a wave. Add to this the deep, but clean vocals that soar and tell the tale that are backed by multi-layered gruff shouting and this is a powerful, mesmerising track that drives along on rich tones that have more in common with modern Doom masters like Yob and Pallbearer and made them such a good fit on tour.
As if this wasn’t spoiling the listener enough, before the hypnotic, chanted ending that adds a flavour of old world ceremony and reverence, there is the centre piece of a squalling, almost psychedelic solo that lifts the track further courtesy of Stu O’Hara (of Acrimony, Iron Monkey and Sigiriya fame) and helps pile on the densely layered music to create an other worldly sound.
After the lofty beginning Bearded Axe gets serious and despite beginning the shortest track of Behold Mountain… it hits with massive slabs of dense guitar work and low end rumble whilst the drums keep pace. Here the Alice In Chains vocal harmonies really come to the fore creating a mournful melody among the huge ringing chords that sound like they were wrenched from the halls of Valhalla themselves.
The sound is oppressive, like the atmosphere before a battle with it’s talk of enemies and the like but ends on a surprisingly tender folk tinged piece of picked guitar that helps it segue into the mammoth three part Gore Swan I: Of The Land II: Of The Sea III: Of The Skywhich despite it’s placement is the showcase piece of the album.
The closing number is the culmination of the vision that gave birth to the thematic concept; here acoustic guitars, samples of bird songs and natural conjure imagery that is emotionally stirring and beautiful, lulling you into a false sense of security before it is replicated by heavy guitars, crushing atmosphere and almost chanted vocals.
Over the next fifteen minutes the listener is treated to droning, swaying Doom, augmented by a luscious, heart breaking Cello accompaniment courtesy of Charlotte Nichols (ex-Crippled Black Phoenix) that truly raises their game before the harder edged music and spoken word moves the climax of the song into a full on Viking Raid taking you on a journey that embraces the culture with reverence.
Given that this is technically something the band decided to do whilst thinking about their next album, then I for one cannot wait to see what they do. Their debut release for Undergroove has given them the platform to establish their more mature sound with all the expansive and indulgent whims that they wanted to try and yet deliver a teaser of where they might head in the future.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden