If anyone out there is a regular reader of my ‘waffle’ (thanks as ever Shaman Lee!) over the years, you’ll have probably noticed that I love Spider Kitten and APF Records. To my delight, I was slipped the information some time ago that the release of the billionth recording from the Welsh stoner/sludge/doom/kitchen sink merchants would be delivered to the salivating masses via Salford’s top-notch dealers of all things heavy.
In true Spider Kitten style, the birth of this latest opus actually began its genesis some seven years ago and was recorded sporadically over that time as frontman Chi Lameo tried to tackle the difficult themes of ‘therapy, drugs, altruism, political movements, religion, and ultimately, the controversial notion of achieving peace through death’.
Having spent their career spanning numerous styles including the fantastic 2020 grunge-themed Major Label Debut, the epic dread of conceptual prog rock that is Ark Of Octofelis (2016) and the Americana-laced Sinister And Concise (2018), their latest release A Pound For The Peacebringer sees a musical return stylistically closer to their superb Undergroove debut Behold Mountain; Hail Sea, Venerate Sky, Bow Before Tree with seismic walls of more traditionally influenced doom.
Consisting of Lameo on vocals, guitars and keys, Spider Kitten is once again filled out by the settled lineup of Chris West (Made of Teeth) on drums, vocals and guitar, Steve-o Jones (also of Made of Teeth) on bass and vocals as well as being rejoined by guitarist Gareth Day (Obey Cobra) for an album that drove the frontman almost to the point of madness in his quest to articulate the darker side of the human psyche, albeit with the wry cynical humour we have come to expect.
Opening with the seventeen-minute ’single’ is the title track, strains of Eastern-flavoured strings seep into your consciousness evoking a sense of exotic peace before four high-hat strikes herald the sound of souped-up, deliciously fuzzy riffs full of menace. The slow and dirgey music is dragged to epic-length proportions as it reverberates with power.
In a common theme that runs through Spider Kitten’s releases, they drop into that woozy, motion sickness swing of multi-layered harmonies that owe a passing debt to Alice In Chains, the aforementioned sardonic humour immediately on display with the opening line of ‘You’re looking like someone just told you that your dog just died’.
The gruff, grunted shout of the title brings a slide into a chasmic ringing of chords that would not be out of place in Black Sabbath’s eponymous number as keyboards augment them with typically off-kilter unsettling sounds. Not to waste any moment of the mammoth run time, the track constantly shifts from the crushingly heavy to an almost ambient middle drop out with Lameo crooning softly before prefixing the crashing ending with more keys that dance with retro vibes.
Breaking the gap between the other two bigger tracks with shorter, gentler numbers, first up is Safe To Drown which features the addition of Luke Oram on guitar. Built around classical sounds and samples of birdsong, the briefest offering on the album is infused with a kaleidoscope of country meets Mad Season. Lameo’s lazy drawl is once again bolstered by harmonies that float delicately over the frenetic picking, echoing with beauty despite the devastating ‘No one can save you now’ refrain.
this is a monstrous return to the darker, filthier side of the band…
Bellwether returns to the grinding muted guitar and heavy to the max plodding doom. The treacle thick crawl through the simple-sounding passages uses a number of devices to keep the momentum from stagnating such as fills, stops and deft tone changes, yet the band return to the familiar touchstones so the oppressive and suffocating nature of the track never diminishes from the relentless march.
Rounding off with a terrifying, strange instrumental section, Spider Kitten never lose their ability to out-weird their peers before effortlessly sliding back into those Neanderthal-like poundings.
The second of the shorter tracks, God’s Song, also leans on country influences. The acoustic crooning asks searching questions and recalls biblical tales in a manner that has a crossover with Lameo’s solo work like Hallelujah, I’m Ready or Come Not Single Spies. The scratching of the strings and the gentle synth arrangements give focus to the biting lyrics about the abusive relationship between mankind and the divine.
Finally, the playfully titled Fluid Druid (Float On) signs off in dramatic fashion. Dense, sludgy rhythms drift in and out of consciousness, like stormy waves crashing on rocks, as the hazy vocals overlap and combine bringing stark relief before they drop into a massive groove in the form of a simple, urgent and creeping riff.
This is Spider Kitten back to their most funereal best as they tease and draw out the tension, creating bad acid trip jazz-like sections that feel like the band is falling apart, only to smartly bring it around again with seemingly masterful ease. Concluding on the haunting vocals intoning ‘Nah, Nah, Na-na’ the chords slow to a shuddering halt and there is an unhinged sense of madness that echoes the creative process.
Mixed and produced by the frontman himself and mastered by Charlie Francis for Synergy Mastering, Spider Kitten once again show that they can turn their hand to a wide range of styles and pull it off with complete success. For those thrown a curveball by their last studio album with its ‘90s alt-rock dalliances, this is a monstrous return to the darker, filthier side of the band that birthed Ark of Octofelis and staged the bleak ceremonial Norse ritual of Behold Mountain…
Spider Kitten don’t make bad albums. It is that simple. For the doom lovers out there, this is a powerhouse addition to their impressive body of music that manages to cram ‘epic’ into less than three-quarters of an hour; fans of the band should be salivating at the prospect of this release.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden