Spell - The Full Moon Sessions - (7/10)
Published on May 30, 2014
Classic heavy metal has been treated well by this new millennium. Retaking the position the European power metal revolution had claimed in its absence, the genre once thought by many to be more or less dead had stricken back from the deathbed with a vengeance and this spearhead has yet to stop. Western Canadians Spell, previously known as Stryker, are one of the many soldiers on this frontline of conquest and straight from the band name to the song titles, production, and cover art, it’s immediately clear what their particular objectives are. Carried on less so by elaborate compositions or occult atmosphere, The Full Moon Sessions hearkens back to the first half of the 80’s with the Brits and their first disciples, capturing that sense of raucous energy and youthful willingness to plunge into the unknown and the obscure.
Spell’s sound is a very muscular and straightforward take on this sound that resembles the more energetic and generally heavier end of the 1980 – ’84 period of metal. Their choice in riffing is generally uptempo and energetic, featuring a moderate degree of rhythmic punch and simple if spirited lead work. More hard rockish influences are present as well in the groovier sections and some of the riffing architecture but these songs, catchy as they are, don’t resort to stop-and-go fist-pumpers or sappy balladry. These songs soldier on through simple structures but aren’t afraid to make good use of vocalist Cam Mayhem’s impassioned vocals that remind heavily of the rougher and more amateurish of earlier British metal, far from Bruce Dickinson’s air-raid falsettos and closer to Angel Witch’s Kevin Heybourne’s smooth croon. This lends them a more grounded small time-local-band-that-is-still-working-on-that-debut feel, rather fitting given the particular era they’re reaching back into.
Where this album is at its strongest however does also present a couple of flaws. Their simplicity will be endearing to many but on repeated listens it’s not backed up by quite enough raw energy or force to make them stick. These songs do capture the wild energy of that lost age yes, but at the same time they have the flaws of the flaws. It’s not crippling but overall, the songwriting feels very plain and sparse. In a live setting I’m sure the crowd would be banging in no time but in a more private environment, they can feel a bit flat and lacking in curveballs or a pronounced sense of development. Finally, this is a very short album; if anything, it feels more like a demo or an EP. You get five solid tracks and an acoustic outro, and that’s not bad, but it doesn’t quite feel like Spell’s as sharp as many of their fellow comrades in the New Trad Metal Army.
In spite of this, those looking for a solid outing that’ll sate the “SPIKES AND LEATHER” crowd would do well to give this release a go. It might be very basic sounding but for many that is a draw of this style; a return to the good old days when raw charisma and spirited delivery beat out glossy production jobs and theory-book regurgitating.