Denmark’s Black Book Lodge released a critically acclaimed album back in 2015 by the name of Entering Another Measure. Amid the year-end hustle and bustle, I, regrettably, ended up skipping it. I figured I’d atone for that by checking out the latest from the progressive rock outfit, Steeple and Spire. I just want to take this time to apologize for having overlooked Black Book Lodge for as long as I did, because this album is easily one of the best experiences I’ve had with music this year!
One descriptive word I kept coming back to for this album was ‘ethereal’. You see the album cover of fluffy, piercing white clouds that envelop the font? The music sounds like that. It feels like being high in the sky, floating as the clouds create an soothing aura around you. This is progressive rock, and prog rock is at its best when it’s making you feel, in my opinion at least. When it conjures lovely images in one’s head while listening, you got some good stuff.
Steeple and Spire functions well as one continuous movement. Every song has its place, like a well-formed screenplay to a film. The elements that make up the music don’t vary quite often – all the variance that makes the music live comes from within. The tone of “Weightless Now, Pt. 1” is noticeably heavier than much of the album, kind of like a slow-motion Crack the Skye-era Mastodon. “Weightless Now, Pt. 2”, the very next song, tones the instrumentation down considerably, letting the ethereal mood take hold for the first time. Tracks like “In Halves” provide a great middle ground of the two modes. The slow, deliberate vocal performances, set against a lighter aesthetic, remind me of prog contemporaries Vesper Sails, well-loved here at It Djents. When the music leans more into heavy territory, you might have callbacks to Chris Cornell (RIP).
There’s three tracks in the middle that really capture my attention on every single listen: “The Tower Bell”, the title track, and “Spoil the Child”. I won’t meticulously fawn over all three, suffice it to say they all sound similar enough to not warrant that. But this trifecta of songs, two of which are singles, is profoundly catchy. The melody in the hook of “The Tower Bell” that got stuck in my head multiple times, the title song’s opening guitar line which is beautifully uplifting with some ascendant qualities that tickle my brain, and the organ of “Spoil the Child” are amazing highlights within the album.
“The Sum of Every I” is, indeed, a great summation of the album and what is has to offer. It feels reflective in tone, but instead of recycling melodies or riffs from previous songs to nail this mood, this track is entirely original and simply evokes it through a wonderfully progressive structure that touches on much of the tonal spectrum Steeple and Spire has had up to this point. It feels like one final dive from the stratosphere down toward the earthy hard rock that Black Book Lodge flirt with before pulling up to soar higher than ever, disappearing as a twinkle in a sea of stars.
I am quite infatuated with Steeple and Spire; I think it’s just what I needed at this specific time since I’ve vibed with it so strongly. It’s truly an evocative and alluring album, a definite high point for progressive music this year. This is something that’s admittedly hard to capture in words, which is why I implore you to take a listen yourself. If you like it when music speaks to you, this should be on your list. I thank Black Book Lodge for the experience, and hope you, our readers, have as good of a time as I did with it.
Notable Tracks: “The Tower Bell”; “Spoil the Child”; “The Sum of Every I”
FFO: Vesper Sails, Boss Keloid, The Atlas Moth