The full title of the new album by American cybergrind-eccentrics Spires of the Lunar Sphere is SIREN (take the fair face of woman and gently suspending with butterflies flowers and jewels attending thus your fairy be made of most wondrous things). Yeah, well…I’ll just let that sink in for a moment. It’s not like this is the only time that’ll happen throughout the record, either.
An A+ in absolute and utter weirdness
With only one EP, 2015’s Pangaea Ultima, to their name, the duo of Michael Smith (guitar/synth/vocals) and Brandon Jolly (keyboards/vocals/production) have already become known for all kinds of auditory tomfoolery, wrapped neatly into a mind-warping package of grindcore-meets-chiptune-meets-whatever the hell else these two could possibly set their minds to. I would love to tell you what exactly you can expect from SIREN, but listing off the things you can’t takes way less time (and effort, to be honest): boredom, predictable music, and any sense of tranquility. Furthermore, I would love to tell you to keep that fact in mind, but where we’re about to go, you won’t be able to keep anything in mind anyway, so let’s just continue with the actual music, m’kay?
“Purple Eyes” starts off with a sampled voice over major chords – a superficially upbeat mood that will soon be demolished by a death metal onslaught that would sit comfortably on Between the Buried and Me’s earlier works. In the background, vibrant synths swirl all over the place, before a grind part forces them into a more sporadic role. And are those congas I hear? As you can see, there’s a lot going on in this song, but aside from the spastic outbreaks and challenging electronics, this is as close to a prog-death track as this band and album get.
Crushed Dreams & a Vocoder
Being one of the shorter numbers to be found on SIREN, “Petrifier Cloud” nevertheless manages to stuff a plethora of styles into its runtime. Taking up the aforementioned death metal leanings and adding djenty tones and Mr. Bungle-inspired rhythms, it presents a very condensed overview over what Spires of the Lunar Sphere can deliver metal-wise. “DREAMCRUSHER” on the other hand begins with a cartoonish bass line and…bird chirping? Okay. We are then treated to carnival-esque theatrics and another hearty dose of heaviness. What’s most impressive about this particular song is the dominant place the bass holds in it. Playing either basic chord progressions or really intricate, technical parts, it manages to stand out in the at times overloaded composition. Another prog-death reference is in place when talking about the fact that a vocoder effect not unlike the one Cynic used to utilize can be found on this track as well.
It’s dangerous to go alone…
Wrapping up the album is “…Old…Sahasrala…” (aka the nice magician chap from A Link to the Past). A muffled keyboard arpeggio is followed by a sinister greeting from one of the vocalists, who comes across as a twisted carnival announcer of sorts. The electronics here are mostly of the chiptune variety, accompanying the dramatic guitar riffs, the hushed piano, and the overall tone rather nicely. Of course, the song shifts through different phases, as they are want to do on this album, but the elements are brought together in a surprisingly coherent fashion, and so even a guitar solo (of all things) doesn’t seem too terribly out of place. Not like it would be below the band to satisfy old rock/metal tropes, far from it, but SIREN usually doesn’t stick with one single thing long enough to warrant a solo.
To put it bluntly, the sound Spires of the Lunar Sphere have crafted for this album will make your brain feel like an old SNES console trying to run a modern triple A video game title – in 4k resolution. The mixture of prog death, electronic music, grindcore, and everything in between (yes, even J-Pop) is extraordinarily overwhelming; in fact, if you don’t experience a sensory overload while listening to SIREN, you deserve some kind of award in my opinion. I can’t recommend this album enough, so you go listen to it while I try mopping what is left of my brain off the floor. Deal?
Notable Tracks: “Midnite in the Garden of Vulva”; “DREAMCRUSHER”; “Drac’s Night Out”
FFO: Between The Buried And Me, Genghis Tron, video game soundtracks