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Spiralsea – Essence (Reissue)

Spiralsea
Essence (Reissue)
by Ian Yeara at 14 February 2021, 1:59 AM

Oh joy, obscure Technical Thrash Metal from the early 90s, just what I wanted. Unfortunately I’m really not the person who should be reviewing this one, because of all the genres of metal, I enjoy Thrash the least. I can appreciate the blistering riffs and fast playing, even if the arrangements are pretty simple. No, what has always bothered me about thrash metal (and continues to here) are the vocals. It’s this hybrid of harsh vox and speaking loudly? I don’t understand what Thrash vocalists are actually trying to accomplish and I’m not going to spend much time trying to figure it out. If you like Thrash vocals that’s fine, just don’t expect me to.

What I do really enjoy about this album is the atmosphere. The riffs are especially crunchy and the production keeps things distant and eerie. The band does a very good job of setting the mood and keeping things spooky. I may not care for the vocals on this album, but the guitar work is really good and I’m going to try my best to focus on the positives here.

This is a re-release of a 1993 album by SPIRALSEA, a Thrash Metal band from the Netherlands. I don’t think I had ever heard of them before this and I found it interesting they have one full length album and like three demos, reminding me of some niche 90s Death and Thrash Metal bands like REALM, or TIMEGHOUL. I can definitely see why people like this, it mostly eschews traditional hooks in favor of focusing on the guitar riffs, which do end up being memorable enough to distract from the lack of real melody or harmony. The energy is engaging with the rhythm section really keeping things moving along at a clip I can appreciate. Damnit if I have to listen to 90s Thrash Metal, the least they can do is keep it thrashy and try to stay away from mid-tempo, and they do that.

When it comes to late 80s early 90s Thrash and Heavy Metal I’m very picky, but one of the bands that has stood out to me over the years has been REALM with "Endless War" from 1988. I can’t help thinking if this band had a vocalist like Mark Antoni this album would have been a treat to listen to.

The deeper I get into this album the more I find myself appreciating Peter Huisma and Jan D. Schuitema’s guitar playing. It sounds perfectly gritty, but more importantly the grooves are ever changing and evolving, like these guys know how to change up their style enough to keep a full length album interesting and they never let up on the energy. It’s just full riffs ahead for forty seven minutes straight. Songs like "A Voice Within" and "The Sea Floods" really embrace that frenetic wild energy the guitar players are channeling, and even though I don’t like the vocals, I can’t deny that S. A. Blesing is giving this performance 110%.

When I first started the album I was definitely unimpressed, it sounded like almost every other 90s Thrash album I’ve ever started and not finished, but I suppose this says more about me because once I got into the album I was able to appreciate how well this album is executed. Yeah, you can try and copy the standard Thrash metal sensibility, but you have to make it your own and these guys manage to do that.

"Essence" doesn’t really do much I haven’t heard before, but they are all in on it and the guitar riffs on this album define the phrase “balls to the wall”. I’ve talked a lot of trash about this vocalist, but there are some moments where he almost approaches this hysterical Blackened Thrash tone and those are the moments; when the music is at peak insanity when this band really clicked the most for me. Obviously I’m not the sort of person who’s listened to every bit of obscure early 90s Thrash metal that’s out there and I do feel like I am the wrong person for the job here, but I must admit this album was able to hook me in. The rhythm section is fantastic and the guitars never stopped finding new and interesting riffs.

Oh also because this is a re-issue, on my copy at the end it’s got the original tracks from their first demo. It was just interesting to compare that sound with the cleaned up version of the full length. I almost prefer what the vocals used to sound like, they were covered up more by the production and atmosphere so they didn’t sound as weak, or like somebody speaking loudly.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 6
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Through the Night
2. Passed Away
3. Clear Brightness
4. Earth's Downfall
5. Misère
6. Overflow
7. A Voice Within
8. The Sea Floods
9. Balance
Lineup:
J.W. – Bass
M. Bult – Drums
J. D. Schuitema – Guitars
P. Huisma – Guitars
S. A. Blesing – Vocals, Keyboards
Record Label: Awakening Records
     


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Edited 05 March 2021
 

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