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The Spirit Cabinet - Bloodlines

The Spirit Cabinet
by Kira Schlechter at 11 May 2020, 12:27 AM

Perhaps I’m too literal or old-school or color-within-the-lines to appreciate THE SPIRIT CABINET. The latest from the Netherlands-based band, “Bloodlines” (the follow-up to 2015’s “Hystero Epileptic Possessed”), admittedly left me scratching my head. The opener, “Devils in the Details,” kicks off with lots of bass and a great big groove. Snake’s voice is like IAN GILLAN at the start, but it morphs into something else in the slower sections, where his phrasing mimics the guitar melody almost like a chant. There are plenty of tempo changes here – they don’t let you grab onto anything for long, which is OK here, but gradually becomes problematic. Snake plays fast and loose with his pronunciation of words, making them (maybe even forcing them to) fit the rhythms. Lyrically, to take a stab, it seems to be saying that the real devil is God (“False Lucifer, demonic bearer” and “Do not be fooled through ritual,” like that of organized religion, and “be warned by false words, by false gods”).

“In Antique Vortex” has Snake becoming a black metal screamer. It’s thrashier at first, but the second part is slow and doomy and SABBATH-like. The track see-saws between the two parts (and does this throughout), then the first part (the fast part), gets slowed way down and it makes the lyrics kind of awkward in how they then have to be sung. Snake also plays loose with phrasing and taking breaths at weird points in a line. He rolls his Rs, a la Vincent Price, and infuses this tale of occult practices with great portent and drama.

“Satan the Healer” was a series of “then it does this” and “then it does that.” It begins with the adept rhythm section of Cromwell and Erich and Johnny’s mesmerizing, vaguely Middle Eastern riff. After the groove kicks in, it changes almost completely – that guitar melody is still there but it’s been tweaked a little, which is interesting. At the end of the verse, it changes, but only on the last line, then it’s back to our original groove – that back-and-forth happens a few times. The slower bridge goes back to the original groove again, then at the end of the last verse, it goes off on a chaotic rant. Variety is a plus, but not when it leaves you with whiplash.

The lyrics are stream-of-consciousness, rooted in mysticism, but there’s one interesting line, “The world does not need dogma.” The impressive vocabulary is fine, but Snake kind of struggles to fit all those multisyllabic words into each line and make them flow rhythmically. “The Medium in the Mask,” all nearly 10 minutes of it, is doomy and dirgey. Snake is back to the IAN GILLAN voice and works well in this passionate, spooky love song to a spirit. He’s at his best when he just sings and leaves behind the affectations and ornamentations. ”I am lost in the absence of you” is a vivid turn of phrase, and there’s some lovely poignant imagery too (“magnetic glance I could never reach” and “the night is empty and senseless the stars”). The vocal mix of the chorus is all washed in effects.

But then it gets super fast and atonal and noisy and screaming and I wasn’t sure why. Is it weird for the sake of being weird? If the song is the thing, as it’s supposed to be, this part doesn’t make much sense. It does return to the more Gothic section, at least partly, and that’s a good thing. “Subtle Art of Sleep Paralysis” is detuned and atonal, led by Snake’s phlegmy screaming. The lyrics are of death and blood – the word choices are fine and the images are picturesque certainly, but it’s fairly unpleasant listening.

The final song, “The Celestial Intelligencer” starts with a melody bordering on the symphonic, terse and baroque-sounding. It revisits this part at the end as well. In fact, this track too is a series of repeated parts – this one, then a screaming portion (that does have a hauntingly lovely guitar melody behind it), then a crooning portion that borders on being off-key, then a bridge that features more pleasant singing and another notable guitar melody. The lyrics are a series of mystical phrases strung together with no discernible storyline – “mystic odds and ends,” indeed.

“These are the songs of our irrationality, our instinctual savagery, hymns to madness and bedevilment,” the band says in their Bandcamp bio. They are occasionally irrational, definitely; at times savage, and mad for certain. They are certainly interesting and definitely bizarre, but ultimately not my thing, I’m afraid.

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

3 Star Rating

1. Devils in the Details
2. In Antique Vortex
3. Satan the Healer
4. The Medium in the Mask
5. Subtle Art of Sleep Paralysis
6. The Celestial Intelligencer
Snake McRuffin - Vocals
Johnny Hallstrom - Guitar
Cromwell Fleetwood - Bass
Erich Vilsmeier - Drums
Record Label: Van Records


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Edited 02 October 2022

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