Monday, May 23, 2016

Album Review: Spell - For None And All

We've seen over the years plenty of up-and-coming bands that have latched on to their influences a bit too hard, sounding like a carbon copy that never needed to exist. It can be easy to do, to get so absorbed in the music you loved growing up that it begins to recycle itself in your mind, and pour out through your instrument. It's not even a bad thing, on its own, since there have been plenty of bands that have found success after starting out a little too similar to someone else. But there are some bands, and some influences, that just can't be replicated. For all the times Mercyful Fate's name is thrown around, no one has ever sounded like them, including all the projects Sherman and Denner have put together in the meantime.

I say this because Spell is one of those bands that has drawn comparisons to Mercyful Fate, which the press release that announced the record was more than happy to point out. Stylistically, I can see it. Like Mercyful Fate, Spell plays a riff-heavy style of metal, focused on darker subjects, coupled with some 'colorful' vocals, let's say. But the comparisons are extremely rough, because what Spell is doing is much bigger than any one band.

The opening song, "Madame Psychosis", does have moments that recall King Diamond, and Graham McVie packs the songs full of riffs upon riffs, but there is a melodic core to the song that their predecessors never mastered. Instead of using darkness and the occult as the driving force of a mediocre song, they use those elements to enhance a stronger composition. It's a great song in every way, with the exception of the fact that it raises the expectations for the rest of the album to a level it probably can't match.

And that is exactly the case. After hitting the bulls-eye on their first shot, the remaining tracks struggle to live up to that standard. "Whipping Sails" is harmless, but it's a bland track that doesn't really offer much. "River Of Sleep" has more doom influences, and sets an effective atmosphere, but the vocals don't do enough to make the song more than a series of good riffs.

What the album does do well is deliver on the promise of pumping out some quality old-school, mystical, heavy metal. If you're looking for something in the vain of Mercyful Fate, Spell is hitting most of the right marks here. There's nothing wrong with anything here, but it's also not as compelling as I would like it to be. Cam Mesmer's voice will be a point of contention, for sure. He has one of those voices that you will either love or hate, but unlike King Diamond, he's not so unique that you have to listen to him just because you can't believe what you're hearing.

In the end, what I would say about "For None And All" is that it's one of those albums that aims for something it can't quite achieve. At times, Spell shows that they have the talent to be a really good band, but they don't yet have the consistency to deliver song after song, album after album. Hopefully that will come in the future, but for now, this record is more of a harbinger than an event.

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