There’s a sort of depravity captured by Spectral Voice that is hard to cover in a simple-ass review like this. The intersection of death and doom metal is prime for that, combining true apocalyptic heaviness with absolutely baneful doom atmosphere that coats the walls like a hissing malaise - a real chocolate and peanut butter combo in sonic form. Sparagmos, the second, long-awaited new LP from the Denver band, is a quintessential distillation of this sound.
For those unaware, and you should be aware of this, this band shares three members with Blood Incantation, another crowning metal jewel of Colorado. This is on the surface a bit inconsequential, but what makes it noteworthy here is it helps inform how and why this band have elevated their song structure chops as well as the integration of raw atmosphere since their very good debut, Eroded Corridors of Unbeing. You don’t just make albums like Hidden History of the Human Race and Timewave Zero and not bring what you learned and did forward.
You can just hear the vacancy in the open spaces of Sparagmos, from the profoundly ominous intro of “Be Cadaver” to the funereal finale of “Death’s Knell Rings in Eternity”. It’s a void siphoning life itself into its depths, but that doesn’t mean the music itself is devoid of life or depth, it’s just a different kind of life; a hostile one. You hear this in the rasped grunts and growls of the vocals, a mixture of animalistic curdling and woeful yelps. There’s a very palpable sense of dread in every track because of the overall soundscapes and vocals alone.
But y’all want riffs, right? Death-doom has the esteemed ability to deliver on this front with melodic, catchy writing if the band is up to the task, but it’s not quite as straightforward as it would be with a band like Temple of Void or Tzompantli. I will say upfront that every fucking riff here on Sparagmos is worthy of discussion - they range from emotive to driving to straight up bisecting which totals up to the whole project feeling momentous. You’re not “waiting for the good part” because it’s all the good part for very different reasons.
I love the energetic midsection of “Be Cadaver”, conjuring up this hell gallop of a rhythm that feels well-earned after the laser-guided enervation of the beginning five minutes, only for it to fold in on itself again like a collapsing bridge that sends you on a bottomless plummet. The other three songs are much more upfront with their powering metal sections, including “Red Feasts Condensed Into One” which rollicks and romps through its opening minute because turning into a doomed Sisyphean climb against the weight of the world.
“Sinew Censer” contains all the burning instrumentation its name implies with ferocious drums and an uncommonly good late section with a torrent of dense, almost sludgy guitarwork. It’s the shortest track here at 7:39 and it feels it, in a positive way. “Death’s Knell Rings in Eternity” is stuffed with a lot of similar moments, but more broad. For instance, the guitars in the intro feel like a run-in with quicksand: slow, but fatal and anxious all the same. I can’t think of many other times where unease was so well mixed with an urgent locomotion in metal instrumentation like this and it’s not something unique to this song either.
I’m so glad that Blood Incantation has been a worthwhile project for all involved - I’m definitely a fan myself - but returning to Spectral Voice has been darkly serene and so worth the wait. Sure, they’ve dropped a few splits between Eroded Corridors of Unbeing and now, but there’s nothing like a full LP with complementary tracks executing on a theme, vibe, or mood (in Sparagmos’ case, all three) to envelop you loop after loop. Sparagmos as a word refers to the sundering of someone or something’s body, usually ritualistic, and I can say it’s a concept and feeling keenly captured on this effectively flawless album.
Bottom Line: This is one of the heaviest albums I’ve heard in years. Sparagmos is cataclysm incarnate. Somewhere between the raucous eruptions of metal that turn you into soup and the bellowing atmo that claws at your soul is a transcendental hum that’s ASMR-like to those that love death-doom. This is some real Four Horsemen shit from high atop the Rocky Mountains and they deserve some standing ovation-level recognition for what was crafted here.