The Spectre Beneath – The New Identity Of Sidney Stone
Release Date: 27/11/2020
Running Time: 60:01
Review by Simon Black
The best part of this (unpaid) job is days like this. When you listen to an album from a new band you have never heard of that absolutely ticks most of your boxes. This is actually the sophomore release for Cheshire-based The Spectre Beneath and, like 2019’s “The Downfall Of Judith King”, is a conceptual piece with a fairly dark story of criminality, shallow graves and resurrection – because in this game you just gotta love the Prog / Power concepts…
Importantly though, this is fundamentally where this album feels different. So many of the cookie-cutter variety of Progressive and Power genres (particularly those from mainland Europe) really overdo the concepts, to the point where they are clichéd and intrusive. These oft-repetitive albums go through endless contortions to fit the format and only really work if you are prepared to listen to the whole thing and embrace its underlying minutia…or more likely, you just let it go completely over your head and move on to something else. When concepts work, they don’t intrude, they are a bonus – the exemplar of which is probably Queensrÿche’s “Operation: Mindcrime”. Yes, it’s a very cleverly crafted concept album, which like the layers of an onion unpeel one at a time giving you a little more on each and every listen, yes there are musical refrains and themes that build and echo throughout but most of all the concept is a bonus, as each of the songs works on their own. This is what I see happening on “The New Identity Of Sidney Stone” and as a test I put the album on shuffle to see if I still felt as strongly about it. That would be a resounding yes.
The reason for this is some absolutely top notch song-writing and arrangements built around the two pillars of L. Lockser’s enigmatic vocals and Pete Worrall’s blistering guitar and bass work (presumably live the ‘additional’ guitar work of Vini Assis becomes a bit more fundamental). The guitar is an absolute core of the effectiveness of this band’s sound. It’s got a much dirtier guitar effect sound than is normal for Power or Progressive acts and added to this the relentless pace of the riffage which owes more to the gruelling effect you get from someone like Slayer, along with a bit of repetitive old Iron Maiden harmonisation instead of endless solos and you get close to the sense of unease this approach instils. It also works an absolute treat especially when you have a sticksman like Consta Taylor who can keep up the pace and positively delivers the master class schooling on blast beat delivery. Perhaps the most disconcerting part of this is the ambiguous Lockser’s vocals. I get the strong sense that she is not from a Metal background, as the style and phrasing owe more to Soul than the Rock end of the spectrum, although she can definitely belt it out when needed.
Fundamentally this feels like a very new and interesting band and although I can see obvious genre paths to bands like Nevermore, the sound of The Spectre Beneath is uniquely their own. The eclectic mix that makes this happen is why this is such an original and refreshing act to listen to.
‘Clockwork Heart’ (Lyric Video)
01. Clockwork Heart
02. Voice In The Static
04. Have You Waited For The World To Change?
05. 20 Shillings A Town
06. The Last Light In The House
07. The Criminal
08. The Funeral
09. The Premature Burial
10. The Phone Call
11. The Exhumation
L Lockser – Vocals
Pete Worrall – Guitar/Bass
Consta Taylor – Drums
Vini Assis – Additional Lead Guitar
Martin Worrall – Piano/Keyboards
Katy Lennon – Additional Vocals
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