Metal Review – Spellcaster: Spellcaster

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Metal Review – Spellcaster: Spellcaster
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Spellcaster: Spellcaster
Heavy Metal
Lone Fir Records
July 1st, 2014
Release length: 48:31
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Spellcaster is based out of Portland, Oregon and formed in 2009. Even though the band has only been active about five years, it still managed to suffered just as many losses. Of the five were founding drummer Shad Covert and vocalist Thomas Adams, both departing sometime in 2012, as well as Scott DeRosia, the man brought in to fill the gap left behind by Shad, that very year. Supposedly Raypist and Nasty Nate of Cemetery Lust (bass and guitar respectively) had also participated, but this is quoted from the ever trusty internet, so this may be inaccurate and leaving the count only at three. Regardless, the act stands as a five-piece with bassist Gabe Frano, as well as guitarists Cory Boyd and Tyler Loney, the latter now handling vocals. Joining them are Colin Vranizan on drums and Bruce Adams Vanhoosen on guitar. During this mildly moving revolving door of members, the Spells of Speed EP was issued in 2010 with the debut full-length Under the Spell the following year through Heavy Artillery Records. It’s been a good three years now and we find Spellcaster issuing their follow-up effort as a self-titled release through their own band run label of Lone Fir Records. But with a decent amount of praise for their previous offerings, does this one deliver what those familiar with the entity have come to expect, or has the number of recent changes taken their toll?

“As Darkness Falls” introduces the listener to a rich performance laced with Powerwolf-grade hooks, though a lot more restrained to work with the slight hint of analog quality that fully embraces its eighties sound with on again off again Occult Rock sensations. The clean singing is toned down as well, meeting the still hard hitting riffs with a nice amount of range that keeps it within the Doom Metal realm to add even more to the already hazy night time environment captured. “Run Away” is a little more familiar though. The tighter hooks that hit during some bridges and in the main verses sound close to the chords used in “Wings of Despair” by Kamelot except on repeat using a distortion that comes through a bit muffled. It isn’t something necessarily needed as much as it’s used, but the Neoclassical guitar solo fits the tone of the performance enough to make abusing those riffs worth it to an extent.

But even with that hint of restraint, Spellcaster still delivers hard with the many longer tracks the make up the last half of the album. “Haunted” is a rich performance with it’s fair share of gritty, back alley guitar hooks akin to what you might hear from Katana or Enforcer without lingering too long in the Rock field. However, the addition of louder acoustic notes during the chorus is a nice compromise to pushing the vocals too much. Then there’s “Voyage” and it’s short spoken word prelude that leads to an equally cold and chilling introduction musically. The stepping guitar notes here do appear from time to time, but there’s a good amount of the song where that paced approach is dropped for two-step drums and faster chords, especially the infectious bridges before the haunting chorus. The bass guitar also gets a good chance to finally shine through due to how it often seems buried in the mix, but by the five minute and fifteen seconds mark it’s lost once again, giving way to a grand conclusion and stunning guitar solos, all of which wrap up the album nicely.

The group’s Speed Metal influence is really kept to a minimum on Spellcaster. In fact it’s more like that style is here spiritually. But there are times where it does try to come through when the band seems to cut loose. “Ghost of My Memory” has heavier main verses that simply sound thick, but in a good way. The two-stepping drums work with the somewhat deeper, more aggressive tone of the song before cutting nicely to a slower haunting piece you could easily see having been composed by Andy LaRocque. “Bound” has some faster, aggressive passages that stick more to the start and end. The creamy center works with that hint of edge by utilizing the superb sounding drum kit to push the song along. This causes the held notes and bass to take a back seat, at least until a guitar solo or bridge with some complexities happens by.

Spellcaster is nothing short of infectious. There’s no denying that Spellcaster have put together an album that is a genuine love letter to the glorious days of eighties Metal, but, much like the aforementioned Katana and Enforcer, this is a band that pulls it off in a way that makes you believe you travelled back in time, or at the very least just discovered a missing relic from that era. Hook after hook, Spellcaster bewitches you with dark, hazy, sometimes occultish environments and glorious undertones to the point where walking away from one spin becomes impossible. But any fan of Metal who knows the Heavy Artillery Records logo well enough will recognize that any group to have been on that label is worthy enough for the world to stand up and take notice of, and Spellcaster proves it once again with a recording any self-respecting fan of Heavy Metal or NWOBHM should make a priority to obtain as soon as possible, promptly playing it loud enough that the whole neighborhood will remember their name whether they want to or not.

01. The Fading Light – 1:33
02. As Darkness Falls – 6:03
03. Bound – 4:24
04. Ghost of My Memory – 3:37
05. Premonition – 1:06
06. Haunted – 7:34
07. Run Away – 5:16
08. Eyes of Black – 6:28
09. Clockwork – 5:10
10. Voyage – 7:21
Initial Pressing Score: 9/10

Spellcaster
Spellcaster

Digital review copy of this release provided by Lone Fir Records via Against PR.