Rife with rich potential and imagination as well as quality to easily satisfy the most demanding heavy metal wants, the new self-titled album from US band Spellcaster is a formidable next step in their potent emergence. Certainly it is not a release to set fires blazing within the genre or one veined with startling originality, but for enjoyable and contagious exploits the ten-track encounter is right on target.
The Oregon band began life in 2009 and already by the uncaging of their first demo Spells of Speed in the February of the following year was drawing strong attention. That online release caught the eye of Heavy Artillery Records who presented the band with a subsequent record deal and the re-release of their demo. Following their first North American tour towards the end of 2010, Spellcaster unleashed debut album Under the Spell in 2011 which in turn was followed by further heavy gigging and tours. 2012 saw a line-up change with guitarist Bryce R. VanHoosen and drummer Colin Vranizan joining up with vocalist Tyler Loney, who had moved from guitar at the time of the change, bassist Gabriel Franco, and guitarist Cory Boyd. Work on their second album was soon in progress with the band hitting the studio with Toxic Holocaust front man Joel Grind who co-produced and engineered the new release. Released via Lone Fir Records, Spellcaster emerges as a promise drenched slab of metal excitement and skilled enterprise, not one to shake the scene but undoubtedly an encounter to get neck muscles and emotions fully engaged.
The brief crystalline instrumental The Fading Light opens up the release, keys sparkling as a heavy stride of pungent rhythms and acidic sonic coaxing emerges. Not a particularly dramatic entrance but one to awaken attention, the piece is succeeded by the potent stroll and flames of As Darkness Falls. Forceful riffs and rhythms drive the track from its first second laying down powerful bait over which the guitars burn brightly with resourceful designs and the vocals with clean cut enticement. The track swiftly provides a fluid if expectation stroking endeavour but one with the keen intent to slip into something more intriguing within its expanding trap of alluring invention.
From the thrash kissed success of the opener, the Portland quintet finds an even deeper shade of aggression and shadow with Bound. The track also saunters with an eager gait through the ear on the reins of punchy rhythms and commanding riffery as the vocals easily wash across the senses. The heavy drum slaps and throaty bass lure provoke a stronger wave of hunger to an increasingly pleased appetite for the album, with the skills of both guitarists spicing up the offering through their open creative tenacity. Like its predecessor, the track does not leave ears and emotions breathless but certainly highly satisfied as does the following Ghost Of My Memory. Throughout the at times quiet but unmistakably individual emprise of sound and craft, the rhythms of Vranizan grip attention as tightly as do the ever impressing play of both VanHoosen and Boyd, both creating another web of enthralling textures to greedily consume.
The atmospheric and dark aired short instrumental Premonition leads into the outstanding drama and evocative exploration of Haunted. From its first breath the track is casting scenery of melodic hues and sonic narration which sparks the imagination to embrace the impending lyrical and musical adventure. Arguably the first track on the album to delve into new avenues compared to previous tracks, the song wraps a melodic croon and eventful intrigue around even keener ears with its heavily brooding bass tone and persistently evolving guitar enterprise especially. It is a striking track throwing off the surface familiarity which washes over some of the other tracks to bring another rich vein of pleasure to the release.
Both Run Away and Eyes Of Black keep things careering along pleasingly, the first employing a great nagging groove and anthemic rhythms as its gripping core whilst guitars and vocals paint a colour drenched adventure over the canvas whilst its successor rises to its formidable feet with a sinister toxin to its melodic enticement and a portentous weight to its rhythms. Both tracks again try to bring something unique and effectively different to their bodies, and though they do not make as big a statement as Haunted, each provides another compelling proposition.
The album is closed up by the more than decent Clockwork though it labours to impress against certainly the last trio of songs, and finally the dark epic journey of Voyage. The last song has a blackened sky to its poetic exploit and makes a fine conclusion to an equally potent release. Spellcaster, band and album, is not a release to leave you slack jawed, mainly because of a lack of anything strikingly new or bordering on original, but in providing an undeniably rewarding and enjoyable encounter it is easy to let it pass this time in exchange for the pure heavy metal fun it gives.
Spellcaster is available via Lone Fir Records now and @ https://spellcasterpdx.bandcamp.com/album/spellcaster
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