The new album by Spectral Lore (III) has more facets than a passion-cut diamond, and it shines just as brilliantly. So much care and craftsmanship have been devoted to its creation that it’s one of those rare metal albums that rises to the level of a work of art — except it’s only partially a metal album. And therein lies much of its appeal.
With a run-time of almost 90 minutes, it’s the longest album I’ve listened to in years, which is one reason why this review comes later than I had originally planned. It’s also not an album that can be fully appreciated by listening to a track here and a track there, as time permits. It’s best heard as a whole (at least as I hear it — I have no inside knowledge about the artist’s intentions). Each song brings its own rich rewards individually — indeed, most songs are themselves dramatic sagas in sound — but when you listen without interruption from start to finish, you feel as if you’ve discovered secrets hidden from the eyes we use to observe our daily lives, as if the surface layers of our routine existence are being peeled back to reveal something more profound. The music seeks transcendence, an escape from the crushing weight of the world and its manifold tyrannies, and it comes very close to finding it.
The album is divided into two parts, denominated “Singularity” and “Eternity”, with four songs in Part I and three in Part II. With the exception of the album’s first song “Omphalos” (which is “only” 7 1/2 minutes long), the individual pieces are epic-length works ranging from roughly 11 minutes to more than 16.
Both within and across the songs, the music ranges from the vast and panoramic to the introspective and intimate. It moves from passages of disorienting dissonance to explosions of well-choregraphed mayhem, from warlike gallops to moments of shining benevolence and the glow of hopefulness. But whether the music is storming like a maelstrom, with blasting drums and ravaging waves of guitar distortion, or shimmering like a sun-lit stream, it’s almost always dense and richly textured, often to the point of being senses-flooding in the richness of its construction.