Review Summary: A frenzied mixture of lyrical progressive rock and jazz fusion results in one of the most unique albums of 2010.
It's a shame that Godsticks have to self-release their debut album "Spiral Vendetta" to virtually no publicity. Whether it was the outfit's conscious decision or not, this fact more than anything else proves the demise of music industry failing to recognize what's quintessential in the current progressive rock scene. While other so-called progressive acts put out their overlong, pretentious concept albums, Godsticks come as a breath of fresh air. The Welsh trio present their very own vision of music that's not easy to categorize or compare to any prominent artist working today.
In general, their style can be described as a frenzied mixture of lyrical progressive rock and jazz fusion with the focus being on songwriting rather than technicality. The chief components of the band's highly melodic and rather mellow approach are the funk-laden rhythm section and airy vocals courtesy of the band's frontman Darran Charles. He is responsible for delivering a tour de force performance using his distinct soft voice to create intriguing melodic soundscapes. His delivery ranges from addictively polirythmic ("R.R.R.") to wonderfully lyrical ("Travers") in its tone. His voice feels like a musical instrument throughout the album playing an indispensable role in crafting melodic contrasts. This feature immediately recalls proggresive juggernauts Gentle Giant. The fact that simultaneously Charles is able to deliver meaningful lyrics cannot be overemphasized.
Not unlike the majority of ambitious progressive albums, "Spiral Vendetta" may be defined by its ever-changing time signatures and structural complexity. The act's music is surprisingly accessible though due to the peculiar blend of melody and jazzy grooves ingrained in practically every composition. Drummer Steve Roberts along with bass guitarist Bryan Beller are nearly always at the forefront making for a precise, yet sophisticated rhythm section, whereas Charles opts for clean guitar shredding that abounds with solos. The ingeniously subtle use of keyboards is just another aspect that elevates the album's numerous progressions.
Opener "The Offer Still Stands" sets the tone of the disc with its dreamy, chilling vibe. Out of many highlights, "Norman" especially emerges as masterly providing the heavily syncopated section that transforms into superbly executed melodic passages. Not very far behind is "Withdrawn Was The Giveaway" that relies heavily on piano. The same piano makes a splendid introduction to "Traverse," a poignant ballad with a lasting power. "R.R.R" is yet another standout piece that distinguishes itself with its heavy-on-funk dynamics. The amazing second half of the album ends with instrumenatal "The Continuation Of Livid" that indicates virtuoso technical skills of musicians, followed by excellent, this time entirely acoustic ballad in "Unravel." The lapses are few and far between manifesting themeselves mainly in somewhat uninspired progressions of "Timshel."
Overall, there's virtually nothing to dislike about "Spiritual Vendetta" since Godsticks have executed their refreshing style to perfection and thus raised the bar for themselves incredibly high. They will certainly have a hard time surpassing this record in the future. For now, let's just experience one of the most unique progressive rock albums released lately.