Review Summary: Part music, part bad dream... a swirling vortex of sentient, homicidal static.
A decade ago I stumbled upon the pseudo-scientific oddity of consciousness altering musical experimentation, under a number of names. It has since taken many forms palatable to the mainstream, such as brainwave frequency music for use in sleep and meditation. But the outer realms of that fringe in itself was a different beast entirely. There were several, now sadly defunct, websites for artists whose aural experiments were designed to dig deep into the subconscious and stir things up. I remember one night when I had to rip my headphones off when an otherwise unassuming track started blasting various layers of static and other white noises into my ears. It didn't simply startle me, it filled me with absolute terror on some level that I couldn't even rationalize. I felt as though reality itself was ripping apart at the seams.
Though such artists are hard to come by now, the world is not without its dabblers in chaos. Apodiablosis is one such project which is either oblivious to, or actively confronts, the comfort zones of its listeners. Very few albums are as unforgiving as Spiral. As big of a deal killer as that may sound, I prefer to approach it as one might approach psychotropics; with curiosity, a willful suspension of rationality, and certainly not without a bit of hesitation.
The highlight of Spiral is the wall-of-sound approach to ambient used in tracks such as "Kingseeker." The howling, even thundering synths coalesce and crash like massive waves, lending an overwhelming and thoroughly captivating feel to the album as a whole. There is the feeling of a dark force brewing in some distant tower, summoning the blackest winds to do some madman's bidding. Like Apodiablosis' previous offering Tardigrade, the ebb and flow of these static waves is the central theme of many tracks, however the strongly mechanical feel of Tardigrade is replaced with much more variety on Spiral.
Even so, Spiral is meandering at times. As a purely creative work and independent release, don't expect recognition of norms or boundaries. It's a glimpse into a mental workspace in which anything can happen. "Nagelring" is dominated by the hammering of the bass strings of a piano. A repetitive dirge, but one brief enough to not become ineffective. "Metalgrid" is like the endless crashing of cymbals from a thousand directions. Even with the company of various otherworldly melodies scattered throughout the track, it is unrelenting and harsh. "Dwarf Star" begs to be played at full volume. Its variation on the static ebb and flow is bigger and faster than in the longer tracks. Even after "Kingseeker" I find myself surprised at the level of intensity found here. "Can it get any more hectic? ... apparently so."
"Tread" is the most distinctly different track on the album. It begins with an excerpt of a radio speech given by Winston Churchill in 1934, one in which he elaborates upon the growing threat to the pacifistic tendencies of England. His speech, which in its entirety begins with a call for his listeners to weigh his words with the same attention and thought he had given to them, is cut short here. Breaking through from another channel, the almost joyous sounds of war drums, rockets launching, and propellers crash through, like a column of tanks rolling over Churchill's eloquent, if dire address.
The closing track "Coelacanth" is the most akin to the terrifying static that found its way to my ears a decade ago. The screaming, ear piercing waves do their best to trigger hallucinations or hysteria. On that theme, the album ends abruptly. Gunshots, panic, screaming, and then silence. Spiral isn't an easy listen, even for a fan of experimental music. It's not a quirky friend you invite over for dinner, it's the shadowy stranger you invite in from a downpour, whose face is only revealed to you in flashes of lightning. Each flash, a changed expression, a smile growing more maniacal, or is it your imagination?