Review Summary: Sludging with a woman's touch
When approaching sludge band Dark Castle, before even listening to any of the music, two things are immediately shocking. The first thing is that one woman handles lead vocals and all guitar work. (Now before we get a feminist rage going here, I’m not saying women can’t handle metal. They have certainly proven they can, however even in today’s scene it is still rare to see a woman handling such a huge portion of the band especially in a genre as filthy as sludge.) The second noteworthy difference is that the band features no bass guitar whatsoever.
Now although the lack of a bassist is pretty unusual in metal, in your average band in might not cause much of a stir considering how small of a role the instrument plays in a great many metal bands. However, this is sludge, a genre marked by the low, filthiness of the sound. One of the genres where it would seem the bass would be an essential instrument to have yet Dark Castle waste no time showing you that this is not the case.
In fact, if anything, the band turns it into an advantage. By focusing on the melodies that can be created in the sludge and experimenting with various effects, the band manages to go from passages that are soothing and beautiful (Weather The Storm) to thick, menacing riffs that rival any other sludge act with or without a bassist (see Awake In Sleep). Keeping their songs relatively short (for the genre), the band quickly passes from one idea to the next in a seamless flow that almost moves a little too quickly at times as some songs seem to end a little before their complete maturity. This is especially true for Flight Beyond, the sixth track, which feels like a climax of sorts within the album. It hits the listener immediately after the calmness of Weather the Storm and sees the band put to use everything in their arsenal from the heavy riff of the intro, the melodic chords of the chorus and an interesting, sporadic usage of reverb-laden tremolo picking. The album calms down after this “climax” (while still maintaining its heaviness mind you) giving a feeling of things having come full-circle and the story reaching an end. With the album not even reaching the 40 minute mark, it is a remarkably easy listen that does however leave you wishing there was a little more.
Spirited Migration is truly a diamond in the rough in the genre of sludge. It can be as resplendent and beautiful but also as hard and dense depending on where the band members want to take you. Although it runs a little short on time, it never runs short of ideas.