Review Summary: A stellar entry into the genre of progressive rock.
Considering how many modern and classic progressive rock musicians are out there nowadays, it’s tough to actually develop a significant name for any new band striving to play this style of music and sound original at the same time. Whether it be the more atmospheric style of Porcupine Tree or the classic style of Rush, it can prove to be difficult to create a vision worthy of these influential artists. However, Spider Island combines both of these artist’s styles to great effect and the ending product is nothing short of exceptional. While the band is heavily influenced by Rush, there is also strong evidence of a sound very reminiscent of Porcupine Tree and this a fantastic quality to possess. Even though Spider Island’s debut may not always be completely original, it still manages to provide a breath of fresh air due to its compelling musicianship and its beautiful homage to its influences.
Morals of a Dead Wave
essentially excels at delivering fantastic guitar work and drumming that is aided by stellar production. “Dead Wave” kicks off the album perfectly with some heavy riffs, compelling drumming and vocals that are admirably performed. It really toys around with the heavier Porcupine Tree sound and uses it wisely in the opening track, but “The Anchor” and “Cosm” follow it up with more of the same. While “The Anchor” plays out like more of a standard, heavier progressive rock sound, “Cosm” thrills with its darker atmospheric intro and memorable guitar work throughout. These qualities remain extremely consistent throughout the entire album and never delves into the “pretentious wankery” spectrum of progressive music.
The album even has its fair share of moments that could be called quite emotional. For the most part, “Superheroes Made of Cardboard” is the catchiest song of the album, but it quickly slows itself down for a quieter bridge section that showcases a touching guitar tone and a fantastic build to the final chorus. In addition to some sections of this track, the final two tracks of Morals of a Dead Wave are where most of the emotional depth resides. “Frogs,” the album’s epic instrumental song, definitely wins title as the highlight. Driven by talented guitar work and a sense that the song is constantly “progressing” as all progressive music should, it really sells the potential Spider Island has to actually make it big in the future. The emotional impact of this song reveals itself in the middle of the song due to how much it quickly builds up again once it slows down. “Broken Youth” features these same qualities, but are aided with some of the record’s best vocal performances. Atmospheric to a fault and even quite chilling at times, it’s the perfect album closer and the epic drumming build up in the middle will rock your world.
However, most of the album’s downfalls lay in the occasional lack of originality and vocals. Most of the time, the vocals actually sound like a lesser version of Isaac Brook from Modest Mouse. As one could judge from this comparison, this means that they are not necessarily bad by any means, but the vocals seem incredibly uninspired compared to all of the compelling music that is going on. In fact, the uninspired vocals and lack of originality work hand in hand on “Underground.” Serving as the album’s lone boring track, nothing about it could actually be called interesting and it sounds more like it sound be on a straight up alternative rock record.
Aside from some occasional hiccups and uninspired vocals, Spider Island’s debut record serves as a prime example of using influences perfectly. However, the band is not an imitation band by any means and after the listener’s first journey through Morals of a Dead Wave
are done, only more will be desired. Spider Island’s debut proves to be an exemplary recommendation for anyone who loves heavier progressive rock and this is not to be missed.