SPELLBOOK – “Deadly Charms”
By Colonel Angus
What comes around goes around. Heavy metal is constantly evolving and I think it may have gone to its most extreme limits already. I used to think that VENOM and SLAYER were as far as it could go and then along came the Swedish Death Metal crew and they proved me wrong. Since you can’t take it more extreme, bands are starting to take elements of older genres within metal and trying to form a new brand.
SPELLBOOK is one of those bands that is going the retro route with an updated sound. They are taking their cues from early BLACK SABBATH (Ozzy era) with a little 70’s prog thrown in good measure. I have to say that I wasn’t quite convinced on the first spin but after a few more plays, I found myself tapping my foot along with tunes and started to revisit certain tracks. As I got more engrossed in “Deadly Charms”, I found myself going back and listening to the whole disk very often. It truly grew on me and even as I write this review, I still find new sounds within the music that while familiar, continues to grow my enjoyment of the whole affair.
Things start off with a piano intro called “1928” that gives the album a spooky start but the real meat of the record starts with the second track “Rehmeyer’s Hollow”. Although the subject matter is about a murder of a Pennsylvania witch doctor back in (you guessed it) 1928, the track itself has a great SABBATH sound that bounces along. It melds that SABBATH doom riffing along with a little bit of prog in the middle to keep things interesting. “Goddess” sounds more updated and less steeping in the 70s but still maintains that riff heavy undertone that is found throughout “Deadly Charms”. “Pandemonium” on the other hand starts off with a very IRON MAIDEN galloping bass line but quick evolves into another 70s riff monster. It reminds me of something SABBATH would have included on “Sabotage”. Next up we get a NWOBHM type track that has some female vocals which elevates “Her Spectral Armies”. The addition of those vocals adds another dimension to an already melodic hook-ridden record. There is some great guitar work as well and although it is one of the slower tracks on offer here, it is one that should not be skipped.
Following on the heels of that song is another tune that follows the same playbook as the second tune. “The Witch of Riley Creek” goes back to historical references of witch trials and doom riffing. This one doesn’t add any prog elements but it no less as potent and seems to go by so quickly that you want to repeat the track right away. There are even parts where singer Nate Tyson does a great Bon Scott vocal. The title track keeps up with that 70s vibe but with some great heavy riffing but at the end of the day, this is the tune that I revisit the least. Not a bad song but when surrounded by the other tracks, this one falls a little short in my book. “Night of the Doppelganger” is another eclectic track that really strands out. At over 7 minutes long, it starts off as a SABBATH-y tune so much so that midway through, it reminded me of “Electric Funeral” but as soon as that part finishes, we are treated to some great guitar work that has all the hallmarks of the great NWOBHM twin guitar attacks. The record ends with another tune that is odd when compared to the others but somehow it fits when listening to the album as a whole. “Out For Blood” does give me the “Sabotage” feel where you can feel the band spreading their wings a little to look for other sounds while still keeping things heavy and based on “the riffs”. Well, there you have it, 9 tracks of solid uncompromising doom metal with little pieces of prog and NWOBHM trown in for good measure.
I have not heard of this Pennsylvania band before but I’m glad we crossed paths. Nate Tyson is quite the singer with an Ozzy sounding vocal style that, as mentioned earlier, has a tinge of Bon Scott. Just like every riff heavy doom metal band out there, you need a solid rhythm section and Seibert Lowe Jr (Bass) and Nick Zinn (Drums) lay the foundation for all the other instruments to build upon. And just like Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, these guys have some swing in their performance that rises beyond just bass and drums. New members Patrick “Patty” Benton and Les Yarde provide the crucial twin guitar attack. Their hook laden riffs and solos elevate “Deadly Charms” beyond just a doomy Sabbath wanna-be band. They managed to take something old and make it fresh again. Since this is a new band in my orbit, I can’t compare this record to their previous release from a couple of years ago but based on “Deadly Charms”, they have touched on a winning formula and I hope they get the chance to tour because the metal community needs more bands like SPELLBOOK.