Kettlespider are a 5 piece prog metal group hailing from Melbourne, Australia. Their debut album "Avadante" shows clear signs that the band will be enjoying worldwide success in no time at all as it captures beautifully the 70s prog vibe while remaining true to the sound of prog metal legends Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment and Opeth. The band focus primarily on the music as the album is predominantly instrumental, and the music moves seamlessly from upbeat melodic metal riffs, such as on the title track, to ambient tranquillity, such as the dreamscape beauty heard on 'Comatose'. The diversity in musical styles is a drawcard as is the virtuosic musicianship from Colin Andrews, bass guitar, Scott Ashburn, guitars, Haris Boyd-Gerny, guitars, Geoffrey Fyfe, keyboards, and Simon Wood, drums and percussion.
The album has a conceptual framework right down to the album cover artwork by Breana Johnston, a gorgeous illustration of a man lying on his death bed in a darkened hospital, with a devil standing in the shadows behind him, and an angel behind the window, who is punching a hole into the real world to awaken the sleeper and take him by the hand into eternal rest. The liner artwork opens up to reveal a sumptuous landscape of trees and purple mountains silhouetted with an azure starry sky. The enigmatic symbols of hot air balloons may represent floating into new horizons, and the elephant curled up under a tree may have some religious significance. The back cover is the moon rising above the horizons as darkness closes in. These images conjure up ideas of spiritual realms and the struggle against good and evil, which may be highlighted in the music that has shades of light and darkness, from peaceful passages of keyboards to outbursts of guitar metal rage.
It begins after an introduction, that sounds like someone left a recorder in a hospital corridor, with a beautiful guitar sound that is crisp and clean, locking into riffing elegance that drives it headlong. 'Discovery' is a great way to launch the album and the musicianship is high quality. The bright uplifting sound is refreshing and sanguine continuing into the melodies of 'Avadante', with more soaring lead work.
The heavier sounds calm down considerably on the haunting 'Comatose' that has a dreamy texture like drifting into deep sleep as the title suggests. At this stage the music begins to make sense for me as a conceptual framework for someone who has experienced a dramatic event and is in a coma in hospital. When the patient awakes he is able to see through new eyes, as if a new perspective has presented itself upon the awakened protagonist.
'Revelations' powers out with tribal drum rhythms and sustained synthesizer notes. The heavy distortion returns like a machine switched back on and the music sounds darker. There are passages of dark and light with intense angular guitar flourishes and softer keyboard ambience as if the patient is experiencing anxiety in his newly awakened state. The shimmering Hammond sound is glorious, reviving the golden sounds of the 70s, and ends this piece on an epic note.
'New Eyes' is a short sharp shock of prog guitar riffs and heavier layered keys, leading to the conclusion 'Reflections', clocking 8.46. This begins with a hypnotic clean guitar picking motif, spacey cosmic chimes, and soft guitar embellishments. A heavier riff locks in, ascending and descending, and then is joined by very accomplished lead guitar. The music breaks into a gentler passage with some chilling atmospherics, and a sporadic percussion explosion inflicting chaos over the structured chords. There are some odd time sig changes drawing it to a conclusion, and finally it ends with bird calls and nature's voice signifying the beginning of a new life. Perhaps the outtake of breath is breathing new life into the lungs of the protagonist who has escaped certain death.
Overall Kettlespider's new album is a wonderful excursion into some virtuosic instrumental musicianship with a relentless rhythmic pace, pentatonic scales, mystical atmospheres and blazing lead attacks. It would have been nice to hear some vocals to tell the story, but musically it is headphone bliss. The music is relaxing without too much aggressive distortion, yet there is enough guitar here to enjoy for those who enjoy the sounds of prog metal. "Avadante" is a high quality musical journey and hopefully will catapult Kettlespider into deserved worldwide recognition.