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Godsticks - 2010 - "Spiral Vendetta"

(48:55, 'Godsticks')

TRACK LIST:                   

1.  The Offer Still Stands 2:47
2.  Unnerving Allure 6:00
3.  Timshel 5:36
4.  Norman 6:00
5.  Put Seven in Bold 5:47
6.  Withdrawn 5:15
7.  Traverse 2:30
8.  RRR 5:30
9.  The Continuation of Livid 4:30
10. Unravel 5:00


Darran Charles  vocals; guitar; keyboards
Steve Roberts  drums; keyboards
Bryan Beller  bass 

Prolusion. The UK outfit GODSTICKS was formed back in 2006, initially as a cover band. By 2008 they had written enough material to compile a 5-track EP which was met with generally positive feedback, including earning them a spot on the attached CD to the first issue of the now highly successful Classic Rock presents Prog magazine. "Spiral Vendetta" is the first full length production by this trio, and was self-released in the summer of 2010.

Analysis. Godsticks is a band that has managed something few other artists are capable of with their initial effort to explore a stylistic expression that isn't easily comparable with any well-known artists, which is an achievement in itself. It also speaks volumes for the talents of the band that US bass virtuoso Bryan Beller decided to join them for the creation of this disc, his input most certainly adding an additional dimension to the sonic palette used on the 10 compositions. It is challenging to conjure up a good description of the music provided on this disc, but I think the most important aspect is the emphasis on strong and distinct melodies. Light and positive lead motifs are the order of the day, to some extent reminding me of bands like Moon Safari in that respect. The frequent use of vocal harmonies and the manner in which the lead vocals themselves carry and provide many dominating traits of the basic melody strengthens the comparison, but only on that level. Instrumentally and compositionally, there's not much reminding the listener of the Scandinavian prog scene at all, and even the manner in which the vocal harmonies themselves are used has just as much in common with Gentle Giant as with the aforementioned Moon Safari. But the melodic approach and the use of vocals as a melodic provider can be compared to the latter. Bass and keyboards often seem to be the main instruments in terms of interacting with the vocals to form the basic melody, while the guitar often provides the gentler and more sophisticated touches. Distorted guitar riffs are a rare feature, while lazy gentle guitar licks and wandering textures are more commonly used. And while the overall effect is light, listenable and at times almost pleading for a run on your local FM radio station, quirky instrumental details of the kind Gentle Giant excelled in appear at regular intervals, but with a sound and solid foundation in jazz and fusion on this occasion. And while jazz rock isn't ever present in full or detail in these compositions, it is never far away, be it in the guise of a brief run by the entire band into these territories or one or more instruments taking a stroll into this universe, including lead vocalist Charles, who in brief moments shifts toward a jazz-inspired delivery. This adds up to an album of highly listenable and distinctly melodic jazz rock, somewhat undefinable and to some extent unique in nature, tightly performed and produced. With enough melody and superficial charm to be a natural fit for mainstream radio, yet with plenty of detail and subtle touches of finesse and sophistication that should cater for the needs of more progressively inclined listeners as well.

Conclusion. If you enjoy jazz rock and fusion, in particular if strong and distinct melodies suit your musical tastes, "Spiral Vendetta" is an album that should cater for most if not all of your needs. The easygoing nature of the songs makes it a good introduction to the genre for the curious as well, especially if venturing into this style of music from a more mainstream-oriented musical taste. All in all a solid effort that deserves attention.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: January 17, 2010
The Rating Room

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