The unknown band members of English black metal group, Spider God, have had a busy two years since their formation in 2020. In this time, their discography bulges with four EPs, four splits, and a playful ‘blackmetal goes pop’ album of chart classics from the last two decades. One look at the faux-1970s modernist photography for the cover of their debut album tells you that we’re dealing with a different type of black metal than the harsh transgressions that came out of Norway in the early 1990s. If anything, Spider God want you to be aware of this by calling their art ‘hyper-melodic black metal’, which is almost as bad as it sounds on paper. Fly in the Trap will win no converts from the old school, but it has a few moments of intrigue to warrant at least two listens.
As a concept record, Spider God’s debut is a triumph. What could be more interesting than the mysterious death of bipolar Canadian, Elisa Lam, in 2013 at a notorious Los Angeles hotel? Netflix produced a documentary on the subject last year called Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel. The last known footage of her alive in the hotel elevator went viral and created as many amateur sleuths as it did conspiracy theorists. Opener, ‘The Fifty Second Murderer’, summarises the story in one song with orifice-bursting screams that penetrate through the mix like a euphoric masochist in the throes of agony. Spider God’s conception of melody is the standard blackgaze fusion of high-register tremolo rhythms, lo-fi blast beats, and glistening noise rock guitars. Nowhere will you detect the thrash and death metal roots of black metal in this song. This is also a problem in most of the compositional pieces on this record. The head-banging thrust of ‘Traces of Hubris’ is one of the few exceptions where the band mix their epic Ennio Morricone dynamics with the savage rhythms of blackened thrash metal. We need more of this, not less.
Listening to Fly in the Trap is a bit like taking a lukewarm bath in the Cecil Hotel where the protagonist met her demise in 2013. The furnishings are two-star, the amenities are functional but not anything to shout about. Close your eyes for ‘The Hermit’, and you have a festive black metal of chiming bells and glowing snow. Wasn’t this genre supposed to be an evil aberration from traditional forms of music, including traditional heavy metal? Like Deaf Heaven, the members of Spider God delight in contrasting the cathartic aggression of black metal with the pearly dew drops of 1980s art rock a la Cocteau Twins. Can you think of one band (other than Constellatia) that realised the full potential of this paradox over the last decade? ‘Labyrinth of Hallways’ does nothing to suggest this miscegenation of styles can be a success. You might detect the beginnings of a gothic tragedy in the opening guitar passages, but the dominance of the high-register gallop turns it into a predictable entanglement. ‘Flies in the Trap’ is much better – you can hear something meaner. The imaginative use of backing harmonies will keep you on edge throughout as they reset to a slower contemplation of the events that led to Elisa Lam’s naked body turning up in the water tank of the Cecil Hotel roof.
The blackgaze fanbase will find much to like here, but those that detest the intrusion of fluffy melodies and shapeless noise rock into black metal will despair at this record. For the latter crowd, black metal is a way of life and not a passing phase for the sixth-form student who will find something trendier next year. Those of us with less skin in the game will lament how this music lacks an extreme metal punch – it appeals to the sunbather more than the forest-dwelling misanthrope.
Release Date: 11/11/2022
Record Label: Repose Records
Standout tracks: Traces of Hubris, A Thousand Lonely Spiders, Flies in the Trap
Suggested Further Listening: And Now the Owls Are Smiling – Dirges (2021), Sidious – Blackest Insurrection (2022), Sinira – The Everlorn (2021)