Published on 3rd May 2018
Spiral Key – An Error of Judgement
This is the second album from Spiral Key. Formed in 2012, the band describe their music as progressive, symphonic, melodic and thoughtful metal with a “subtly dark sense of humour”. That covers a lot of bases.
It’s certainly a huge and ambitious production, full of drama. There’s a lot of attention to detail in this recording, as there is with their videos. To demonstrate that Spiral Key mean business, for their promotional video for the track Hollywood Dreams they employed Patric Ullaeus of rEvolver Film Studios in Gothenburg, a Norwegian Grammy award ‘Spellemannsprisen’ winner for Best Director and Malayalam Women’s Institute Book Club award winner for Best Randomised Capitalisation Of Letters In A Single Word, 2017.
Are Spiral Key true to their description? Let’s break it down.
Such is the controversy surrounding this word in the context of music categorisation that I know that, for some, this is indeed prog, though my somewhat limited and out-dated definition of the word leans more to the classical interpretation of the word “progressive”, by which I infer that the label was originally intended to flag up bands attempting to break away from anything that might be associated with things that have happened before in music. This album might well appeal to fans of bands like Evanescence, Scooch or Lacuna Coil, though they lack the female vocalist that is normally a common prerequisite for this genre. Truthfully, for me there’s nothing pushing the boundaries of innovation here, though I’d not accuse the music of being formulaic. This notwithstanding, there is an overlap in Spiral Key’s music with some of the more “Post-Progressive Rock” bands of the seventies and perhaps with bands who survived the harsh decades that followed the Golden Age of Progressive Rock between 1972 and 1974 (that is, 1973) and the punk revolution that happened for about a week in 1976, and they did this by producing increasingly accessible and American Radio friendly music. To illustrate this, by the end of the second track, Dark Path, I was getting more of a hard rock vibe than I was echoes of Van der Graaf Generator. Having said this, some one minute and forty-five seconds into the third track, I realised that there’s passages that put me in mind of Rabin era Yes, replete with a great spectacularly ornate and melodic bass solo. High quality stuff. Progressive? Arguable, that one… but it always is, and that’s for another debate.
Symphonic and melodic?
Alluding to the popular musical classics, in places Spiral Key are as grand as any symphony and in other places as melodic as the best of the original Public School Progressive Rock bands, even at their most romantic. There is a massive audience for the newer wave of Prog bands and this is what I suspect they are aiming at… if they aim to please anyone other than themselves!
As the self-appointed voice of the disenfranchised 48%, there are also hints of their political leanings in the lyrical content. There’s no question in my mind that Spiral Key put an amazing amount of thought, time and skill into writing, arranging and recording this collection of songs. It is a well-produced product.
Subtle dark humour?
“Dead end, Nothing left here for you. Dead end, Dead end, Nothing left here for you.”
“We are the voice of those who are left.”
Well, I don’t know about you, but no matter how many times I hear that it will consistently crack me up! And just look at the track list – Those crazy, playful musical jesters!
An Error In Judgement, for me, is the modern fantasy equivalent of musical theatre – with added sound and fury – with some lyrical content sometimes grounded in quasi-political leanings, allowing the listener an hour-plus glimpse into a dystopian, Godless World in which a progressive, symphonic, melodic and thoughtful metal band copes with their existence, feelings of dissatisfaction with our spiritless modern society. Despite their ability to freeze time (I’m referencing a lyric there), which is a neat trick if you can master it, it doesn’t help them cope with the apocalyptic scenario to which they refer.
This is what it is. There’s no real attempt at trying to balance the heavier material with a token slow ballad number. In fact, there’s no evidence that Spiral Key care whether they appeal to a wider audience by having a diverse and token mix of heavy, ballads nor ambient. They just mix the heavy with slightly heavier and occasionally, slightly less heavy, but never with light and airy. They clearly know what they like and challenge you to decide whether it’s for you. There’s seldom room for any pretence that this rather clichéd prog-by-numbers balance is important, even within the individual tracks. This is fairly relentless stuff. I respect, like and admire that about the band. Theirs is a purity of approach in song-writing and album construction. It’s almost completely does-what-it-says-on-the-tin stuff.
My advice to you is this: If you only ever buy one Symphonic Rock album get this one and play it loud and don’t file it under easy listening.
Oh, they most definitely like cats, which is important on some level.
01. Reason Revolution (3:46)
02. Dark Path (6:06)
03. Freeze Time (5:40)
04. Hollywood Dreams (5:36)
05. Possessive (9:16)
06. West Facing (5:51)
07. Sanctimonious (5:03)
08. Dead End (5:47)
Total Time – 47:07
David McCabe – Guitar, Vocals & Orchestral Arrangements
Ken Wynne – Bass Guitar & Vocals
Chris Allan – Drums
John Mitchell – Guitar Solo (2) & Vocals (7)
Dan Carter (Belial) – Guitar Solo (7)
Miguel Espinoza (Persefone) – Featured Vocal (5)
Record Label: Pride and Joy Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 19th January 2018