By Andrew Bansal
Every once in a while, I visit the BandCamp website and click on ‘Discover’, to see if I can find anything worthwhile. I usually see a number of bands featured on there that would otherwise be out of my radar, simply due to the fact that they’re not signed to big labels or PR agents, and they don’t feature in any of the dozens of press releases that are emailed to me on a daily basis. This means I have to make an effort on my own to go and look for bands that deserve the attention. I would consider myself and this website a failure if I didn’t do so and just stuck to covering the signed bands, and so I went on a BandCamp adventure earlier today. Seattle-based one-man project Shroud Of Spiders was the one that impressed me the most this time. Here is my review of the self-titled debut EP, a five-track instrumental piece composed and recorded by Thom Beckman, mostly on his solid body electric mandolin.
The music is a solid mix of power metal, black metal and traditional heavy metal, which is interesting in itself, but it’s the interpretation and execution of the music which makes Shroud Of Spiders stand out on its own amongst musicians and bands playing a similar combination of metal sub-genres. The introductory passage on the opening tune ‘Mandolin Of The Spider God’ grabbed my attention straightaway, and the whole EP simply never faded away for the next 18 minutes or so. Extremely dark and melodic, this tune has more of a black metal flavor than anything else. The ‘clean’ mandolin parts are its striking feature but the heavier variety of the mandolin successfully achieves what a guitar normally would. Thom Beckman also plays the bass and drums, so it’s not exactly all about the mandolin which makes the tune, and indeed this EP, a good listen for any metal fan.
‘Into Death We Ride’ is another strong tune laded with dark harmonies and an overall feel of a power metal tune, even though it’s a lot more progressive and atmospheric than what you would expect from your typical power metal band. ‘Wizard Riot’, as the name suggests, highlights Beckman’s mandolin wizardry quite a lot, and this one has everything that would please a traditional heavy metal fan. It has an instantly recognizable Iron Maiden gallop, and even the bass has a touch of Steve Harris to it. This fantastic tune is followed by ‘Hail The Skull’, a relatively laid-back tune which lets you absorb each extended note of the mandolin, and as with the previous track, the bass is pretty solid on here too. The EP comes to an end with ‘Rise, Colossus’, much in the same way it started, on a powerfully sombre, melancholic note.
When I read the short description on the Shroud Of Spiders BandCamp page, I imagined this to be a neo-classical Malmsteen-esque shred-fest which would show off how great Thom Beckman can play his instrument, but to his credit, Beckman’s compositions are quite a bit deeper than that. Of course he does showcase his talents on the mandolin, but besides that there’s actual structure and thought behind these tunes, and there is a clear intent on creating an atmosphere. There isn’t anything cheesy or over-the-top about it. Each of the five tracks are very much capable of finding a great degree of appreciation amongst fans of the aforementioned metal sub-genres, and it’s only a matter of listening to this EP once, and that’s all it should take to convert you into a fan.
It would be intriguing to see if, when and how Beckman performs this material on stage, but for the time being I’m really enjoying the Shroud Of Spiders EP. This 18-minute masterpiece is a truly delightful work of art.
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: January 20th 2013
1. Mandolin Of The Spider God
2. Into Death We Ride
3. Wizard Riot
4. Hail The Skull
5. Rise, Colossus