[Ripple; Sep. 25]
The opening minute of Crystal Spiders’ debut LP, Molt, is ominous and methodical. Dark, fuzzed-out bass trudges through a bone-weary march as Brenna Leath sings of a daunting expanse with terrified restraint: “There’s no one out here, just wild dogs and dust/Fill up the empty space with unholy sound and deathly grace.”
But on that last word, everything turns. Leath belts it out with raspy, reverberating power, as guitar and bass form a lunging and lumbering groove. The playing gets looser and livelier as the song progresses, and Leath attacks her words with arena-sized grandeur.
If the Raleigh duo of bassist Leath and drummer Tradd Yancey (joined on record by Mike Deloatch) ever were faced with such a lonely apocalypse, it’s clear that they could fill it with volume and creativity. With a fairly primitive stoner-doom template, they showcase a bold spirit that reflects such divergent heavy touchstones as the trance-inducing Sleep and the endlessly restless Boris, but also the outsize charisma of sixties and seventies classic rock—and not just because Leath’s wowing vocals soar to Janis-Joplin-esque heights.
The title track stomps and sprints with breathless proto-punk vigor without sacrificing the album’s wonderfully weighty guitar and bass tones (no surprise with Corrosion of Conformity’s Mike Dean handling production). “Chronic Sick” mutates through drawn-out riffs and stridently bruising crescendos, by turns meditative and enraged. “The Call” pumps impressive velocity and heft into its opening Motörhead-ish burst, leading to an impressive coda struck through by huge, expressive guitar lines and ghostly siren calls from Leath.
These highs reveal deep stores of ingenuity for the band to build on in the future, though Molt reveals itself as a debut on lesser songs that test the Spiders’ skills and chemistry on more familiar poses. While “Fog” is proficient and satisfying—a suitably moody and massive doom epic—its arrangement is decidedly standard-issue. And though “Tigerlily” is one of the album’s most instantly gripping numbers, enlivened by playful rhythmic variations, pounding drum flourishes, and tenaciously winding guitar solos, its approach to beefed-up Sabbath riff-rock is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fuck it up.”
In these moments, the Spiders lean on Leath’s show-stopping vocals to distinguish them, and while they do, the album becomes truly thrilling when it leaves convention in the dust.
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