You’re staring straight upwards at the biggest rollercoaster you’ve ever seen. Looking at it doesn’t exactly prepare you for the ride you are about to take, but it’s enough to let you know it’s going to be fucking petrifying. A similar feeling is evoked when listening to ‘Drag’, the opening track of Bristol quartet, Spectres, debut album. What ensues is a violent exploration of the heavier end of shoegaze, matched with the dissonance of Sonic Youth, multiplied by the auditory massacre of A Place To Bury Strangers. Whilst it is easy to point out these shameless comparisons, it is important to appreciate the nuances at play in Spectres music. ‘Dying’ is not simply total sonic annihilation; it is a coherent challenge to mediocrity.
Based in Bristol, Spectres are well known as the force behind the record label, Howling Owl. The label began as an upshot to a serious of unfortunate confrontations with local promoters at early Spectres shows. Following this the band were considered unwelcome across most of Bristol’s venues, forcing them to create their own scene in true DIY fashion.
The confrontation that characterizes the origins of Spectres is what sets ‘Dying’ apart from its contemporaries. Unlike many bands that shy behind their influences into a thick camouflage of facelessness, Spectres are a band built on challenging their menial surroundings using their influences as a tool, not a crutch.
From the brutalized album artwork, to the sonic obliteration, to the overall despairing nature of the record, the desire to challenge the menial is echoed throughout ‘Dying’. Guitars crank and clang in harrowing harmony, vocals ossify with discontent, standard song structures descend into a sprawling deluge of harmonics. Everything here screams with determination and direction.
It is this determined voice present in ‘Dying’ that is so alluring. When pursuing escapades in noise-rock there is often a tendency to over indulge. Individuals can become so preoccupied with irrelevant intricacies that they forget to make the record they set out to. Thankfully, Spectres exhibit a constraint on ‘Dying’ that frees the music to breathe with the life it was intended to live. Even though that life may be full of disgust, anger, and dissatisfaction, it is a life with a story and it’s a story worth listening to.
Words: Evan Clements