SPIRIT SYSTEM “NIGHTFALLING”
RELEASE DATE: 3/1/16
ALBUM RELEASE PARTY: Fri 3/4/16 @10pm, Snug Harbor, Charlotte, NC and Fri 3/11/16 @ Krankies Coffee, Winston Salem, NC
Spirit System transcends genres on their haunting 7 song debut full length album “Nightfalling“, set to be self-released on March 1st. The North Carolina “darkwave/gothgaze” group offer up near perfection on the opening track, “This Endless Dance.” Immediately I am transported back in all black to 1996 at The Bank in NYC, except we are in the back 80’s room dancing to The Psychedelic Furs & New Order. It’s 20 years later yet this song could have very well been in the first round of the new wave scene. Eric Gilstrap’s vocals are in perfect range on this song, his low Peter Murphy-esque tone is best represented here than on any other song. “And lacerations plague my mind and the look in her eyes says ‘I’m pins and needles too’…and you can always change her mind“, he croons – but I don’t want her to.
With “Black Moon“, from the long intro to the prominent bassline, I am reminded of The Cure‘s “Pictures of You“. The feeling of lament is conveyed long before a word is sung – in that way, I can think of no greater compliment. There is a melancholy build up exchanged between Laurie Ruroden on bass & Gary Guthrie on drums, with the purposeful delay of guitars that trickle down then drop out when the vocals finally appear. The melody lives in a cold chamber, “All we ever had to breathe was the dust of all our days, will we never be so free of cimmerian days?” Another weary soul joins in the pleading with the effective use of harmony in the chorus. At the very end, the track veers into the shoegaze realm with whirling winds pushing the nomadic spirit of this song forward and beyond.
Stripped down yet glittering, “December, Solitaire” is the only “lighter” feeling song on the album, although that is somewhat of a deception. At first, Ruroden tenderly reminisces, “Remember days so lazy, remember love affair.” It sounds like new Spring love, there is a glimmer of hope – but as Winter approaches, sentiments have changed: “Pretender, words unspoken…surrender, vows are broken.” The strength of this song is in the delicacy of how each instrument is played – held back, barely strummed, a pretty hum in the background. This allows for the vocals to carry the sentiment above the music, from her lips to our ears the story is whispered. We are listening intently and it only takes 3 minutes 26 seconds to beautifully break our hearts.
“Nest” is not what it sounds to be from the first few measures – it gets even better! My first thoughts listening to this song were how well-written, how immaculately the melody progresses and changes throughout the parts of the song. Here Gilstrap quiets the natural drama of his intense tone to meet the music that is slowly building up below him. When the guitar part starts to swirl in the refrain, he continues to hold back creating a profound tension.
Deliberating, “My will, it often drowns.” The chorus is a flash of Black Sabbath in total glory and Gilstrap takes charge with his impressive now higher range. Conceding, “Oh, when the silence comes with a voice unique…devastation rests her head…annihilation comes instead.” The song then abandons itself completely for nearly two minutes into a hypnotizing wash of distortion that amasses in essence to a heavy metal guitar solo. Pay attention to the dynamics of everything in this song as it challenges normal song format, and in doing so stimulates the way we listen neurologically.
The fact that Spirit System is releasing “Nightfalling” independently is an accomplishment within itself and a testimony to the commitment of their artistry. Part new wave, part shoegaze, part indie-alternative…the sum of the parts equal SS to be placed in a category all their own!
BY: Jennifer L. Holland