“Music, like dreams, exists in feeling rather than explanation. In sleep, the strangest things can elicit joy or terror — this is why dreams are so difficult to articulate. Creating music, for me, is similar; often, I’ll wake in the dead of night with a powerful feeling or melody in my mind, not connected to reality in any concrete way. I’ll then leap out of bed to try and capture it before it disappears!”
Thus reckons Cam Mesmer, bassist and vocalist of Spell. Hailing from Vancouver, British Columbia, yet divining their art from the realm of nocturnal visions and fantasies, this band have already proven themselves mighty chroniclers of the more supernatural quarters of the heavy music sphere.
Full Moon Sessions, their 2014 debut (reissued in 2018 on Bad Omen) and 2017’s For None And All are proof positive of an outfit — completed by drummer and co-vocalist Al Lester and guitarist Graham McVie – whose grasp of crepuscular atmosphere and diverting dynamics matched their infectious song-craft. However, these were apparently mere preludes to Opulent Decay, the band’s third and finest record to date on Bad Omen Records, and an aural vista where moonlit melody, strident heaviness and potent romanticism collide to startling effect.
Recorded by Felix Fung at Little Red Sounds studio in New Westminster, B.C., it’s an emotionally charged psychic travelogue wreathed in mysticism. Opulent Decay embraces harmonic guitar heraldry while also showcasing a band as adept at essaying a hymnal acapella piece like the beguiling ‘Ataraxia’ as they are the wistful and melancholic ‘Dawn Wanderer’, the pastoral-tinged and progressively slanted ‘Primrose Path’ or the catchy and barnstorming title-track. “Many bands find their third album the most difficult because they’re trying to recreate what they’ve already done; for us, it gets easier and better every time,” clarifies Cam. “As ideas emerged during the writing process, we nurtured them and gave them all the time and care they needed to flourish and bloom.”
Lyrically, as well as the influence of romantic poets like Keats, Shelley and Coleridge, there’s an underlying concept, as Cam explains: “All of the songs deal with the contrast between opulence and austerity, and the decay that results from imbalance. Our drive to avoid suffering is strong, but it can be overcome by the love for another and the desire to put them before yourself. Opulent Decay examines this balance and the dangers that await on either side of the pendulum.”
Some might hear the echoes of legends like Rush and Blue Öyster Cult in these chimerical serenades, but this is a record that sounds like no one but Spell. With Opulent Decay, the band marks their own delirious and affecting journey towards musical nirvana, above and beyond any spurious notions of retro-chic.
“After being obsessed with heavy metal our whole lives, we feel entitled to take it in our own direction and decide what that looks like,” elucidates Cam. “We’ve taken the heavy metal sounds we know and pushed them to the most exciting places we can. Whatever people choose to call it, this is a heavy metal record as much as anything else — hypnotizing heavy metal.”