Like Lightsabres‘ late-2013 debut, Demons (review here), the second full-length, Spitting Blood, is a deceptively complex outing. Released as a limited tape in an edition of 50 copies by HeviSike Records – 25 translucent red cassettes, 25 opaque red, with a foldout j-card and included patch — and already through its second vinyl pressing since releasing in Sept. 2014, it pulls together ranging impulses from garage rock, goth drama, heavy riffing, raw punk and more across its 13-track span, all songs clocking in at around or under two minutes long. A quick listen, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist John Strömshed (who also recorded and doubles in Tunga Moln) takes listeners through an otherworldly passage not quite as dark or extreme as the cover of the tape might indicate, but certainly fitting enough with the notion of cutting to the bone. The buzzsaw guitar tone that pervades “I Can’t Feel It,” which sounds like a hypothetical garage-recorded Queens of the Stone Age demo circa 1991, and the later post-punk boogie of “Like Shit” slices and dices through the raw mix with little concern, for skin or otherwise.
That is, ultimately, what Strömshed uses to cloak the sonic diversity of Lightsabres. In another dimension, he’d be exploring ever deeper arrangements in limitless budgets of instrumentation and production style, but on Spitting Blood, it’s the mood and stylistic range that’s being explored, pushed outside of the comfort zone of genre. His take on the Misfits‘ “Hybrid Moments” (a personal favorite) is authentic to the original, and somehow, it fits smoothly between the would-be-nihilistic-if-it-wasn’t-such-a-hook of “Fuck Tomorrow” and the head-down low-end punk of “Sonic Death” near the end of side 1. To further the delightfully confounding nature of the tape, each half ends with a sweet, ambient moment of guitar melody, “Dark Matter” wistful and folkish, and album-closer “I Dream of Space” an experimental-feeling brush with psychedelic minimalism at least in part presented backwards. Coming off a song like “No Cash,” which is the longest inclusion on Spitting Blood at 2:36 and toys with drumless pop drama in a near-abrasive blown-out wash of fuzz, it is particularly effective in highlighting just how deep Strömshed goes in his pursuit of… whatever the hell it might be that he’s after.
But it’s the rawness that makes it all consistent. Like earliest Six Organs of Admittance – and at the same time, not at all like it — Lightsabres‘ consuming rough edge gives even an angrier punker like “Pigs” an underlying intimacy, almost a personalized feel, that works greatly toward lending further individuality to what would in many other contexts be a loosely familiar or at very least more straightforward offering. Coupled with a core of songwriting that will be apparent even on the most superficial of listens as the catchiness of these songs reaches up from the dense tonal swamp in which they reside to bash the listener over the head, that still-developing individualism makes Spitting Blood both a worthy successor to Demons and an enjoyable reveling in proto-grunge that, in a world of cult themes that it eschews, proves legitimately cult worthy. A project of which people will no doubt continue to take notice, and rightfully so.