A spirit of reverence is immediate, even before you put on the self-titled debut full-length from Norway’s Spidergawd. The vinyl — now in its third pressing, as I understand it — comes courtesy of Crispin Glover Records, and is presented in bright red, 180g form, housed in a blue transparent plastic sleeve. Already we see the interplay of color that the album itself will proffer. Its striking, thick-glossy-stock pagan-futuristic cover art follows suit, the tracklisting and recording info hidden inside, waiting to be found, and the whole package, which also includes a CD, is housed in a clear plastic sleeve that boasts the band’s logo for a layered-over effect when the put together. Spidergawd‘s music is as intricate a take as I’ve heard on ’70s-style boogie, with at-times manic progressive rhythmic turns matched to upbeat, classic heavy forward motion, and clearly the 12″ was meant to be a multi-sensory experience. Even unto how the texture of the sleeve feels in your hands, it offers more than just the audio.
The name Motorpsycho won’t be as immediately familiar to Americans as to Europeans, but the rhythm section of the long-running prog pioneers features here, bassist Bent Sæther and drummer Kenneth Kapstad joining guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Per Borten and saxophonist Rolf Martin Snustad in the Trondheim-based Spidergawd, the self-titled also boasting pedal steel from Roar Øien and trumpet from Kim Alexander Eriksen. The horns are used well beginning from side A opener “Into Tomorrow,” accenting the chorus of the album’s shortest cut without being overdone, adding to the excitement of the song itself, Borten‘s vocal command — readily on display throughout — and the instrumental chemistry between the guitar, bass and drums. “Into Tomorrow” is a forward, driving heavy rock song with an ear toward ’70s rock, but nothing on Spidergawd‘s Spidergawd is particularly retro-sounding, the production clear and full and not necessarily geared toward playing up a vintage style, though “Blauer Jubel” or “Southeastern Voodoo Lab” definitely lean more into that influence stylistically.
Even aside from Kapstad‘s gonna-put-on-a-clinic-and-still-sound-like-I’m-having-fun drumming, there’s a lot about the LP that’s easy to get into. Borten‘s guitar jangles and swaggers over Sæther‘s twisting fuzz jam, and though Spidergawd obviously have the chops to pull off the blinding shuffle of “Blauer Jubel,” technical prowess isn’t shown off at the expense of songwriting. “Master of Disguise” sees fit to out Graveyard Graveyard, a tense verse opening to a raucous, full-speed-ahead chorus of classic pursuit, and even if they hadn’t built such momentum over the course of “Into Tomorrow” and “Blauer Jubel,” the play of guitar and bass in the solo section — that low end tone — is a firm signifier these cats mean business. Still keeping a modern production, they update the best aspects of classic heavy rock and deliver a style both familiar and their own wrapped in virtuosic performance and variability, the horns returning on “Southeastern Voodoo Lab” to help round out side A in swinging fashion, pushing toward a guitar-led blues-solo apex with Kapstad pulling back to a half-time crash before once more joining the air-tight rush for a return to the verse.
A flip to side B brings more surprises in the form of the 14-minute “Empty Rooms,” an extended heavy psychedelic jam that begins with a solid minute-plus of Snustad‘s echoing sax before the guitar and bass begin to swell into the mix. Fuck, it’s righteous. They bring the volume up and hold a ringout as Kapstad‘s snare drumrolls a quick build, and Borten starts the vocals of the first verse about four minutes after the song began, backed by Sæther‘s bass. They take off from there, once again at barnburner speed, and a solo at around eight minutes in brings a tempo change to a more languid groove, the bass and guitar fuzzed out in a descending progression toward what would seem to be a finish before start-stop chugging revives the movement, bass once more serving as the foundation for the guitar and Soundgarden-gone-psych compressed vocals that carry past the 10-minute mark. A jazzy, airy, unhurried solo caps over the last couple minutes, the sax gone, pedal steel buried deep in the mix but there enough to be in conversation with Borten, and the jam gradually fades out past its 14th minute, a jarring last minute swell signaling the shift into closer “Million Dollar Somersault,” its title and its initial bassline reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age but ultimately working on a different plane, like the embodiment of everything hyper-stylized indie rockers fall short of conveying, ultra-swinging and poised even as its noisy apex approaches, fittingly grounding after “Empty Rooms” but still way, way out there, coming to a sudden finish as the needle returns, daring you to go another round.
Spidergawd have a couple singles under their belt on Crispin Glover, but this is their first full-length. One doesn’t want to get into they’re-gonna-be-huge kinds of hyperbole, both because it’s useless and because it ultimately detracts from conveying the actual value of the album, but there’s nothing Spidergawd sets out to do that its six tracks don’t accomplish, and front to back, the record breathes life into ’70s influenced heavy, showing there’s more to be done than simply trying to ape the sound as best as possible. I’ll say flat out it’s a hell of a record. If you don’t take my recommendation to heart, I hope it finds you some other way.