Rock has always been a broad church – ever more so amid its latest renaissance. But, come on, isn’t it still a bit special when you find something you can call ‘proper rock’?
Proper like a big, hearty dinner. Proper like chunky bread and real, salty butter. Proper, in a musical sense, because it’s the kind of thing that first convinced you that rock was the actual meaning of life; the kind of thing that triggered a visceral desire to take your mum’s kitchen scissors to the nearest tatty Levi’s jacket and stencil a big old band name on the back (and, if you’re honest, the urge never really went away).
Sheffield’s Black Spiders are all those kinds of proper – and, glory hallelujah, if they haven’t only gone and risen from the dead (their ‘F*** Off Black Spiders farewell tour, which wrapped up in 2017, having failed to kill them off).
And what a resurrection – as you’d expect from these true sons of the North who, ever since their 2011 debut, have been generally accepted as sharing their genetics with the likes of Sabbath and Motorhead.
Certainly, there are big gloom-and-doom riffs aplenty on this 14-track self-titled stormer. But what lies between them is the latent spirit of the rock n’ roll bash you might eventually get to when you’re finally allowed out of the house. We already knew this band came with some healthy humour – that was clear back in 2012 from the single Kiss Tried to Kill Me. And it’s crystal clear here when their rollicking cover of the Easybeats’ 1968 hit Good Times turns up as track six.
Think you don’t dance? You do now.
Although, you should really be on your feet from track one. Fly in the Soup is a ridiculously catchy beast that sees frontman Pete Spiby waxing lyrical not only about insect-tainted broth but about nails in coffins and frogs in throats and endless other annoyances: worm in your ear is never mentioned but that goes without saying here.
Energy levels are through the roof throughout and there’s a sense that the hiatus has actually done them good (apparently over 40 songs were written in no time at all once Spiby started talking to guitarist Ozzy Lister last summer). The sound gets another dimension from Planet Rock DJ Wyatt Wendels, who joins on drums: he hits that kit damn hard, with the air of a man denied a decent workout for far too long.
Really, it’s a riot from start to finish. Stabbed in the Back is a souped-up standout that charges wildly through the gears, while Back in the Convent is a cheeky lyrical outing with a Crue-style riff. Things get very Sabbathy indeed on Wizard Shall Not Kill Wizard, an extended dark tale about queens cutting off heads and the like (sort of Iron Man for the pointy-hatted, if you will) but then there are also revving motorbikes on Free Ride, shades of horror B-movies on Death Comes Creepin’ and even hints of psychedelia here and there.
In fact, such is the variety on offer that when we arrive at penultimate number Crooked Black Wings it’s no real shock when proceedings erupt into a charging battle hymn complete with rampant vocal army, Wendels providing the Maiden-esque sound of thundering hooves and giving Nico McBrain quite a run for his money.
The days of stencils-on-denim might be dead and gone but at least Black Spiders are still with us.
Proper rock band. Proper comeback.
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