SPEGLAS – Time, Futility & Death (2022)REVIEW

Direst existentially themed third-dimensional chess, wherein twining melodies set the ear in a perpetual state of musical chairs as the actor remains eager for a place to land that represents their station away from anything less-than sentimental, a calm yet estranged profundity. In imagined practicum the floating shapes and heavy rock kicked work of Stockholm, Sweden-based progressive death metal trio Speglas appears as if evolved from idle hands, whittling away at idiosyncratic movements which are run-on, cleverly linked by intuition and a mind that is not easily sated by the beige strictures and umpteenth generation of stolen voicing available to death metal past and present. So, they continue to wander restlessly on this second mLP ‘Time, Futility & Death‘, a path which frames itself in gloomy introspective rock rambling phrases and gloriously knotted heavy metal riffs which’ll spark the philosophical core of death metal music but only occasionally generate it. A rare feat, a familiar sound, and a fleeting feeling to grasp at wildly as it slips through fingers and fades away.

When Isak Rosemarin took a break from his formative classic thrash metal-obsessed youth crew Conflagrator in ~2014 it’d been for the sake of catching a whiff of one of the contemporary Swedish death metal underground’s most brilliant sparks in a long while. That is to say he’d joined Morbus Chron on second guitar for their final year of live shows and partook in a genius level event that’d ended far too abruptly. Likely taking direct influence from those events, the fellowe soon put together Speglas and by the end of the year he’d managed a debut mLP (‘Birth, Dreams & Death‘, 2015) with help from Robert Andersson himself. That debut recording certainly had a thrashing urgency, an charged right hand hitting its thread of rhythms with a confident heavy metal abandon as it ride through inspired melodies and dramatic syncopated rhythm. While devout fans of this style of atmospheric, rhythmically complex and psychedelic death metal saw a quickly appearing wave rescinded as soon as it’d arrived the thread was never entirely abandoned but, sure, folks dropped the idea and moved on.

You’ll recall that when Andersson‘s Sweven revived and finalized the affirming ‘The Eternal Resonance‘ in 2020 two members of Speglas had featured in the line-up and at the time I’d mentioned that some of the smaller additions found on ‘Birth, Dreams & Death‘ seemed to have caught on as they’d built that record up, such as the use of acoustic guitars to frame certain chord progressions. Point being that you can hear a bit of what’d changed between Morbus Chron unto Sweven the same way you’ll find the tone of Rosemarin‘s work eased, resigned to deeper sensitivity and sentimental tone on ‘Time, Futility & Death‘. The logical thought at this point is, well, is there enough of a difference in this long-awaited follow-up that we can begin to see Speglas as more than a “side-quest” for devotees? I am too much a fan of the greater sensation of this type of music to risk letting this rare sort of release be squandered away by easy reductionism. Sure, it sounds like that other band he is in but only in spirit and some rhythmic generation, the major relation is in building heavy resonant moments from what could only be described as hypnotic “softness”. More importantly the mLP sounds like Speglas but now even a bit more rock and less tension-wracked within its rhythmic connections made. There is a satisfying ease to these pieces as they sink away, consider it slow-bleeding inherently existential post-death metal if that helps.

Time, Futility & Death‘ is in most ways a direct continuation of themes and visual concepts introduced on ‘Birth, Dreams & Death‘ though you’ll not miss the refinement of performances and render in approach of opener “Leap” as it introduces “Avow“, a fittingly dramatic piece which demands to be cranked loud enough to catch the bass guitar humming beneath boiling guitar tones and fusion enriched rhythmic play. The piano serves as accoutrement for the wandering melody of that first piece yet it quickly becomes a fixture as the album rolls on, notably shaping the motif of my personal favorite song on the album, “Voyage”, wherein the full directorial spout arrives ~1:43 minutes into the song and reprises beyond the elastic jogging rhythmic heart of the piece. The “heavy metal” spiritus of the band couldn’t be missed at the three-peaked crest of the riffing center of this song and this’d been where I was most inspired. That isn’t to say that that’ll be the end of it, in fact this record is nearly nine minutes longer than the previous one, daring to dwell right at the ~30 minute mark as their songs become longer and charged with increasingly dynamic rhythmic turns.

“At the Precipice” is perhaps the most “Sweven-sided” piece on the album thanks to its dramatic rise-and-fall build ’til the great crest of the song begins in earnest a couple of minutes in. The glum harmonized vocals around ~3:25 minutes in managing to build upon the moment and introduce a darker shade of depressive rock feeling to this song in particular, helped along by the guitar solo which soon follows. Of course every moment on this record counts and I could delve into the grand finale of ‘Time, Futility & Death‘ but I’d rather suggest that they do the opposite of stumble through these moments, confidently dancing in escalation of the dramatic peak of the full listen, some of the heaviest moments on the record, even. At this point I’ve only preached to the choir, and in inadvisable excess since those who’d quickly know what this is at a glance will heartily sup of its earnest, morbid ease the moment they catch the Morbus Chron association. It is a quick and easy grab on my part per similar reaction but not without sense.

Time Futility & Death‘ manifests an entirely sensible, matured continuation of Speglas‘ initial idea extended into intimacy, a feat which is confessional of its dread and smartly built upon the beautiful bones of heavy rock, heavy metal and death metal’s rhythmic interruptus. A joy to listen to and certainly a cycle worth repeating long into the night, it’ll have to be one of the more fulfilling and dramatic meditations upon death this year. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Time, Futility & Death [mLP]
LABEL(S):Pulverised Records
RELEASE DATE:November 18th, 2022

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