Well I had this review almost finished up just for some finishing touches before Word decided I don’t need it, so we’ll have to try again. The Spectre Beneath is a new project by multi instrumentalist and composer Pete ‘Paz’ Worrall of Plague and the Decay, from whence he brought drummer Consta Taylor to create a darkly burning progressive metal album infused with plenty of influences from throughout the metal kingdom. Handling vocals is the mysteriously named L. Lockser, whose range, diversity and dramatic tone add the important element of surprise and familiarity in tandem with her emphatic delivery. To put it shortly, The Downfall of Judith King is probably one of the best albums of this year, going deep with a Nevermore style of progressive metal and modern sound reminiscent of Witherfall; a great heavy progpower record, and a phenomenal debut where the dark atmosphere is of weight, as is the gravity in the performance of all three members.
The album is struck open almost like Painkiller, with opening track There Are Cameras in the Dolls; a monster of a song. Here the album is unleashed in a storm of Taylor’s drums rolling like speeding thunder for Worrall’s blistering guitars to strike lightning over. The following few tracks follow kind of the same pattern, with Worrall’s guitars taking lead role and striking flashing solos. Then comes the title track and it’s where the album gets more interesting with the introduction of slow cooking, lengthier tracks. The title track itself is a behemoth akin to Black Sabbath epics in the booming rhythm section, and Lockser taking on the titular character of Judith King during her downfall. The closing few tracks introduce a more melodic touch in a more prominent keyboard and piano alongside Worrall’s leads, taking the dramatic flair to new heights alongside the slowed down tempo. Ten minute closer The Questioning of Olivia Soams might just be the prime example of that; a bludgeoning journey through groove infused heaviness combined with influences of power metal of the Symphony X style.
The speedier, weighty numbers are the flashiest and in the end also the most engaging on the album and it’s to its credit that they are so well prominent during its first half. Thus making the remainder of the album pop and stand out all the more; like mid album semi ballad Fragmented, a surprisingly heartfelt affair with Lockser taking a leading role as Worrall switches between balladry and big sounding guitar solos. This growth makes the latter half both a welcome diversion and evolutionary development on the plot that is the downfall of Judith King. Give it time, give it listens, let it grow, let it get under your skin; with The Downfall of Judith King, The Spectre Beneath make themselves known in a manner unexpected. With the prevailing dark atmosphere and hauntingly bleak yet passionate soundscape the trio come together to create one of 2019’s finest debuts, and one for the highlight roll.
Standout tracks: There Are Cameras in the Dolls, As the Crows Peck at Your Bones, Mrs. Lovett’s Pies