The Spectre Beneath - The New Identity of Sidney Stone

Genre: Heavy Metal, Power Metal, Progressive Metal; -
Mystery and atmosphere as thick as the moors of northern England abound on this, the sophomore full length from British heavy progpower trio The Spectre Beneath. A cover clad in white and black, its title - The New Identity of Sidney Stone - speaks of the compelling narrative dwelling within its second half. And if the first album was anything to go by, we are in for something special and quite out of the ordinary. Musically speaking, The Spectre Beneath bring inspiration from diverse sources. Founder, multi instrumentalist and songwriter Pete ‘Paz’ Worrall (Plague and the Decay) brings the best of old school influences, blending with a fresh take on the darkly melodic and mightily progressive time changes for a sound unlike any other band. It’s been just over a year since the release of debut The Downfall of Judith King (2019) and the sound has already matured and grown tighter, the songwriting blasting on all cylinders to create another phenomenal release bound for the top billing (or at least close to it) on any list maker’s “Best of 2020”.

The Spectre Beneath - The New Identity of Sidney Stone

Packed from end to end with extremely well composed prog metal, The New Identity of Sidney Stone manages to captivate on the first listen, and even more on every subsequent listen. While it may not have the same initial bite or forceful impact that permeated the first album, it instead delves that much deeper into the darkness, shown in both the masterful songwriting and the vivid storytelling - brought to haunting life by the great and mysterious L Lockser. With repeated listens (and there are and will be many) it even proves to click with those subtleties and hooks in a way the debut didn’t; it sinks that much deeper, grabs hold that much harder. The album is home to not a single subpar track. Even the penultimate The Phone Call, a short interlude set to an eerie piano melody manages to capture that entire haunting atmosphere that so much encapsulates the bands entire sound. Perhaps my biggest gripe would be the unimaginative album cover which though neat in its minimalist simplicity doesn’t embody that dark, brooding atmosphere so very present in the music itself; the debut album had the perfect art, but this one? Eh.

There is presented fewer manic speedfests than on the predecessor, but nevertheless reveling in technical prowess and phenomenal performances by the members three. Consta Taylor’s tight drumming and point precision marksmanship hits hard and delivers with a bang, especially in demanding tracks like the lengthy The Premature Burial or heart stopping opener Clockwork Heart. The mysterious L Lockser proves as well the first album was no fluke. Her screams and wail stick out, while her emotional delivery brings the narrative full circle as she delivers line after line, chorus after striking chorus, with a fiery passion; and those shouts that open Clockwork Heart and The Exhumation, damn… Of course, the main man himself, ‘Paz’ Worrall makes sure to bring his A game as well; fleshy riffing is blended with dark melodic leads, while the bass is as thick as the mystery of Sidney Stone; I mean that lengthy, eerie intro setting the title character’s premature burial in motion just takes the figurative cake. The New Identity of Sidney Stone manages that great feat of perfectly meeting the high expectations set by its predecessor; it matches its quality and evolves on the sound, never losing ground or becoming something it isn’t supposed to. A damn great work of art, one for the highlight roll.

 

Standout tracks: Clockwork Heart, Voice in the Static, The Exhumation

 

    

 
Musikvideo: The Spectre Beneath - Voice in the Static
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