We’re told not to judge a book (this is a CD, but run with it) by its cover, but when it comes to Bast’s debut release, I’d positively recommend it. Sporting some of the most divine cover art I’ve seen in years, Spectres delivers far beyond all expectations. Recorded by Conan’s Jon Davis, a heavy slab of doom was obviously expected, but what revealed itself was far more multi faceted than that.
Blending doom themes with strong black and trippy influences, Bast comes across as the beautiful bastard son of Electric Wizard, EyeHateGod and Dopethrone. Creating a continual changing atmosphere rather than a series of disconnected tracks, Spectres is a huge wedge of sound. While only featuring five tracks, with the shortest clocking in at 6:41, this feels far more of a monolithic release than a standard album.
‘In the Beginning’ is a masterclass in how to build a song – opening with a tangibly bleak, sparse arrangement, we’re soon pushed into a rolling blackened landscape that continues to spiral with the addition of Bryan’s raw vocals. As the album progresses, Bast’s skilled way of blending genres becomes more and more apparent. While ‘Denizens’ has moments of old Sabbath-esque guitar work, it’s soon set against a ragged landscape of stripped-back psychedelia, then into black territory, then back again.
While the title track of Spectres is more familiar black/doom fare, the clarity of the track is perfectly balanced. It must be said that the production on this album is flawless. With so many of their peers choosing to present their music as though it’d been captured through floorboards on a child’s tape recorder, being able to hear all elements blended perfectly is something of a breath of fresh air. That isn’t to say that all tracks have been polished to within an inch of their lives; ‘Psychonauts’ is a fine example of that. It seems to be an unwritten rule that any doom release without a nine minute instrumental won’t be worth listening to; with ‘Psychonauts’ clocking in at 9:36, they’ve more than passed the test.
‘Outside The Circles’ closes the album with a far more chilled vibe than that of its contemporaries. Indeed, it’s the sort of song everyone needs to veg out to and try to take in the sheer enormity of Bast’s undertaking.
To pin any track down as being of a particular genre or heading in one direction is as easy as fitting a moose in a phone box. As soon as the listener gets comfortable, Bast take a sudden turn and you’re taken down another street. That isn’t to say that too many cooks (or genres) have spoilt the broth, rather that every change, however large or small, seems effortless.
With bands such as this, it’s an unwritten rule that a review must close with some well-worn, garish hyperbole such as ‘this album is like a thousand hammers smashing you in the jaw’ or ‘they make you want to kill your mother and play riffs atop the corpse’. So to put it plainly and honestly, Bast’s debut album is stunning. Spectres is an utterly beautiful creation that will far eclipse the recent works of their peers. I want more.
4.5 out of 5 high fives!