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Seven That Spells (live at Baba Yaga’s Hut)

Seven That Spells live at Baba Yaga's HutThe Shacklewell Arms, London
25 February 2015

Called in at the last minute to cover a band of whom I’ve never heard but am assured I’ll like, I’m downstairs at The Shacklewell Arms, its cave-like stage, especially the part where the drummer has an actual alcove instead of a riser, proving to be the perfect location in which to take in the oddly-named Seven That Spells, purveyors of, in their own words, “modern, aggressive psychedelic wall of sound incorporating polymetrics and occasional Viking funeral rites; hailing from the 23rd century where rock is dead“. Which just about covers it. Except it can’t, because to just use a band’s own words for a review and then bugger off kind of defeats the whole object of reviewing the thing in the first place, and, as you know, it’s actually about ethics in music journalism.

So what do I think? I think this opening drone is rather marvellous, accompanied as it is by a nice baritone “Om” (rather than Om, though they’ll no doubt pop up later in this review) chant. And then they rock out, twisty, spiralling Eastern guitar melodies over krautrock rhythms that slow down and speed up, not suddenly, but gradually, like listening to Mastodon‘s “Bladecatcher” on either a) a mechanical turntable with a dodgy rubber band or b) really, really heavy drugs. Simultaneously laid-back and intense, it’s too medieval to be truly motorik; maybe “horse-drawn… erm… -ik”? And I’m thinking I could quite happily listen to this all evening.

Seven That Spells live at Baba Yaga's Hut

Seven That Spells live at Baba Yaga's Hut

Except I don’t, because then it’s something different — the aforementioned Viking chanting gives way to an entirely different assault on the Temple Of Noise, and then another, and then another, all underpinned by insanely tight and complex math-rock rhythms provided by a drummer who, occasionally, just has a little dance behind the kit. At one point we get a soaring, drilling black metal guitar line that wouldn’t be out of place on a Wolves In The Throne Room or Emperor track, only without the blastbeats. At others it’s like Acid Mothers Temple leading an army into battle on horses with more than the regulation number of legs; like dropping a pill at Sleipnir’s war disco.

Seven That Spells live at Baba Yaga's HutYou could imagine the ephedra-crazed warrior king in the odder passages of Julian Cope‘s epic road novel One-Three-One getting down and dirty to this, with its combination of guitar hooks and driving bass. Or perhaps picture an alien craft crash-landing in Germany in the ’70s, and its occupants teaming up, not with the Baader-Meinhof crew (that’s a sitcom treatment I’m working on) but with Can, bringing them the gifts of 21st century neo-krautrock and the post-rock triumphalism of a Godspeed crescendo. There are also times when they sound like a more metalled-out Om, only crucially without sounding much like Sleep, though there’s a definite vein of stoner/doom running through the rock which they’re more than happy to mine.

After an hour of being dragged forward and backward through time, from the depths of space to the bowels of the earth, I know how it would feel to watch all sixty years’ worth of Doctor Who speeded up to a rate of a year every minute. I also know, as they close out with more droning and some stern-faced, arms-crossed glaring, that I like Seven That Spells very much.

You learn something new every day.

Words: -Justin Farrington-
Pictures: -Dave Pettit-

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