Track By Tracks: SPELL - Opulent Decay (2020)


1. Psychic Death:

This was one of the first songs written for the album. I came up with the opening guitar riff by playing around with really annoying, finger-mangling stretches. Naturally, Graham plays it effortlessly! The lyrics come from a longstanding internal debate I’ve had about the validity of creating new art when there are already so many great masterpieces out there. Who am I to try and bring something new into the world and subject people to that? The lyrics are an effort to justify my creative process, by over-arguing the opposite angle and laying bare its flaws. “Enthroned in lavish jewelry, sits Saint Austerity.” 

2. Opulent Decay:

This song has some of the most powerful, explosive riffs on the album. It’s a high-octane rocker! The lyrics are about the absurdity of living only for luxury and ease. I see so many rich bastards who can’t do anything more meaningful with their lives than buy a bigger TV or go from their luxury houses into their luxury cars into luxury hotels on vacation. Their lives are pathetic and meaningless. Inspiration comes to those who suffer and struggle. “Lovesick artist, bid adieu, and Lady Truth may follow you.”

3. Sibyl Vane:

This song is a bouncy rocker, built on an almost disco-esque bassline, with some Thin Lizzy-inspired guitar harmonies and a huge chorus. The lyrics look at the character Sibyl Vane from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. She’s fascinating – her life blends fiction and reality and proves that in many ways, there is no clear line between the two. Can you hear the chains in the chorus? I played them against a metal bucket to add to the atmosphere.

4. Primrose Path:

Primrose Path is about blindly moving forward without paying attention to warning signs. It’s easy to focus on small joys and lose track of the bigger picture. Some people pursue the pleasures of consumerism and spend their days seeking physical luxuries. Others remain in unhealthy relationships to distract themselves from addressing their real problems. Though the path may seem bright with blooming flowers today, cold winter looms ahead.

5. The Iron Wind:

Well, it's the most complicated song on the album and the one I spent the most time on. The name came in an interesting way – I was walking in a rural area at night in a place I don't know well, and I tried to take a shortcut through the woods on a little dirt path. The moon was covered in clouds, so it was very dark. After stumbling around, I suddenly emerged in a wide-open space, with these huge dark objects looming over me. Took me a moment to realize they were massive boats propped up in a semi-abandoned dry dock. It was surreal to walk amongst them in the blackness, huge and looming, propped up by these spindly little stilt-legs. One of the boats had the name 'The Iron Wind' written around the bow, which I thought was beautiful.

I'd been working at the same time on these lyrics about self-sacrifice and love – the idea of doing everything I could to help another achieve happiness and success, even if it meant sacrificing my own. I was using the metaphor of a sinking ship, (so it was all very nautical and I feel that the 6/4 time gives it that feeling of waves) encouraging someone to trust you to jump off and swim for shore. Even if you knew you couldn't make it yourself, by putting on a brave face and carrying them as far as you could, perhaps they might have the strength to reach the shore once yours failed – "love me as the wolf loves her prey." That force driving you to continue for the sake of another, even when you know that you yourself will fail in the end – I thought that 'The Iron Wind' was a good metaphor for that.

6. Dawn Wanderer:

This song is one of my favorites on the album. It looks at the positive sides of tragedy and suffering. These are feelings that are generally avoided in our culture, but I believe they should be embraced. I don’t think that acquiring wealth and living at ease gives us any value in life; rather, in the end, we will be judged by others (and we will judge ourselves) based on what we have been able to give away and provide for others and what burdens we have had the strength to bear so that others could live more easily – whether that is the beauty of art, time and thought, or respect and connection between humans. “When nothing else remains, all I have is what I give away.”

7. Deceiver:

This song is a hard-rocking journey with lyrics set up as a fable – a conversation between a serpent and a songbird. The serpent has hoarded the riches of the earth – jewels, ancient knowledge, a river of immortality. As he boasts, the songbird pities him, for despite his wealth he only derives meaning from having what others have not. “For all your wealth, what a shame you cannot fly... I pity you who cannot sing.” In this song, Al (our drummer) sings the verses, while Cam (bassist) sings the choruses.

8. Ataraxia:

This is my homage to sacred choral music. I layered my own voice 94 times to create this acapella recording. The lyrics are inspired by ancient folktales, and they speak of a young woman tragically giving herself in marriage to the deep river that runs near her home.

9. Imprisoned by Shadows:

This song is written and sung by Al Lester. It is probably the most hard-rocking song on the album and has to do with the surreal power of dreams and sleep paralysis. Dreams are the greatest and most abundant shortcut to a liminal state where you can experience the sublime or uncanny. This dream power can turn the most mundane thing into the object of powerful emotion or horror. When I was young I had frequent bouts of sleep paralysis, often accompanied by bizarre imagery that was frightening and oppressive. It’s not always a negative thing, but it always operates outside of normal semiotic relationships and meanings. More like Surrealism - the meaning is in the encryption of the imagery and won’t exist as such when you break it down into digestible units or symbols. Dreams are also the only place most people can talk to the dead or try out the future. Many of our songs originate in dreams.

10. Saturn’s Riddle:

There is a riddle hidden deep within these lines. Some things are better left unsaid. I encourage you to look for it yourself. The outro to this song features a moody guitar solo, intertwined with an accompanying flute solo.

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