Spirit Valley induce emotional & moral panic
Sydney’s Spirit Valley exist within some strange, twisted limbo of the Australian music scene. To anyone who’s encountered them, they are undeniably, earth-shatteringly fantastic. Broadly speaking however, no one seems to have really heard of them. I’ve scoured for online acknowledgment of their existence and very little comes back. There’s a Faster Louder review that introduces them as “Best. Band. Ever” and some live photos, but thats about it. Granted the Death EP is their first official release, and with distribution from the excellent Dream Damage it’s evident that things are about to change.
Made up of duo, Dave ‘Spirit’ Tomlinson and Chris ‘Valley’ Stabback, Spirit Valley provide the doomshine delivery of swelling guitars and huge drums. Although ‘Doomshine’ sounds like one of those fucking stupid genre names (insert: random noun + adjective, think Shoegaze, Witch house), once you actually listen to Spirit Valley, it’s more than apparent that the phrase really does inhabit the sound. From the gradual growl and minimal strums to the slamming snares and reverb dense, furious strikes of the guitar on Bring Out The Barrel, each track blossoms up from its dark grinding roots into expansive aching choruses.
My only initial qualm when hearing the EP was coming to terms with the sheer ferocity and volume of Dave Tomlinson’s vocals. It was only when I saw them live that everything clicked into place. Whether he’s crooning like a drunken pirate doing karaoke on the harpsichord opening Sazerac, or howling from the bottom of his lungs on Doomshine Blues, the rich roaring chants of Tomlinson are what makes Spirit Valley.
And then there’s the title track. This song is what the EP is really all about, what Spirit Valley are about, and what a really fucking good song is about. Death is one of those freakily fantastic songs which immediately catapults the listener into a spine-shaking , soul-destroying riff and coupled the building kicks, hisses and howls, it’s a perfect song by anyone’s standards. This is what Spirit Valley do best, where percussion and guitar come together so seamlessly, and with such ease that you immediately lose yourself.
Spirit Valley aren’t to be lumped in with the trashy drums and blunted guitar melodies which have have become so akin to Brisbane duos, but rather tap into the unadulterated raw sound of rock. I’m really not sure if I’m even comfortable calling Spirit Valley a ‘rock band’. There is just something so one dimensional to the term ‘rock’ in my mind, which immediately conjures this idea of a generic guitar and drum sound which tries so hard to sound epic, while really not sounding epic at all. If nothing else, Spirit Valley are epic.
I recently read a press release that described The Rubens as “Australia’s Hottest Rock Band”, which made me want to solemnly punch myself in the face, repeatedly. If The Rubens are rock, if having a guitar and a drum kit is rock then file Taylor Swift next to Gene Simmons. Maybe I’m just disillusioned about what rock is today and yearn after its legendary commanding force I’ve always imagined. Maybe flaccid cheesy percolating pop with a guitar and drum kit is rock. Is it?
I don’t know if I’m getting into something out to my depth here, but to me rock’s foundation always has been its power to induce emotional and moral panic. Spirit Valley do just that.
Spirit Valley are launching the Death EP this Saturday the 9th at the Oxford Art Factory Gallery Bar in Sydney. Oh, and entry is FREE, so don’t miss them.
Review by Marcus Thaine.