SPEKTR - Cypher (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Cypher (2013)

Agonia Records

With Cypher, SPEKTR attempt to make black metal for people who don't like black metal. They skip the polarizing, guttural grunts (it's an instrumental record). They add dance beats between blast beats. They actually try to keep the production clean and intelligible. So in other words, people who actually do like black metal might hate this record.

Indeed, all of the record's strengths double as weaknesses. SPEKTR cycle through experimental electronic textures and jazz on second track/one full song "Teratology." At nearly 10 minutes in length, they certainly have the room to do so. But they also reveal that, while black metal bands often use decidedly non-commercial vocals, they also need a singer to ground the work and add grit. Coupled with the clean production, SPEKTR at times sounds toothless, even directionless.

Setting aside that the production is a little antithetical to the genre (black metal needs a little ambience and/or static white noise), Cypher at times doesn't sound like the work of a real band. Those drum beats are inhumanly fast, but the pinched drum sounds strip away any semblance of human feeling. As far as SPEKTR get, it all feels like cheating. The guitars are awfully high in the mix, perhaps rightly so since they're the main source of melody, but they're cranked to the point that they sound completely divorced from the drums.

Perhaps it would be more fitting to call this an industrial record, as SPEKTR favor electronic music throughout Cypher. They even utilize the occasional vocal sample, hinting at a Ministry influence. But that doesn't rectify the album's shortcomings. SPEKTR shake up the black metal formula sure enough; they just don't contribute anything worthwhile to replace it.