Spectral Voice played Middle East Upstairs – 5/23

Death-doom quartet Spectral Voice brought their unearthly sounds to Central Square with support from Cooked Alive and Groaning Retch.


Sometimes, I just wish bands were scarier. I don’t mean shock-value or am-I-gonna-die-in-this-pit kind of scary, but a genuine, bone-chilling spookiness; like a good horror movie that really gets under your skin. Thankfully, Denver’s Spectral Voice are here to fill that niche.

An offshoot of death metal luminaries Blood Incantation (the bands share bassist Jeff Barrett and guitarists Paul Riedl and Morris Kolontyrsky in common), the Voice sound something like that band’s prog-y, cosmic shredding if it were intermittently played at half-speed from deep within a haunted cave. Sparagmos, the project’s second full-length, arrived in February and picked up where 2017 highlight Eroded Corridors of Unbeing left off: cloaking creeping doom passages and flesh-rending rave-ups in oppressively eerie atmosphere.

The band typically employ a lighting scheme of candles and incense to add a funerary feel to the proceedings in translating their recordings to the stage, but in Massachusetts, open flame anywhere near a club stage is no-go. So for last Thursday’s appearance at the Mid East Up, they simply performed in the dark. Not low-light, not dim light – total night. And while that was challenging from a photography perspective (you try zone-focusing a wide-open f/1.2 lens for a multi-second exposure with essentially no visual reference), it might’ve actually enhanced the end-result experience. The band did seem as specters, even from a few feet away at the front of the room, conjuring some otherworldly horrors in an immersive, sense-obliterating set. It was genuinely one of the more unique heavy performances I’ve borne witness to, simply by virtue of turning out the lights. Like I said, more scary bands!

Kicking things off for the night were two death metal sets in a more traditional vein, courtesy of Fall River’s Cooked Alive and Connecticut’s Groaning Retch. Both delivered the brutalizing goods, and succeeded in motivating some body-slamming pits even in the Upstairs’ tight confines. Check out photos from all three sets – including some of the more, uh, abstract stuff I’ve ever published here from Spectral Voice – below.