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Whatever the reasons behind Spires seeming  inability to garner label attention, whether it be Progressive Metal’s unfashionable image at present, or simply not knowing the right people, it’s still incredibly frustrating to find one of Britain’s finest metal bands playing a home town gig on their “The Fevered Spirit” tour  in front of around thirty people.  What can’t have helped this evening, the close proximity of Volbeat and Iced Earth just a couple of hundred metres down the road at Academy 1.

Perhaps on another night, with Rizzle Kicks or Ollie Murs in town, metal fans may have made the climb to the top floor to witness a crammed bill of heavyweight music. An early start unfortunately led to me missing the first two bands, Jaded and Interception, although I did manage to catch Searu and A Show of Crows. The latter set was plagued by technical difficulties, therefore not easy to gauge, although a good strong opening of more stoner rock emanated before a couple of heads down, slightly more punky thrashers garnered attention. 

Searu also suffered some technicalities, losing a guitarist for a number of minutes at one stage, although even this didn’t detract from an intense tech metal performance of the highest order. I haven’t come across these guys before and they do look decidedly un-metal in certain areas, but place those instruments and mike in hand, they take on a whole new dimension and exude frenetic ability with an inert sense of groove underneath the sturdy edges. More investigation definitely required.    

And so to Spires, tonight’s 45 minute set made up of just four songs, but such the nature of Progressive Metal, short, sharp bursts rarely the order of the evening. Instead the Manchester based quartet snake stealthily and meander magnificently through three tracks from the forthcoming album due hopefully March next year, and one from the debut Spiral of Ascension. I allowed myself an inner smile as my colleague on photographic duties Mike Gatiss explained the universal rule of gig photography applied tonight, images only allowed during the first three songs. So that’s you here for at least three quarters of the gig I thought. 

As a band who’ve possibly spent their longest period on the road together, taking in four European dates alongside more familiar U.K venues, Spires were on incredible form night.  Opening with “The Fevered Spirit,” all the elements which make them such a potent live act immediately to the fore.  Swooping and soaring guitars coerce Chris Barnard’s bludgeoning drum work and understated but deft, almost jazz style bass from Al Jolley. These coincide perfectly with Paul Sadler’s vocals which improve with age.  On occasion, I did harbour minor concerns Sadler’s voice not quite providing enough overall weight, no such fears now. His death growls sit resplendently alongside clean vocals with far more depth and I’ve a feeling this aspect has been worked on hard.  “Primal Revelations” makes an appearance next, it’s initial increased tempo suggesting a penchant towards heavier material for album two before a brand new track played live for the first time tonight “Ethereal Organisms.” This allows the unveiling of custom Spires guitars made by lead shredder Paul Cuthbert, outlining another unbridled talent.  These also providing an opportunity for Sadler to unveil his audience banter skills, he is an engaging frontman, not perhaps in typical metal style, but certainly suggesting Spires a band who don’t take themselves too seriously, although their song titles may not always suggest that the case. 

As Sadler announces the finale of tonight’s gig, the meagre, yet enthusiastic crowd groan in unison although he raises spirits immediately by counteracting, “Don’t worry, you know what it is and it goes on for fuckin ages” before the band break into what is quite simply a masterpiece. “Broken Hourglass”   Spires own “Stairway to Heaven” or “Freebird,” is one of the great metal opuses of the century, for this alone, the band deserve far more recognition , which Cuthbert’s monumental closing solo further attests.

If Spires are destined to self-release records and play the Academy 3 or even smaller to no more than a handful of people, there really is no justice in the world of music.  It shouldn’t revolve around  fashion or who knows which palm to grease, it should be about the talent and the music on merit.

On that basis, Spires are stadium headliners in my book.


Review by Andy Barnes
Photos of Spires by Mike Gatiss

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