Spylacopa’s Parallels is a True Envelope-Pusher

  • Kip Wingerschmidt

Way too often, supergroup lineups feel more for novelty or show than as a tool to create something fresh and powerful. Therefore it is extra gratifying when the combination of normally disparate talents yields truly substantial and envelope-pushing work, as in the case of Parallels, the exciting new offering from Spylacopa, which features members from Candiria, ISIS, Palms, Made Out Of Babies, Slow Parade, and more.

This album had begun recording several years ago as the full-length follow-up to the alt-metal supergroup’s stellar self-titled debut EP from 2008 which also featured many of the same cast of characters (plus The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato, absent this time around) but got derailed after horrendous tragedy struck — drummer Troy Young was shot and killed in an attempted robbery in his Brooklyn apartment just days before his 30th birthday.

Says Spylacopa mastermind/guitarist/vocalist John LaMacchia (also from newly re-formed and re-active Candiria):

“Troy Young tracked the drums for all the original material that made up the debut EP and most of what makes up this full length which is a huge reason why this record is being released. These are some of the last recordings of Troy Young tracking drums in a professional setting. After meeting Troy’s family during the trial of his murder, I felt somewhat obligated to get this record out. Troy would have wanted this record to come out and I feel that this is a way of helping to keep him active and present. He was such a talented young guy who was just getting a foothold in New York City as a working and functioning musician when he was killed.” 

And so, while no musical achievement can ever transcend the gravity of losing a member’s life, this album has finally seen the light of day and it’s a great one. Any posthumous release will always have the additional weight of being a tribute to the fallen, and Young’s excellent, propulsive drumming throughout this record certainly offers a glimpse of a career cut way too short.

The simple 16th-note hi-hat stroke that opens “Hexes”, the fantastically catchy and diverse first track on Parallels (and my favorite heavy song of the year so far) is perhaps a perfectly understated way to begin an album that continues to ebb and flow and keep your ears on their toes (huh?) almost the whole way through.

Six measures in, Mike Patton-esque breaths and syncopated ambient vocal layers are added to the hi-hat stroke, and the song starts to take a certain shape, only to grow into oh-so-much-more once the main groove kicks in. Initially we are treated to a fuzzy, bottom-heavy Zozobra-like attack, but the chorus sounds almost Alice in Chains-ish and then there are those riveting Patton-esque wails again.

This track really sets things off right — it’s a supremely kickass opener with great dynamics in the form of peaks, valleys, grooves, hooks, and one hell of a closing breakdown. After a guitar break about two minutes in, an uptempo section gets things going pretty energetically, only to drop to a dark, mellow ethereal lull that perfectly sets up the head-bopping outro.  A dark, graphic music video for this track was released last month, which you can check out here.

There is a bit of a 90s feel throughout this album — no surprise since it is essentially the brainchild of a key member of Candiria, one of the 90s most seminal math-metal bands — and I mean that in the best possible way.

Bandleader LaMacchia has a knack for creating dense yet simple riffs in this project that provide appropriate anchors for his laid-back yet rich and extremely effective vocals. When he sings “Then bang…you let your guard down, then bang…they’ll never let you go” at the end of “Hexes” it seems near impossible to escape the infectious hook.

And who do we have singing lead vocals on the second track but long-lost siren Julie Christmas (from Made Out Of Babies & Battle Of Mice), her first appearance since dropping out of the scene to raise what is sure to be a super-cool child with producer/engineer/mixer extraordinaire Andrew Schneider.

There are most definitely rippers on this album, but plenty of contrast and dynamics as well.  A couple of tracks in particular (“Betrayer” and “BTB”) are more brooding and feel darkly personal, with lyrics portraying the despair one can derive from shouldering the burden of a challenging experience.  Surely many of us can relate.

The production on Parallels is lean, focused, deftly produced by LaMacchia, expertly mixed by Candiria’s Ken Schalk — layers weave together perfectly and subtle hints of sound peek in almost voyeuristically when you least expect them — and given just the right sheen and vibrancy by mastering engineer Julian Silva.

I’ve written about both successful and disappointing supergroups plenty before on this site, but here there is no question of worthiness: Spylacopa gives us a thorough vision that is intriguing and entrancing the whole way through.  Let’s hope for more releases in the future from this excellent project.

Spylacopa’s Parallels is out now. You can stream and/or purchase it here.

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