Joshua Sparks aka Spades is a solo bedroom composer from Newcastle, Australia who recently released a complete DIY effort entitled A New Low. There are thirteen songs on this album of blistering hard rock/metal that will appeal to fans of the genre. Sparks claims there are influences from blues, electronic, jazz, classical, trip-hop, pop and experimental influences throughout but theses genres rarely if ever are more than a fleeting glimpse. This is a guitar-based album that gets extremely heavy at points and is not intended for the faint of heart. The album is a lot to take down in one sitting. At thirteen songs with no fillers or breathers. I felt exhausted by the time I got to the last song.
The opener “Soapbox” is a chameleon. It disguises itself as a piano-based pop song that unexpectedly turns into metal. It is one of the highlights of the album and in my opinion was one of the best at combining unlikely-minded genres. The deviation from 4/4 was cool and Sparks delivers a solid vocal performance. The contrasting difference between the verse and chorus is a bit hard to swallow but nonetheless effective.
The verse on “Roll With The Waves” is robotic sounding with sharp edges as if one of the autobots is playing while “The Descent Of Man” is a heavy-hitting metal song with a sprinkle of new age-based fantasy. The theatrics continue on “I Told A Lie” as Sparks implements orchestral strings into the mix. ”All Out” is appropriately named as he goes balls to the wall heavy at points in this song. I sensed a bit of Marilyn Manson influence on this one. “Moshirah” is even heavier. This song is basically straight up Death Metal. He groans and screams in typically Deathrock fashion. I have no idea what he was saying but does it really matter. The detuned guitars sounded pretty awesome.
After the barrage of notes and flesh Sparks awkwardly transitions into “Heaven's Remorse,” which sounded more like a heavy metal ‘80s ballad. His voice sounds so different than on “Moshirah” that it is hard to believe it was the same person.
As the album progresses Sparks captures a number of inspired moments as well as some uninspired ones.The album suffers from fluidity issues and Sparks probably could have omitted a couple of tracks to make it a bit more accessible to people who aren't completely on board with metal, but overall the album was enjoyable.
If you want to listen to metal that is willing to lightly explore other genres then this is required listening.
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