Jan-Simon : It must be that time of the year again: the last stray snowflakes drop and just to be sure winter is almost over there is a new Spidergawd album. With clockwork precision this Norwegian band releases its records in the first months of the year and true to tradition the latest product just has a Roman numeral to indicate its rank in the body of work. This year it’s number four and at first sight not much seems to have changed. ‘IV’ is just as good as ‘I’, ‘II’ and ‘III’.
A closer look reveals that we can finally let go of the recurring Motorpsycho connection. Bass player Bent Saether is no longer part of Spidergawd. At first Hallvard “The kid” Gaardløs was to replace him at gigs because Saether was not able to combine touring with Spidergawd with his work for Motorpsycho. At the same time drummer Kenneth Kapstad quit Motorpsycho. Fortunately he still is one of the driving forces behind Spidergawd, with his trademark energetic drum style. The lineup changes did not result in a new musical direction. The compass needle still points firmly toward hardrock of the seventies, with Dio, Motörhead, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest as the main points of recognition along the route. Still, ‘IV’ hardly sounds old fashioned, or – to call it a bit more friendly “retro”. Spidergawd knows how to transform the obvious inspiration from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal into something that sounds very much 2017. The fine production certainly helps.
If there is anything that makes Spidergawd different from the average stoner / hardrock / grunge etc. band, it must be the addition of a baritone saxophone to the band’s sound. Not always in the foreground, Rolf Martin Snustad’s deep growling hoots create an extra foundation, on top of the bass runs by new kid Gaardløs and the drum rolls by “Animal” Kapstad. There are no real saxophone solos on ‘IV’, in contrast to the previous record. Yet Snustad can be heard more and more prominently this time, although it still is subtle. On the other hand, Snustad is no Clarence Clemons and a baritone sax is not the same as an alto or tenor.
‘IV’ has turned out to be more of a group record: far less over the top guitar solos this time. The songs remain very catchy, as usual, and Per Borten’s vaguely Dave Grohl like grungy singing makes this fourth Spidergawd effort is no seventies rerun, despite all the evidence. They even get away with moments they sound very AOR like for instance Boston or with the closing track ‘What You Have Become’ that comes very close to a ZZ Top boogie pastiche. Spidergawd gets forgiven for it, because Spidergawd is cool, period.