O V E R V I E W
It’s always a good thing to keep busy. To occupy yourself. Some would say even more so these days, seeing as how many options are quite limited. Some of us are busy bodies and never quite like to sit too still, some just pick something up to pass the time, and there are those who have a vast array of talents and for the good of themselves and others they put those skills to good use. Some might say Spencer Sotelo is a culmination of a combination of all the former. It’s actually hard to remember the last time the guy didn’t have some new project (aside from his main band, Periphery) either in the works, or releasing material. Having been with Periphery since 2010, the man has ne’er taken a moment that hasn’t had him featuring, writing, or releasing material aside from his mainstay. In 2015 he briefly joined Post Hardcore band From First to Last for their album Dead Trees, then in 2017 he released his own set of tunes under the moniker Endur with the album American Parasite, and in 2018 he begun a sort of New Wave group with Nik Mystery. But clearly, he isn’t quite content yet with even that extensive and impressive list. As of 2020 he has begun yet another new musical endeavor, and this one promises to be one of his most unique and weird projects yet. King Mothership. I mean the name alone, begs the question of, WTF?! Comprised of Sotelo and Matt Halpern, along side ex-Slaves drummer, Tai Wright, the group released their initial single, “Cosmic Meltdown”, on August 7th. A rock song, erring on the edges of pop with tongue-in-cheek lyrics, it’s a fun and fast track. To say this song actually doesn’t give you a full insight into what else the album has in store would be a gross understatement. The album is truly all over the map. Lyrically, genre-wise, and just literally brain fucks you every time you think you have a hold on it all (in the best way possible of course). For the most part The Ritual is rock’n’roll, but there are so many songs with far more drama and theatrics than your standard rock album. There are songs like “Babby” (one of my faves bar none), which consists of mainly a backbone of piano with all instruments thrown in for good measure that you could imagine a whiskey soaked, weary traveller playing in a dive bar in some ‘nowhere small town’. The second single, “Death Machine” almost sounds as if Primus frontman Les Claypool stopped by the studio and provided a little bit of inspiration for the verses of the track. Long, drawn-out point being, this album is insanely varied, and one can never see what’s coming next.
F L O W / L O N G E V I T Y / O R I G I N A L I T Y
The overall flow of this album is slightly…askew. As previously stated, I do feel this is a rock record and its core, but also as previously stated, the dynamics and sonic tone of The Ritual are somewhat erratic. In some ways it works. The intro track, “Hope”, is mainly orchestral with Sotelo providing some harrowing, yet…hopeful words, which could fit as an introductory song on almost any album. Next, we jump int “Cosmic Meltdown”, “Gold”, and “Only You”. All of which are fairly straight forward rock tracks, albeit with the Sotelo twist of awe and drama of course. After that though follows “Babby” which feels slightly out of place as a ‘middle of the album’ song if only because of what follows next. “Goodnight My Darling” sounds it’s being played from an eerie music box, while a choir at a near by church was coincidently practicing their scales coincidently at the same time. Happy accident. The title track begins as if it’s the opening theme song to the creepy AF circus from the kid’s movie We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story (which for that circus alone, and all of it’s ghouls and goblins should have at least had the suggestion of adult accompaniment). I could prattle on, but to the point; each song has its own merit and due to Sotelo and the unique twist he can add to almost anything he touches, each song is fun and has a far more substantial feel to it than just a bunch of songs thrown together. But in the end the flow just feels off to me, and that’s kind of what it feels like. Twelve great songs thrown together in a mishmash sort of manner.
The longevity of The Ritual (and King Mothership) for that matter will lie entirely on the listener. More so than most other albums. Sotelo does seem to be an out of the box sort of guy, and this band and its music is no different. Circus tent tunes, piano bangers, and off the wall barn burner rock anthems make for one funky mix up of songs. But if you’re into the strange and unique then this album is your jam, and I can absolutely imagine would be a mainstay on your playlist for some time to come. But on the flipside of that, I can see this being an album that some may like some tracks (or the majority of), or not quite grasp what its all going for, thus it becoming something more of a ‘here and there’ throw on.
In originality, The Ritual is the GOAT. In fact I would gamble on the fact that almost any listener would be hard pressed to find something in such a similar vein. Simply listening to “Babby”, “The Ritual” or “Ego 101” (shit, any song on the whole damn album, really) solidifies this. Whether it be the odd, off beat music or Sotelo’s chameleon like voice, King Mothership and their debut album, The Ritual, are the epitome of originality in the rock world these days.
King Mothership’s official audio stream for ‘Cosmic Meltdown’ from the album, The Ritual – available Oct 2nd on 3DOT Recordings. Pre-order the album at http:…
V O C A L S / I N S T R U M E N T A T I O N
What can you say about Spencer Sotelo and all he’s capable of? The man has an absolutely infinite amount of skills and abilities when it comes to both singing and screaming. The scale this dude is capable of is rarely heard these days in the world of rock and core, and I am consistently astounded by what he can do and the lack of (if there is any) limits in his skillset. From the highest of high p[itches on songs like “Cosmic Meltdown” or “The Devil’s Train”, gritty and gravelly cleans with some screams thrown in for good measure on “Babby”, or even soft and soothing, yet haunting on “Goodnight My Darling”, almost all of what Sotelo can produce vocally is on full display on The Ritual.
The instrumentation on The Ritual is fairly unique and intricate, if not vastly varied. The plucky bass and guitars on “Death Machine” are some of the more technical playing on the record aside from the closer, “I Stand Alone”, dude to a juicy feature in the form of Plini, but that doesn’t mean the bands vast talents are heard throughout. The drumming is frequently surprisingly ballistic and hectic (case in point, the title track), and the guitars provide the healthy mix of both heavy and soft depending on whether you’re listening to “Ego 101” or “Gold”. Tai Wright’s basslines are infectious and almost groovy at times, especially on “Only You”.
C O M P O S I T I O N / P R O D U C T I O N
It’s quite impressive, assuming what all must have gone into this album. Especially with the world we’re all currently living in. One can’t imagine it would have been easy to put together such a unique and intricate piece of work amongst a pandemic and all of its stringent rules of social distancing and the like. Nothing about this album is cookie cutter or…’plain’. From the bat shit crazy lyrics to the maniacal instrumentation, this album is a bonkers level Rubik’s Cube of music, and one must respect all that clearly has gone into making it.
The production on The Ritual is top tier and one would expect that from a Sotelo project, AND due to its various array of textures and sounds. Whether it be a slap of the bass, a pluck of the guitar, or a tap on the keys of a piano, every sound is true and crisp. I think if it were not, and this album had a subpar level of production, this album may not have come across in its most intendedly weird and unique manner.
King Mothership’s official audio stream for ‘Death Machine’ from the album, The Ritual – available Oct 2nd on 3DOT Recordings. Pre-order the album at http://…
F I N A L T H O U G H T S
The Ritual is yet another musical project from the busy body mind of Spencer Sotelo. This time more so in the realm of rock’n’roll than any other of his endeavors, giving the listener even more insight to all this man has to offer. If you do indeed dig rock music, but desire something with a bit more panache and much more theatrical then King Mothership will be THE band for you. The Ritual is fun in both its music and lyrical content and will be a strong addition to Sotelo’s ever-growing resume.