Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan, John LaMacchia of Candiria, Julie Christmas of Made Out of Babies and Jeff Caxide of Isis. Just the mere prospect of these musicians coming together would excite any fan of forward-thinking heavy music. In November of 2008, it happened with the first self-titled Spylacopa EP. The six-track release was commendable for deviating from the formulas of each of its members respective musical outlets in favor of something more accessible but no less heavy and catchy. A follow-up release was scheduled for 2011 but never came due to the passing of drummer Troy Young. Isis and Made Out of Babies broke up and Julie Christmas’ musical output stopped after her 2010 solo record, The Bad Wife, and her Coextinction Recordings release. Spylacopa was beginning to feel like a distant memory. But, not far into 2015, LaMacchia announces that the group’s long-delayed debut full-length will be released. Sure enough, March saw the unveiling of Parallels, a 40-minute tour de force of metallic eccentricity.
One big difference fans of the first EP will find on Parallels is the absence of Greg Puciato, leaving all of the vocal work to LaMacchia and Christmas. There is no need to fret however because both vocalists do tremendous jobs in his absence and put their own creative spin on the tracks they spearhead. The record starts off with the groove-heavy, alternative metal-esque “Hexes”, whose thunderous riffs will elicit headbanging in just about anyone. LaMacchia’s vocal work on the track ranges from zany chants, droning croons and Alice in Chains-esque harmonies. His eccentric performance makes the track one of the more standout pieces on the album. Ex-Made Out of Babies siren Julie Christmas lends her own eccentric, maniacal vocal stylings to the tracks “Handmade Flaws” and “Insolent”. “Handmade Flaws” rides out an ominous, lurching riff as the song builds into cataclysmic heaviness not unlike Christmas’ past work. Christmas quickly switches between saccharine crooning to throat-searing screams on the drop of a dime, making each of these tracks pretty unpredictable. “Insolent” comes stampeding out of the gate with a procession of bouncing, pummeling riffs that eventually lead up to a serene and atmospheric midsection reminiscent of later Isis material. Afterwards the track cycles between sludgy beatdowns and emotive interludes up until its fiery end.
The over six-minute “Betrayer” opens up with a procession of radiant, post-metal-like chord progressions before giving way to an icy, post-rock inspired section. The beautifully melancholic midsection slowly adds layer upon layer of ethereal instrumentation as it builds back into its heavy beginnings. “BTB” switches up things a bit with its myriad of electronic effects and sci-fi inspired instrumentation. The song feels surprisingly empty and bleak despite everything that is going on. Spylacopa switch it up even more with the closing one-two punch of “Troy” and “Reprise”. “Troy” is a six minute, energetic instrumental that falls more in the progressive rock realm with its ever changing, psychedelia-laced movements. The album ends with the instrumental “Reprise”. The track modifies the ending riff of “Troy” for a laid back clean guitar stroll accompanied by a wailing slide. The song is simple and tranquil and brings Parallels to a surprising yet satisfying close.
Seven years is a long wait for any follow-up record. But when the record delivers on more than what you hoped for, how long you waited becomes irrelevant. Despite the tragic passing of a core member and the absence of a major contributor, Spylacopa still excelled past their previous material and then some. Parallels plays with a plethora of different styles and is heavy when it needs to be and soft when it needs to be. But most of all, the record is highly enjoyable. Hopefully this isn’t the last we hear from this collective.