The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock: The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock

Sarah Moore

These Dubliners bring psychedelia and prog rock to traditional Irish leanings.

The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock

The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock

Label: Transduction
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: 2008-05-05

Dublin rockers the Spook of the Thirteenth Lock have released their self-titled debut album of Celtic prog rock, revolutionary folk, and sacred chamber odes. Named for a poem about a haunted lock, The Spook was started by Allen Blighe (Holy Ghost Fathers). He aimed to create something modern from his traditional Irish folk background with his guitar, banjo, and vocals. What resulted is an album of intergalactic Irish-tinged post-rock and sacred and secular folk.

Spook is a dark album of rising up, losing faith, and disillusionment. These themes come forward through the morose lyrics as well as the musical shifts within particular songs. For instance, in "The Lord's Prayer", quaint a capella Baroque harmonies give way to raucous buzzing guitars, power chords, and a fervor of drum work (by Brian O'Higgins of Steerage). When the intensity settles back into the mellow refrain, Blighe and multi-instrumentalist/producer Enda Bates continue the vocal harmonies while starting a round. The wavering between slow and elongated versus gigantic and furious expresses the discontentment and loss of faith as well as the lyrics do. Throughout the song the singer's words maintain reverence for the subject while expressing a divorce from the ideals. "Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might / I've lost the will to carry on / I've lost the will to fight . . . I wish I had your faith".

The initial track shows the listener where the music begins: Irish jigs and Celtic cadence. The guitars, accordion, and cavaquinho (by guitarist Donnchadh Hoey, also from Steerage) sound like a section of Irish fiddlers playing a celebratory luncheon. In the midst of these rousing sounds comes a battlecry. "The Hare" tells a tale of revolution via an allegory. The verses form a call-and-response format with Blighe and Bates trading lines and even finishing each others' sentences. Their repartee almost sounds like the give-and-take of Phish's "Limb By Limb". The refrain sounds like a call to arms and precedes a grimy bridge of souring electric guitars and murky processed vocals. "We rose up because we could not stand any lower / Blood begot blood and time will show no mercy to the cruelest foe".

The centerpiece of the album is "The Partisan", opening with dueling guitars a la Yes' "Long Distance Runaround". The call-and-response setup returns and grows with instrumental ornamentation as the phrases build. Drawing inspiration from both Macedonian folk and the neighboring Italian folklore partisans (hence the song title), the track has a jovial, jester feel. In between verses, the heavier guitar chords create a sludge of electronics before returning to the minstrel-esque vocal harmonies. The noise of feedback and ringing closes out the song after the climactic building of tones.

Epic "The Ragged Rock" finishes the album clocking in at a little over eight minutes. Meditative humming and ohms in multi-part harmonies begin the piece in the traditional Sean Nós style, an unaccompanied Irish type of singing. The continual tones sound like resounding Gregorian chant as Blighe's beautiful vocals summon a defeatist attitude against the layers of sound. Soon the song opens into soaring vocal protrusions and gritty electronics. O'Higgins picks up the speed and intensity on his kit as several guitar parts travel between one another. Eventually the upward spiral dwindles down into less and less ferocity, emptying into the Gregorian basin of resonance. Thus completes the chaotic, torn journey from disillusion.





GOD's 'God IV - Revelation' Is a Towering Feat of Theologically-Tinged Prog Metal (album stream)

GOD's God IV - Revelation is beautiful and brutal in equal measure. It's a masterful series of compositions. Hear it in full today before tomorrow's release.


Country Westerns Bask in an Unparalleled Sound and Energy on Their Debut

Country Westerns are intent on rejecting assumptions about a band from Nashville while basking in an unparalleled sound and energy.

Featured: Top of Home Page

Rediscovering Japanese Director Tomu Uchida

A world-class filmmaker of diverse styles, we take a look at Tomu Uchida's very different Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji and The Mad Fox.


The Charlatans' 'Between 10th and 11th' Gets a Deluxe Edition

Not even a "deluxe" version of Between 10th and 11th from the Charlatans can quite set the record straight about the maligned-but-brilliant 1992 sophomore album.


'High Cotton' Is Culturally Astute and Progressive

Kristie Robin Johnson's collection of essays in High Cotton dismantle linear thinking with shrewdness and empathy.


Lianne La Havas Is Reborn After a Long Layoff

British soul artist Lianne La Havas rediscovers herself on her self-titled new album. It's a mesmerizing mix of spirituality and sensuality.


PC Nackt Deconstructs the Classics with 'Plunderphonia'

PC Nackt kicks off a unique series of recordings dedicated to creating new music by "plundering" unexpected historical sources such as classical piano pieces or chamber orchestra music.


Counterbalance 24: The Doors - 'The Doors'

Before you slip into unconsciousness, Counterbalance has put together a few thoughts on the Doors' 1967 debut album. It's number 24 on the Big List.

Reading Pandemics

Parable Pandemics: Octavia E. Butler and Racialized Labor

Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, informed by a deep understanding of the intersectionality of dying ecologies, disease, and structural racism, exposes the ways capitalism's insatiable hunger for profit eclipses humanitarian responses to pandemics.


'Tiger King' and the Post-Truth Culture War

Tiger King -- released during and dominating the streaming-in-lockdown era -- exemplifies in real-time the feedback loop between entertainment and ideology.


Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".


Contemporary Urbanity and Blackness in 'New Jack City'

Hood films are a jarring eviction notice for traditional Civil Rights rhetoric and, possibly, leadership -- in other words, "What has the Civil Rights movement done for me lately?"

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.