|Although Spina Bifida's only full-length 'Ziyadah' did not stir the scene back then, it can now be seen as a classic Doom album.|
|Looking back at the bands that made the Doom Death genre what it is today, you'll notice that the despairing and sometimes rather gothic undertones of their material were already reflected in their names. Be it My Dying Bride, Winter or Paradise Lost, most of these monikers hint at the feelings that Doom Death should evoke. The Netherlands are an exception. Here, the guys probably had too much pot on their hands to think straight, which is why bands like Castle, Beyond Belief and others emerged, being part of the scene but not showing it outright. Spina Bifida are no exception to the Dutch madness, as this Latin term is actually the name of a congenital disorder you’d believe more fit for a Goregrind band.
Forming in 1990 and releasing their first demo in 1992, the band can hardly be considered a founding father of the genre, especially by Dutch standards. The “almost” furtive release of 'Ziyadah' in 1993, the only album in their discography, on French-based Adipocere Records did not stir the scene back then, coming a bit too late in an era where most “doomsters” were already enamored with the sounds of the Peaceville Three. Until some ten years ago, 'Ziyadah' and its ugly cover (is that a giraffe? I’ve always wondered) were purchased for low prices and could be found in the trash bin of almost every record reseller. Those were times when the Internet and especially last.fm were not as central as they have since become, times when the genre was just farting around, either as a pale version of its former glory or going all femgoth to please busty teenagers.
But this has changed drastically. Thanks to lovers of things old and forgotten, the band eventually attracted the attention it had failed to get back in 1993. Of course, grumpy old fucks will say that teens who jerk off on anything MP3 and despise anything that’s been done after 2000 or that is too mainstream (i.e. has more than 1000 listeners on last.fm) are giving bands like Spina Bifida more credit than they deserve; they might also state that it is a farce to pay more than 50 bucks for a copy of a CD that no one wanted to buy for 5 bucks some years ago… True, 'Ziyadah' didn’t change the face of the genre, and it’s not like the Dutchmen were the next best thing after grated cheese, but 'Ziyadah' is indeed a lost gem.
Past the initial repulsion aroused by the cover art, probably one of the cheapest and ugliest ones released to date with its “purple haze” feel, the music of Spina Bifida is all that matters. If you can, try to imagine 'Ziyadah' as Winter exploring more gothic avenues. From Winter, the album takes the cold and desolate post-war, post-industrial landscapes, but this aspect is counterbalanced by a touch of German Romanticism in the lyrics. The sound of the guitars is not as deep and loud as you'd expect, it even has some “thrashy” undertones to it. In their slow and painful procession, Spina Bifida's songs always mix harsh, cold emotions no one would want to experience with a longing for a sense of beauty that is forever lost. The music does indeed create an elegant post-industrial feel that no band had achieved at the time and my closest comparison, besides Winter, would be the Swedish Death Metal band Carbonized.
Peaking near the 40 minutes mark, 'Ziyadah' is a rather short album for Doom Metal standards. Disappointing? Not really; in effect, this makes all songs more than essential and since each track is only about 4 to 5 minutes long, the music doesn't drag on forever and ever. Each riff is unique, the momentum of the compositions is always satisfying, and even though “Purest Queen” could be considered the pinnacle of 'Ziyadah', there is not one track that will let you down. It’s simple: once you play 'Ziyadah', it goes effortlessly till the very end and since the intro and outro follow the same “music box” scheme, you will find yourself playing the album over and over.
To my knowledge, the band recently reunited and played a few reunion gigs. About two years ago, I also exchanged a few words with Christian from Adipocere insisting on the urge of repressing 'Ziyadah', maybe with the demo as bonus material. It’s about time that the damn thing be available again, so let’s hope my request will not be ignored. Otherwise, you’ll either have to give away one of your eyes in order to acquire the record or wait for an ignorant seller who doesn’t know about the value of the CD. Depending on your luck, or the stars, 'Ziyadah' is worth it, and spreading the love of it is all I can hope for.
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4. Purest Queen
Duration : Approx. 39 minutes
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