The split release format is a great idea for so many reasons. Most obviously, if you're a fan of one band, you may get turned onto the other, of course. There's also something to be said for using up that dead space on a CD, instead of putting out a four-song EP that, no matter how much of a loss the label eats on it, will still cost them almost as much as a full release, and still seem like kind of a ripoff to fans. Lastly, these sort of releases foster a spirit of community and scene — what better way to cement an underground friendship between two like-minded, broke-dick, hardscrabble bands on the fringes of the quote-unquote "industry" than by pooling talent and resources for one strong release?
If there's an archetypal "stoner rock" band out there, at least in the slower, mournful and doomy style (as opposed to the more boogie-down rock and roll of, say, later MONSTER MAGNET or THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX), SPIRITU would be it. Slot them near PENANCE, SLOW HORSE, and other cult acts that wield big megalithic fuzz riffage with soulful, classy vocals and a ZEP-lonian sense of epic grandeur. Vocalist Jadd Schickler is the band's ace-in-the-hole, as always — whether getting moody and quiet, as on "Latitude", or belting it out on the ramped-up "Throwback", his gravelly, woebegone melodicism is the essence of the desert doom the band is clearly in love with. They're caretakers, rather than innovators, but there's nothing wrong with that — this much dedication and devotion to the craft is hard to argue with.
VILLAGE OF DEAD ROADS are a relatively new band from the bleak Rust Belt wastes of Erie, Pennsylvania. Appropriately, their guitar tone is as leaden, bleak and oppressive as the rusted hulking industrial monoliths that fester and rust in their backyards. Some of the usual suspects can be detected in their influences — the pot-clouded SAB worship of SLEEP, the diseased groove of EYEHATEGOD — but check out "Skin Prison" for a little more melody and hope amid the rubble. Overall, VoDR is definitely the rookie here, and too often they fall back on stoner cliché to prop up their long songs. But they can spark the magic sometimes, as on the slow, funereal second half of "Woman of Ill Repute". Long on atmosphere and tone, which is good for starters — hopefully the songs will come along with experience.
All in all, a solid release — VILLAGE OF DEAD ROADS have scads of potential, and it's good to hear from SPIRITU again, nearly four years after their self-titled debut dropped. A promising start to 2006 from one of the genre's foremost labels.