Words: James Frostick
Band image: Lewis Hodgson
Cover art: Roland Hlavka
An assortment of musicians from underground hitters such as Cuntz, Exek, Ausmuteants and Spray Paint have converged to form Spiritual Mafia – a five-man unit that taps into a more primitive side of post-punk. In March the crew will release its debut album Alfresco via Anti Fade Records, but not before making pulses quicken with lead single ‘Body’ – a muscular slab of vigorous and vaguely malevolent chug that is propelled by a sense of primeval physicality.
From what I’ve been told, Spiritual Mafia has existed as a band since 2018, with members Ben Mackie, Dom Mercuri (both of Cuntz), Albert Wolski (EXEK), American expat Chris Stephenson (of Texan band Spray Paint) and Billy Gardner (Ausmuteants, Anti Fade Records and others) only coalescing in its complete form once in a blue moon to play the odd live show. Most of the members of Spiritual Mafia are scattered across the country, making appearances difficult and the writing and recording of material likely a stop-start process. Despite this, the band managed to assemble at some point in the past year to lay down tracks for an album. In a month that effort will materialise in the form of Alfresco – a six-track record containing Spiritual Mafia’s scudding take on brass-tacks post-punk. Think twanging electrified guitar sear, rigid (though still heated) percussive snap, low-end sturdiness and splashes of synthetic splendour. Though that sounds like there’s a lot happening in the mix (and there is, to an extent), on ‘Body’ Spiritual Mafia loves driving home some rhythmic repetition, trimmed of fat for more forceful impact.
In the same vein that Spiritual Mafia crafts sound underscored by a purposeful simplicity, the lyrics are similarly to the point. On Alfresco’s lead single ‘Body’, the group is heavily fixated on what is on the label – a body. Their body, someone else’s body – here they marvel at physique, the hardness of their own and the softness of another (“my body is pure steel / your body is silky smooth“), while indulging in baser instincts and animalistic urges. There’s a raw carnality that runs beneath each instrumental lick and stomp –an interplay of strength, power, submission, work and want. If one were eager to find some sort of subtext to read into, it might strike some that Spiritual Mafia is possibly taking a satirical gander at masculinity as a whole. Perhaps on ‘Body’ they seek to subvert ‘red-blooded’ motifs by highlighting overtly machismo attitudes, narcissistic self-aggrandising and the all-consuming need to control the power dynamic. In this sense the song can take on a somewhat sinister tone, especially when the song centres around lyrical passages like “your body is mine“. Either way, ‘Body’ is a remarkable introduction to a band that can make matters of flesh, sweat and breath an engrossing and visceral listening experience – very cool stuff, to be sure. Listen here: