Spectre is not for the faint-hearted: the drums crunch on impact and the synths sear and sizzle. This is the record's most attractive quality, and also its most confrontational, likely to scare away those that don't enjoy a little punishment. Even the relatively straight-laced "Shell Of Dark," the LP's most playable techno cut, sounds like it's trying to leave a crater in the floor—this one probably wouldn't work anywhere but a room full of the most masochistic techno fans. On a more restrained tip (relatively speaking), the ominous "Rainmaker" rides waves of distortion that rise and fall like great tides, while the title track is seven minutes of agonizingly slow stomping, each beat slamming like the careful step of some monstrous beast.
You might expect "Spectre" to eventually speed up, but it doesn't—instead, it punches through each bar at an excruciating crawl. This more mischievous side of McDonnell comes through in shorter tracks like "Forest," which channels Autechre at their eeriest with a complex drum pattern that cracks softly, as if it were landing on snow. "Rising 3," meanwhile, is the inevitable jungle workout, but here the drum break is slowed down, stretched out and shaped into a lashing whip. At nearly every turn, Spectre feels like it's trying to beat you into submission, lacerate you with harsh frequencies or just scare the shit out of you. All of that can make it as fatiguing as it is thrilling, but if you can take the heat, McDonnell will burn you to a crisp.