Wednesday 12 October 2022

Spirit Adrift - 20 Centuries Gone (2022)

Country: USA
Style: Heavy Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 19 Aug 2022
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I've enjoyed the last couple of Spirit Adrift albums, because Nate Garrett, who used to be the only member of the band, has been knocking them out relatively often. I gave Divided by Darkness and Enlightened in Eternity a 7/10 each, but that's a little misleading because they're albums I enjoy a great deal. They're traditional heavy metal, played with a strong emphasis on doom but with a lot progressive influences, and that's kind of against the grain in the U.S. right now, where a number of websites who should know better are using New Wave of American Heavy Metal as a tag for the most prominent batch of nu metal divas instead of bands like Spirit Adrift, where it would apply.

This isn't another new album to follow on from the ones in 2019 and 2020, but it's album length and it opens with a couple of new tracks. I really dig Sorcerer's Fate, the opener, which mixes the clean Iron Maiden guitarwork and heavy Black Sabbath riffing with a pacy doom feel and a psychedelic second half that's magnetic. This one feels like an epic of a journey, though it's only five and a half minutes in length. If this is what Garrett is writing nowadays, I'm even more eager for the next full length album.

The other new track is Mass Formation Psychosis, which is another good one, even if it hasn't stuck its claws into me as deeply as the opener. Again, there's a lot here, in its six and a half minutes, an impressive leap from a couple of acoustic chords to plodding heavy riffs in a heartbeat to get it on the road. It's a monster of a track, rhythmically stomping everything in its path, until it slows down into a Sabbath groove and mostly stays there. It's a less ambitious track for sure, but it's played as if Garrett and whichever of his new colleagues got on board in time really mean it. All of them are new to the band this year.

So that's a pretty impressive single, which is one way we can look at this release: two new tracks a new album would be proud to boast. However, instead of that approach, Garrett decided to tackle a diverse set of covers to boost this up to album length. There are half a dozen of them and I'd say that they count as unusual choices, if not the true deep cuts that Andy McCoy dug out of his mind for Jukebox Junkie. For instance, there's a Pantera track here and, as you probably guessed, it's a song from Vulgar Display of Power, but it may be the last such you'd guess, being the power ballad Hollow. It's an interesting choice that makes us wonder why and the others do likewise.

One reason might be the lyrics, because they're about personal loss, as are the lyrics to the track before it here, Type O Negative's Everything Dies. It's hard not to read something into those two being the first two covers here. Suddenly there's catharsis in the Hollow guitar solo. Sure, anyone playing in doom metal is going to drench themselves in darkness but this choice seems unlikely to be coincidence. I hope everything's copacetic with Garrett. I should add that I've heard both these songs before, but don't know either well, so I'm not hearing the originals in my brain as I listen to these versions. I wonder if Garrett was drawn to each for containing very different sections.

I do, however, know the other four very well and my questions are more about why such a diverse set of choices, questions that I probably answered right there. There's Escape, from my favourite Metallica album, Ride the Lightning, and it's always been an underheard gem in my mind, even if Hetfield hates it with a passion, so I am very happy to see it trawled out by Spirit Adrift. However, Garrett can't resist shifting to the riff in Creeping Death to fade out, as if he was at least a little unsure of his choice. Either would be solid and it's not surprising to me that he chose a Metallica song from the old days, given his choice of styles.

However, the remaining three are seventies rock songs and they're much greater departures for a traditional heavy/doom metal band. They're not the most famous songs by their respective bands and often not the most famous on their respective albums, but anyone who grew up listening to a diet of classic rock in the seventies or eighties ought to recognise them immediately: Waiting for an Alibi, Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings and Poison Whiskey. What's telling to me is that they're not reinvented here, just played in the styles of the original, right down to the guitar tone on that ZZ track, though the Skynyrd does end up in Maiden territory. I don't think there's any deep meaning here, just Garrett having fun. As did I listening to them.

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