Arizona natives Spirit Adrift inhabit the same sort of metal Badlands as fellow Americans Gygax and Argus; always looking backwards for inspiration yet determined to cut a swathe into the future with the righteous fire of their dual axe assault. And though they only formed in 2015 that righteous zeal has driven them to release three full-lengths already, this 20 Buck Spin-released Divided By Darkness being the latest.
They’ve assembled some big names in support roles – Sanford Parker produced whilst Motörhead associate Joe Petagno designed the cover! – but in the final reckoning the band themselves takes responsibility for the album’s ability to stand or fall. And stand it does, largely.
The musical high water mark is reached as early as track one, with the anthemic We Will Not Die re-imagining Emerald memories of Thin Lizzy for the twenty first century, but the quality provided by the band over the rest of the album rarely falls far below the level set by the opener. Angel & Abyss feels truly epic despite being only six and a half minutes, with the band squeezing a plethora of great ideas into the song; that it never feels forced or ‘show-offy’ is a tribute to the band’s arrangement ability. And the fact that they come up with a great new riff every few bars!
Jeff Owens and Nate Garrett are a potent ‘classic guitar duo’ in the making; they switch effortlessly between thrashy beef – Hetfield and Mustaine fans will hear much here that they will like, if not actually outright recognise – and surgically precise harmony work, the latter style being highly likely to appeal to fans of all the great metal axe pairings. These guys know what they want, how to get it and, more importantly, how to pull it off without sounding too much like something that’s gone before.
Some of the slower tracks get a little bogged down by the weight of their own intentions – Tortured By Time in particular suffers this fate – but, other than that, I can find no real reasons to disapprove of Divided By Darkness whatsoever. ‘New Traditionalists’ used to be people who played Country Music, but by my reckoning there’s more than a few great ‘new traditionalist’ heavy metal bands coming out of the US at the moment – and Spirit Adrift are one of the best!
Divided By Darkness is out now.