PICK OF THE WEEK: Spirit Adrift expand lineup, crushing doom sound on ‘Curse of Conception’

Photo by Alvino Salcedo

If you’re a regular apostle of metal—and you’re not reading this site if you’re not—we’re at an amazing time when it comes to new artists. The past half-decade or so have brought us a spoil of riches, ranging across many metallic sub-genres, and the result has been a stress on the wallet but a serious kick in the ass when it comes to finding music that sounds good.

One band we’ve been particularly excited about is Spirit Adrift, whose 2016 album “Chained to Oblivion” was our No. 3 record of the year. And that album remains in heavy rotation around here, along with recent releases by other awesome newer acts such as Blood Incantation and Khemmis. But here we are, a year later, and the band already has returned with record 2, “Curse of Conception,” out on 20 Buck Spin. We can say “band” now, because the group has expanded beyond original creator/guitarist/vocalist Nate Garrett (also of Gatecreeper) and added a full lineup including guitarist Jeff Owens, bassist Chase Mason, and drummer Marcus Bryant. This eight-track, nearly 47-minute album also is a massive step ahead for the band, as the sound expands past doom and into classic heavy metal glory, and Garrett’s singing gets even stronger and more varied. This is a group maturing before our eyes and ears, and this is one of the finest metal collections of the entire year.

“Earthbound” starts us off, as acoustics sweep across the scene, and then riffs kick open and let the power bleed. Garrett’s singing soars above the verses, which are filled with energy, and over the chorus when he calls, “We’re bound to the earth, enslaved by life,” you get the pain of existence’s relentless grip on us. As the song reaches its final part, the soloing lights and sets blazes, as the refrain is revisited before the curtain drops. The title track has riffs tangling, as Garrett takes on an Ozzy-style vibe to his singing, which is only fitting. “You shape reality so you can feel sane,” Garrett cuts, as the stresses and horrors of everyday life again come to roost. The chorus is powerful and infectious, sticking in your mind, and later, the vibe chills a bit and adds new texture. The guitars shake with life, as the leads soar and swelter, giving the song an elegant and punishing end. “To Fly on Broken Wings” starts quietly before glorious guitar work unfurls royally. The verses chug and, as we’ve come to expect, the chorus has major impact. Later when the pace shifts, only to ramp up the intensity again, Garrett calls, “I was born with a fire and yearn to fly higher,” putting a blood-jolting finish on this killer track. “Starless Age (Enshrined)” begins like a doom ballad, with guitars dripping blood and exposing vulnerabilities. “Suffocating in this emptiness, enshrined beyond the stars,” Garrett wails, as the track starts to reveal its thorns. The band comes to life, as the tempo gallops hard, and Garrett sings, “It crashes in a wave, this planet is a grave,” with the guitars bringing the song to a fiery finish.

“Graveside Invocation” thrashes heavily, recalling heyday Metallica. “Dismal verses disobeyed, betrayal in eternity!” Garrett wails before launching into a tasty, classic-style chorus that deserves roared back. After the guitars wage war, we head into grimy terrain, as guitars slink, the pace slithers through tar, and the track heads out into strange space blips. “Spectral Savior” pours doom thick as cement, as riffs bash away, and the band even shows a little swagger in their playing. “You spoke to me of death when we were dreaming,” Garrett wails, before the song gets chilly and delves into immersive eeriness. Strange keys release dreamlike emissions, as Garrett repeatedly calls out, “Who will save me?” with equal parts sadness and conviction before the song bleeds away. “Wakien” is an instrumental piece that’s rustic at the front end, with mandolins fading in and the band taking a folkish path. Acoustics pave the way for the guitars to muscle up and thicken, with the whole thing traveling through a psychedelic lens to the other side. Closer “Onward, Inward” is a battering ram once it gets started, as the band delivers their most devastating assault yet. Filthy trudging leaves boot prints on flesh, while Garrett unleashes some grittier singing that reminds of James Hetfield at his barking finest. The track eventually finds a hint of tranquility, as keys plink, a deep haze covers the land, and sunburst vocals harmonies add a late-evening vibe to this song that fades with the final remnants of daylight.

Spirit Adrift have become one of the most vital young bands in metal in a very short time, and “Curse of Conception” is a powerful document that is emotionally rich and will obliterate your senses. Every check box you can tick when it comes to a great album is marked, and this is one you won’t help but visit repeatedly. This project has come very far in not very much time, and as good as their work is here, their best days likely are still ahead of them.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/SpiritAdrift

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/collections/20bs-vinyl

For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

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