Spirit Adrift successfully dole out the anguished jams on full length debut Chained To Oblivion, courtesy of what sole creator Nate Garrett (Take Over and Destroy, Gatecreeper) has lived through. Put simply, if the previously released EP Behind-Beyond struck a chord, this album will smash the whole guitar across the stage of both your mind and your heart. In the space of five songs a story is told with a clear beginning, middle and end. Sorrow and hope reside here and somehow get along. It’s a marked improvement over the EP and shows an artist that, while having gone through hell, has resurfaced with a strong need for catharsis. And what a beautiful catharsis this album turns out to be.
Since the early 70’s doom metal has taken many forms and many different paths from the main road that Black Sabbath, unknowingly at the time, laid down. Traditional doom metal has always had its roots in blues, at times the syrupy southern sound, and whether as a by product or not the lyrical themes have remained emotionally charged in one context or another. Some more powerful than others of course but these basic tenets have remained unchanged. The last few years has seen a resurgence in traditional doom, but more than this resurgence is the attention paid by each artist to make the music strictly follow the despair, loss or upliftingly hopeful headspace each band attempts to get across to the listener. As far as reference points for similar, recent bands using the full spectrum of songwriting, and to a greater extent, atmosphere to wring the most out of every note it would be Khemmis and Pallbearer.
Enter Spirit Adrift, who just this year released a two track EP that if anything showed an astute practitioner of all things Traditional but with a heavier, more thunderous edge. And on Chained To Oblivion everything that was successful about the EP is ultimately better and more cohesive. The running theme is that of a man that’s dealt with huge personal struggles and heavy burdens but slowly manages to find his way to a better place. Each of these five tracks nudge the listener to accompany Garrett on this journey into the storm, to the depths then back out again. Nothing is demanded of course and it never feels that way, instead the listener is drawn in to the mournful guitar and vocal melodies. These not only set the tone throughout but anchor the entire album with a shapeshifting melancholia.
The title track is the most emotionally grueling. Powerful guitar chords, Garrett’s strong voice, and drumming that sounds like it came straight from Des Kensel’s hands make for a barn burner of a doom song. And one that is multifaceted, not satisfied to linger too long at one speed or tempo. Earlier on “Psychic Tide” it’s all about the mammoth riffs and percussion on this, the heaviest track of the five, at least sonically. Looking back on the dynamics of these two tracks and taking the rest into consideration, Garrett doesn’t pigeonhole himself into glacially slow speeds or drivingly heavy doom marches and this is one of many things that makes the album resonate as much as it does. Not sure if Garrett would call Griftegard an influence but the two bands share a great deal in atmosphere and knowing precisely when to pull out the amp stacks for the biggest effect and “Marzanna” does both, beautifully.
Honestly, when looking for holes they are extremely hard, if not impossible, to find. Depending on any given listeners headspace, this album could hit the sweet spot immediately or it could take several spins to completely sink in. On first listen though, it is the kind of album that demands undivided attention and when given that chance it opens up into an amazing journey.
On Chained To Oblivion, Spirit Adrift pull from a treasure trove of traditional heavy metal and doom. As a result, Garrett has created an album that pays respectful homage to the past and expands greatly on what is currently happening in the genre. He truly exorcises some demons here and hits you square in the chest with all of it but as cathartic as it hopefully was for him it’s equally the same for any listener that gives it the time and space it deserves.