Fashions may come and go, but everything popular has a thread stretching back to the foundation, the root if you will. Metal is no different, and it’s heartening to see bands more and more proudly display that connection back to the roots of the genre. Spirit Adrift have never been a band to mask their influences, and on new album Divided By Darkness they take the torch of what outlets have been calling “traditional metal” and burn away the quotation marks, leaving a raging, unbridled classic sound that can only be called heavy metal.
That classic stomp has always been a signature of Spirit Adrift, but past albums have shaded some of the more colorful aspects with swirls of hazy doom. But it’s always been there: check out the harmonized solos and dramatic licks on “Psychic Tide,” the opening track from debut Chained to Oblivion. 2017’s massive Curse of Conception is even more transparent in its metal loyalties, with scorchers like “Earthbound” and “Graveside Invocation” blending swagger and pained passion in equal measure. But it was hard to escape comparisons to Pallbearer thanks to their own stab at peeling away some of the layers of doom with Heartless. However, repeated listens to Curse of Conception and now Divided By Darkness even more so display a fervor for the crash and pomp of classic heavy metal, from the killer artwork by Joe Patagno down to the twin lead licks that modulate and create drama a la Iron Maiden and others from the NWOBHM.
You can talk all you want, and lead vocalist/guitarist Nate Garrett has concerning the band’s move away from doom, but the proof is in the pudding, and opener “We Will Not Die” is a clarion call to the kind of classic vibe the band is putting out there. Starting with a percussive march that blasts directly into a twin lead and galloping riff, punctuated by Garrett’s vocals, which are only getting better and more seasoned. The anthemic chorus only adds to the feeling of a timeless band, firmly rooted but as modern as anything out there with artwork by John Baizley, whose own music plays in the same waters.
Still, the dark, cosmic content keeps Divided By Darkness in the same ballpark fans will love, particularly when the title track rips off this classic: “Astral being of energy / Once a perfect entity / Warped by psychic weaponry / Desperate for an enemy.” Let me assure you, there is no end of joy to be had singing the words “warped by psychic weaponry.” Moving forward, each track fully invests in the denim vest heart of classic heavy metal, from the rumbling thunder of “Born Into Fire” to the more intricate and anthemic call of “Angel & Abyss.”
All this and another killer guest spot from Kayla Dixon (Witch Mountain) on “Living Light” ensures Divided By Darkness shines. It’s hard not to keep using the same descriptors over and over again, but the thing that really stands at attention with the album is just how much of a crowd mover it is. Garrett is pulling an entirely different persona apart from his role in the crushing death metal of Gatecreeper, and as much as I love that band I can’t help but be drawn more intimately to the way Spirit Adrift lays bare its pulsing heart.
It’s heartening to see such attention and care paid to more melodic, roots-driven heavy metal, and Spirit Adrift are poised to be leading that charge based on the dimensions apparent with Divided by Darkness. The entire band is riding the same wavelength, and that can’t help but deliver a tight, cohesive album that rocks from front to back.
Psychic Weaponry be damned.