Heavy is a state of mind and today’s Second Circle is a tale of heavy from two different ends of the spectrum. Spirit Adrift’s Enlightened In Eternity is a tale of modern day, straightforward heavy metal and Kneel’s Ailment is a tale of jagged heavy that comes out of society’s current level of pain and anguish. This piece aims to find the common ground between two albums and this common ground is the ‘heavy’ but these are vastly different albums from vastly different corners of the universe. So, without further ado, let’s discuss.
Spirit Adrift is, without a doubt, a household name at this point in any discerning heavy metal household. And, for good reason since their output over the course of three previous albums has been of the tectonic plate shifting, doomish variety. Chained To Oblivion was raw, mostly doom that had immense force, Curse of Conception polished things up a bit but still had that driving doom undercurrent while Divided By Darkness showcased a marked effort to push into more traditional heavy metal territory. And now, with their fourth full length, Enlightened In Eternity, they’ve hit their full trad potential and this particular album is a boon for Nate Garrett’s vocals. Anthemic, epic, and grandiose are all terms I’ve thought about every time I take a test drive. The fist pumping opener “Ride Into the Light” lays down an earworm chorus punctuated with lead-heavy riffs and arguably the best percussive display we’ve heard yet and that’s not to mention the ridiculously catchy midsection. “Cosmic Conquest” sounds like the band could rip open an arena show with ease while “Harmony of Spheres” lays down jackhammer rhythms and glorious vocals. Have we touched on just how much Nate’s vocals have improved here? Not that they were ever subpar but holy shit, it’s like good turned to outstanding, overnight. See the harmonies in “Battle High” or the upper register of “Cosmic Conquest” for proof.
This album is uplifting and anthemic and honestly reminds me of teenage Friday night bonfires with Priest, Maiden and W.A.S.P. blasting at full volume and thinking we all had the world by the balls (a great feeling indeed). Closer “Reunited In the Void” recalls their melancholic doom roots but shows, beyond any doubt, Spirit Adrift have had and will continue to have a healthy career in the world of all things heavy. Just listen to their debut back to back with this and see how much they’ve changed, it’s astonishing. With listens in the double digits, I honestly cannot find a single negative critique. This really is a crowning achievement and conversations otherwise will not be considered.
On the other side of “heavy” is Kneel which is the solo project of multi instrumentalist Pedro Mau and former member of Wells Valley with their newest, Ailment. Kneel’s output consists of elements from thrash, technical death metal, math metal and hardcore but is at all times, you guessed it: heavy. The promo materials for this, the first material from the band in seven years, mentions Gojira and Burnt By the Sun and while there are definite ties to the bombastic nature of Gojira, it’s the incendiary, explosiveness of Burnt By the Sun I hear the most. But also, the moody nature of Burst’s Origo seeps its way in as well (this is a good thing). “Qualm” opens things up with a Meshuggahesque chug while “Interim” finds the band really hitting a stride in the percussive blast department and then rounding things out with jagged yet melodic riffs. “DYS” is a slow descent into humanity’s current hell while follow up “Raptorial” rips the veil between sanity and insanity wide open with obtuse song structures that could’ve easily been nothing more than a head scratcher but here it flows so well and makes an incredible impact. “Bellicose” has a similarly puzzling facade, and closer “Acuity” sounds like the effects of gargling barbed wire.
I’ve long been a fan of the aforementioned bands here and anyone that can combine Burnt By the Sun and Burst in such a unique way while making it their own is a band that I will die on the hill of. Period. Kneel have put together an explosive album that bests their debut and peels the scab of current day ills back to expose the horrid guts underneath while reveling in their ability to beat the listener to a pulp. The trick that Kneel have successfully accomplished here is that after this beating, you feel the want and the need to return for more, again and again. Impressive.