Just last year Spirit Adrift came out blazing with a debut EP and full-length, Chained To Oblivion as Nate Garrett’s one-man doom project. In my review I said the only thing that could be improved is forming a full band and recording road-tested material. While they haven’t hit the road yet, Spirit Adrift is now officially a four-piece (Gatecreeper bandmate Chase Mason on bass, guitarist Jeff Owens, drummer Marcus Bryant), and better than ever. Growing up outside the Ozark mountains in Fayetteville, Arkansas around a mix of country and Southern rock, classic metal and sludge metal, Garrett probably never imagined he’d be fronting an epic doom band. After relocating to Phoenix, Arizona, he hooked up with the blackened death metal scene. After a shift to sobriety, perhaps some alone time in the desert mountains, he wrote some songs that dealt with both spirituality and science fiction, and Spirit Adrift was born.
Like 20 Buck Spin label mates Khemmis, the second album came surprisingly quickly, a year after the debut, when most bands tend to take 3-5 years in between albums in a market that will often see a major doom release sell only a few hundred copies its first week. The album doesn’t sound like a rushed follow-up at all though. Rather, it sounds like Garrett is spilling over with songs and we’re the ones keeping up. While a thread of traditional doom can be mapped in the band’s ranging from Black Sabbath and Candlemass up to Pallbearer, they bring plenty more to the mix. Take “Starless Age (Enshrined)”. It begins as a metal ballad worth of DIO, before breaking out in an Iron Maiden style gallop at 3:30, peaking with dueling guitar solos. That’s how I like my rock ‘n’ doom. His love of Waylon Jennings and Neil Young continue to influence his chord structures in interesting ways, as heard on “To Fly With Broken Wings” and “Wakien,” which also has some spacey keyboard effects. “Spectral Savior” features a bridge of psychedelic space rock. Even when current bands pay tribute to classic doom and traditional metal, they don’t do so in a vacuum. A rich variety of influences are common. Spirit Adrift hint in promo photos at their diverse tastes in post-punk goth and Kosmische Musik via Bauhaus and Tangerine Dream t-shirts. Yet overall the album is heavier than the debut, such as the pummeling “Graveside Invocation” and the sludgy parts of “Onward, Inward.”
What could be just a soupy mess in lesser hands is handled with finesse thanks to exceptional songwriting and nuanced performances. Okay, Nate’s voice is sometimes pushed beyond his limits. Not everyone can be DIO or Bruce Dickinson. But I like the sometimes ragged, slightly flat delivery. If Ozzy can get away with it, so can Nate. I’m not one to examine lyrics under a microscope, but in general, Garrett has plenty to be furious about. But he works through his anger and transcends to an often celebratory, joyous space on this album. I dig that.
Every single one of the eight tracks has something glorious to recommend it, making Spirit Adrift officially a top tier metal band (Elder, Ufomammut, Pallbearer) that should be seriously considered by all in the year-end polls. This would make for an epic live show too. So far, aside from a local gig in Tempe a couple days ago and a show with Khemmis in Denver on the 14th, they aren’t scheduled to play until the Decibel Beer and Metal Fest next Spring in Philly. If they could hook up with, say, label mates Magic Circle and do a proper tour, that would be most excellent.