Ever notice how we at AMG Conglomerated Blogworks, Ltd. spend our time bitching and carping about album length and the need for slavish adherence to the 45 Minute Rule? In an age when even EPs are running close to 40 minutes, it gets pretty hard to to uphold the “less is more” banner and remain a defender of editing and artistic restraint. Then in our darkest hour, Chris Black arrives with his High Spirits project and drops a glorious 30 minute slab of hard rocking, gob-stopping joy on our doorstep and before you know, all our elitist blather is vindicated, validated and self-actualized! Exhibit A is Motivator – the third album of shamelessly hooky, ear-infesting guitar rock from the man who also graced us with Dawnbringer and played a key role in Pharaoh as well.
If you’re unfamiliar with High Spirits, you deserve a syncopated bell shaming. Taking a 70s guitar rock style akin to Thin Lizzy and Foghat (yes, Foghat!) and mixing it with NWoBHM influences, High Spirits crafts short, energetic, insanely addictive little anthems which rattle around in your head for weeks. Motivator consists of 8 straight-forward tracks of pure rock fury, each guaranteed to make an impression on the first spin. After a brief instrumental intro, “Flying High” does exactly that, taking off with speedy riff-work and the ever improving singing of Professor Black. It’s such a simple sounding, accessible tune, yet I’m under no illusion such songs are easy to craft, and this is just one of 8 such winners, each running between 3 and 4 minutes of concise awesomeness.
“Reach for the Glory” takes a riff similar to Maiden‘s “Aces High” and uses it to rock your socks off and “Haunted by Love” delivers a weird little anthem about lost love and heartache that still makes you want to chug beer and shove friends into a pool. The highlight is the impossibly catchy “Do You Wanna be Famous,” which you’ll love immediately even if it isn’t particularly heavy. It reminds me of a less edgy Audrey Horne and I can’t seem to stop spinning it. That same Audrey Horne vibe crops up in closer “Thank You” and it’s hard not to love the simple, happy-go-lucky lyrics about gratitude toward one’s friends. This one is sure to trigger many a sloppy bro hug around the keg and that’s okay!
And here’s the best part: Motivator feels like it ends too soon! Imagine that. The music cuts out and you’re left wishing for 2 or 3 more saucy tunes to get tanked with. The album flies by like the airliner on the cover and in a blink of an eye the good times are over, requiring immediate replay. How many recent albums can make the same claim? Exactly. Downsides? The aforementioned “over too soon” gambit, but I can’t really knock them for leaving us wanting more.
Chris Black handles all instruments and vocals, but you wouldn’t think it was a one-man band. It has a lively, warm energy you’d likely attribute to friends jamming and having fun, but those friends are Chris, himself and he. The strength of High Spirits has always been the bouncy, catchy riffs and Motivator has more than its share of them. The Thin Lizzy influence is still there along with Maiden and other NWoBHM influences, and though the style is more hard rock than metal, it still has that crucial edge and essential energy. Rarely are riffs this fun and engaging and every song is a blast to blast. Chris has grown a lot as a vocalist over the years and I’ve come to love his rock n’ roll singing style on the High Spirits albums. He isn’t wailing or roaring but he sounds like he’s having a grand olde time and that rubs off on the listener.
Mr. Black isn’t trying to prove anything or show how kvlt he is. He just writes catchy hard rock with a metal attitude, does it well and never overdoes it. He’s on to something here and Motivator should motivate other acts to follow his timely example. Less IS more!