High Spirits_MotivatorEver 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!

high-spirits_2016

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!


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: High Roller Records
Websites: highspiritsmetal.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/highenergyrock
Releases Worldwide: September 16th, 2016

 

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  • Reese Burns

    This guy’s in Dawnbringer? I guess I have to look into this one

    • He IS Dawnbringer.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      He is the Hammer that forged Dawnbringer!

  • The first thing that came to mind when the embedded track started playing was Audrey Horne. Which is good, because I like Audrey Horne! :)

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Syncopated bell shaming sounds pretty hot.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    OK, I’ll say it: how can less be more? That’s impossible!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      If you scroll all the way up it’s there too.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        I know. : )

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Recent albums that end too soon: Zeal and Ardor’s Devil is Fine.

    • Kronos

      Hell yeah

    • John

      Could not agree more.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Chris Black is action man, Dawnbringer’s XX was great and this sounds excellent. He’s still got a few months left this year, lets have Aktor part 2 too!
    I fully support more shorter releases and you can take my money Mr Black!

  • GardensTale

    I was sold on the first 5 seconds. This stuff just gives me a big stupid goofy grin, I love it!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I was sold as soon as I read “High Spirits”

  • Diego Molero

    If this is a solo project who are the other guys in the photo and why are they there?
    Anyway, this is fun music, great review Druhm.

    • They would be his live band for touring purposes.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I was just about to ask the same question

  • Oscar Albretsen

    A bit surprised these guys get classified as a metal band. The music kinda sounds like fresh classic rock. Kinda reminds me of Styx. Nothing wrong with that. I love bands playing this style. I’m gonna get this and both of their other albums.

    • Also check out his Aktor project which is pretty similar and also fun.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Thanks! I owned Bleeder for awhile last year and really, really wanted to like it. I love the classic feel, but for some reason, couldn’t get into it. Kind of had more of a transcendent/psychedelic flow to it, and none of the songs ever stood out with those big, memorable choruses. I still wanna like it, though. Maybe I’ll give it a few more listens on spotify. Aktor was decent, although thet didn’t jump out at me like High Spirits. Definitely check out their album more though.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      You might also like Bleeder by Mutoid Man.

    • David Christian Dalton

      It might me helpful to remember that the two most successful NWOBHM band were Iron Maiden and Def Leppard. The bands on the heavy end of the spectrum like Maiden; ie: Diamond Head, Angel Witch, Witchfinder General, Venom (if we’re gonna even include them) were in the minority. The vast majority of NWOBHM bands came out of the ’70s hard rock movement and, most assuredly, had Foreigner/Styx/Journey American AOR influences riding along with their Priest/Sabbath visions. Most of the continental European bands followed suit. (I’m looking at you, Highway Chile.)

      This album (High Spirits in general) reminds me most of the bands Ebony Records promoted, 1983-1984, that fell right between Leppard and Maiden. Look at that album cover. It just SCREAMS Chateaux or Holland, etc. Go look those albums up!

      • Excellent point.

      • David Christian Dalton

        I mean, this was our heavy metal in 1983! (Go find old issues of Kerrang! from the same year. They won’t look much more “extreme” or “underground,” I promise you that.

        • Olde school!

          • David Christian Dalton

            Yea, verily!

        • Oscar Albretsen

          Thanks for giving me a nice project for the day. I’ve been checking out bands from Ebony Records for about 2 hours now. Heard Grim Reaper, Savage, Blade Runner, Blood Money, Demon Eyes, Samurai, and Rankelson. For the most part, liked what I heard, although the ancient production made some of it sound rather generic (not to mention, a number of those bands have no music available anywhere at this point). But, I ordered CDs from Savage and Grim Reaper. Awesome! Plus I watched Beavis and Butthead’s clip of Grim Reaper’s video. Laughed my ass off.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Now go and check bands from Neat Records for a taste of the heavier end of the NWOBHM spectrum.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Gave Venom, Raven, and Atomkraft a listen. Definitely heavier, but lack that completely guiltless sense of cheese that bands like High Spirits and those Ebony bands have.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            If it’s guiltless cheese you’re after, check Venom’s “Teacher’s Pet”.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Checked it out, but Venom’s not my thing. Maybe it’s more the “camp” quality I’m after. Venom was from that era, but where’s the shrieking? Where are those choruses that get stuck in your head like an ad slogan? They’re just much heavier and less catchy. Different style.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            It’s hard to find a campier band than Venom! Maybe you should replace “camp” with “melodic”. But I agree, Venom are much heavier than most of their contemporaries.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Well, you’re almost certainly right that “melodic” is my primary flavor. I like the “F you, we’re complete dorks and we don’t care attitude” alot of those NWOBHM bands had in the early 80’s. Grim Reaper’s music video for “See You in Hell” had this in spades. It made Poison look like respectable business men! I’m sure you’re right if you say Venom had that, too, but I didn’t get to see many of the bands in their hammy peaks. Could just find the music, which is still way nore important than the image…

          • Grim Reaper has a new album coming out in a few weeks.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Wow, a new album after 30 years. Called “Steve Grimmet’s Grim Reaper” now so doesn’t look like much of the original band is left. “Walking in the Shadows” has the title track available online, but, I’m honestly not too excited after hearing it. Not too often a great band comes out of nowhere after 30 years and releases something on par with their old stuff. This kinda sounded like they were trying so hard to be modern they forgot about alot of the great aspects of their old sruff. Just one song, though, so I’ll still have to check it out after the release. No doubt there will be a review here…

          • jetblindracos

            Wish Nick bowcott in it.

          • David Christian Dalton

            Awesome! I’m glad I could have been some assistance.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Well, never heard of Chateaux or Holland, but you certainly intrigued me. Not too big of a legacy either band left (Holland – 1 album, Chateaux – 3), but there is definitely a lot of similarity in those album covers, and the style. I liked both bands, but really liked Chateaux, although that band name is head-scratchingly lame, I saw they have an anthology CD that collects all of their stuff. Sweet! Went to order it on Amazon – the only thing from Chateaux they have. 1 used version – $1000. A bit out of my price range. Seems these guys have drifted off quietly into the night it seems. Shame. Holland is available for $30. Pretty spendy, but it is my style, so I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks for the advice!

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Early Metal had much in common with Hard Rock, to the point where there is a lot of overlapping. And since you seem to know your NWOBHM pretty well, I am surprised you didn’t mention Praying Mantis since High Spirits share a strong melodicism with them.

        • Oscar Albretsen

          One I found and really liked was Demon. They have this album called “The Unexpected Guest” that I really dug.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            If you like Demon you should check out Satan. Really.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Checked out “Court in the Act,” but didn’t do it for me. The music didn’t do much (it just kinda blended into something that sounded similar) and the sound quality was bad even for a 30 year old album. Thanks for the rec, though. Hard for me to know what I’m gonna like or not with 70’s or 80’s music, but always fun to check out new stuff.

  • Thatguy

    Rock on, SD. I know you love this schtick. I do not.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      You always have to be… that guy

      • Thatguy

        Believe it or not I do try not to be too much of a dick and I don’t comment in writing as much as I think ‘bollocks’. I get that many people love this kind of thing – including SD – and that it is well crafted. I just really dislike it. But that’s just my taste and not meant to be a personal criticism.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          I just had to call you on being “that guy” since you were kind of rainning on Steel Druhm’s parade… I found it funny.

          • Thatguy

            Yep, raining on SD’s parade is always a bit of fun…until he bans me.

          • Banhammer awaits….

        • [not a Dr]

          You can’t dislike it THAT much… Imagine if someone made a cello cover of this song.

          • Thatguy

            The mind boggles…

        • Oscar Albretsen

          This isn’t something that’s gonna go double platinum…

          • jetblindracos

            But is a guilty pleasure.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Well, not guilty for me anymore because I don’t have those people around that you know are gonna be snickering if they catch you listening to it. First 30 years of my life my love of this kinda stuff was comparable to being a married gay man that can’t tell anyone else how he actually feels, but tries harder than anything to convince himself that’s not how he really feels.

          • jetblindracos

            And those same neighbors will miss that “ugly” noise when one change to headphones and actually ask family members if all is well.

          • TheonetrueLee

            No but it should if there was any justice in the world.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Without a doubt.

  • The Unicorn (Blueberry Balls)

    High Spirits rule. Fair review, and really good single so far. However, they are much more powerful with The Unicorn.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      You should have kept Chris Black in the picture and unicorned the four other guys.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I am too old to shove my friends into a pool…

    • So sad.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        On the one hand I worry that they might not like it and get angry, on the other hand they might not even survive it.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    The embedded track should have been titled “Kiss meets Iron Maiden”.
    High Spirits kicks ass with both feet.

    • jetblindracos

      That’s what I thought too.

  • Adjudant

    Awesome album, and brilliant artwork too

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I must compare High Spirits to Praying Mantis because they sound similar and most important because more people should know about Praying Mantis.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      Gave them a listen based on your recommendation. Got some pretty cool chops.

  • Wilhelm

    Chris Black is THE man, I listen to one song of High Spirits and I’m already singing the chorus on the second spin. He tours with his band for live shows, and they are a blast…good to see this reviewed here.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      Check out “Another Night in the City.” That song is awesomness defined.

  • jetblindracos

    Me gustarme this mucho.See steely, after dark there always light and viceversa.

  • NO STEEL, MORE IS MORE, HOW CAN LESS POSSIBLY BE MORE???!?!!! AAHHHHHHH

  • Oscar Albretsen

    In this comments section, I’ve certainly discovered I have a stronger passion for this early british metal than I’d realized. As a result, I ordered a couple box sets from early brit bands I just found but hadn’t heard before, but really liked the songs I heard online, and couldn’t pass uo these 4/5 disc sets because they were only $16/$23. They’re UFO – The Chrysalis Years and Saxon – The Carrere Years. Just wondering if you’d consider these top quality Brit bands. If you reassure me, I’ll feel better about spending money! Thanks!

    • Saxon is a great band with tons of quality material over the decades. They were almost as big as Priest and Maiden in the early 80s and they’re still putting out respectable stuff. UFO I never got too excited about but they’re a good band in their own right. Have you tried Diamond Head yet? They’re really good too.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Thanks! “Am I Evil?” was always one of my favorite songs on Garage, Inc, so it was cool to hear the original band do it. DH definitely sounds like a band for me.

        • David Christian Dalton

          I second Druhm’s Saxon comments, but I think UFO are second only to Thin Lizzy in the pantheon of platinum ’70s hard rock from the U.K. Like, Lizzy, they have a melancholy that’s married to their heavy attack that is matched by almost no one. The studio albums are hit and miss, “Lights Out” and “Force It” being the best, but “Strangers In the Night” is the greatest double-live hard rock/heavy metal album ever released.

          • David Christian Dalton

            I can’t remember what’s on that set but UFO were on Chrysalis for all of their classics, arguably “Phenomenon” (1974) through maybe “The Wild, the Willing, and the Innocent: (1981). You should find lots to enjoy on that set.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Thanks! I really appreciate your advice on this because I’m really impressed with your knowledge about these classic brit bands. I’m thinlking the UFO box set’s gonna turn into a good buy. They actually have 2 Chryasalis year sets, one from 1973-1979 and the other 1980-1986. I got the early years, all the complete albums between “Phenomenon and “Strangers in the Night.” Seemed like a sweet value for $15…

          • David Christian Dalton

            That is an absolute STEAL! Cheers, sir!

  • HopkinsWFG

    This review was gushing about the record for it’s entire length, yet it only warrants a 3.5 out of 5? What gives?

    • It’s very good and a ton of fun, but I don’t consider it a “great” or “excellent” album. 3.5 is a high score though.

  • madhare

    The embedded track sounds great but but but… it’s so close to Aces High that it’s giving me pause. I’d like to buy this, but on the other hand I’d like to hear couple of other tracks to reassure me that it isn’t just ripping off old classics.

    • [not a Dr]

      I keep expecting him to announce that he’s “running free, yeah!”

  • dblbass23

    I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS BAND!!! Don’t know what else to say.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Just got this album in the mail today. So far, so good, but I’m a little disappointed that the whole thing only contains 8 songs (and a 40 second intro track) the longest of which clocking in at just 4:17. The entire album doesn’t even last 30 minutes.

  • Tofu muncher

    My clicking Retro Metal tag brought me here. Really happy I did.