Call me old-fashioned, but I enjoy it when bands take their time with their songwriting and recording schedule. Sure, pumping out songs, EPs, and albums with an output rate that would rival most sweatshops (or Vardan) is admirable, but sometimes it’s better to let songs simmer and rest, adding necessary ingredients, or subtracting the fat. My point? Arizona’s Spirit Adrift, a one-man doom machine featuring the talented voice, musicianship, and songwriting of one Nate Garrett, dropped a promising debut last year with Chained to Oblivion. Just a hair over a year later, Garrett returns with a fully fleshed-out band, a slightly altered sound, and a new album in Curse of Conception. And what I mean by “slightly altered sound” is that Garrett and company pulled a Vredehammer on us.
No, Spirit Adrift hasn’t gone full blackened death metal on everybody, so don’t blot your bloomers. Rather, Spirit Adrift took an all-encompassing approach to Curse‘s conception, bringing in different elements from classics gone by, and putting them through their own filter. The result is a tantalizing follow-up that retains what was strong about Chained, but condensed and more impacting. The title track would make the strongest case for the band’s labeling of doom metal, reading from the tomes of Black Sabbath with more than a whiff of Cathedral and an ending that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Pallbearer track. In truth, though, calling Curse a “doom metal” album is both limiting in scale, and a bit damning to the overall scope of the album. In short, parts of this album absolutely rip.
How so? Stand-out track “Starless Age (Enshrined)” opens like a Pantera ballad, with tremendous build-ups and an underlying heft, before the band switches gears entirely and throws in a fierce galloping rhythm section and twin-guitar melodies by Garrett and Jeff Owens that would have Iron Maiden stand up and take notice. Elsewhere, “Spectral Savior” opens with a strong doom metal feel, but closes with a serene, uplifting ending that takes a nod towards Trouble‘s more psychedelic moments. Closer “Onward, Inward,” easily the band’s heaviest song to date with Garrett channeling his inner Hetfield, also closes with beautiful guitar melodies and an uplifting, almost sunny chorus that acts as an incredible come-down from such a captivating album, wrapping up a 47-minute journey on the highest of notes.
Even the Sanford Parker (Nachtmystium, Vattnet Viskar) production also benefits the album considerably. Chase Mason’s bass possesses heft and sway while Marcus Bryant’s drums sound lively and commanding. The guitars blend beautifully while soaring during the leads (from which there are many throughout Curse). If a nitpick were to be made, it would be with Garrett’s voice at parts. “To Fly on Broken Wings” being a key example, Garrett sounds like he’s straining a bit and comes across as flat as a result. That said, it’s not enough to detract from the overall enjoyment of the album’s powerful songwriting. I’ve not seen a band grow or strengthen their chops as musicians and songwriters as quickly as Spirit Adrift has in the year or so since their debut. In fact, any of the songs on here could make for a great single, all without sacrificing the band’s integrity. That’s the power of a strong album.
So all my worrying was for naught, Curse is anything but cursed. While their debut narrowly missed my Top Ten(ish) of last year, Curse of Conception pretty much guaranteed itself a place on my year-end list. October’s historically been the strongest month for metal music albums, and while this year looks like it will be no exception, Spirit Adrift crafted an excellent follow-up to their debut, as well as an album that holds up well after repeat plays. This is an album to listen, to enjoy, and to absorb. Don’t miss this!