Everyone and their second cousin (twice removed) knows by now that there’s a glut of one-man black metal bands. You have a guitar, a barely functional computer, a mic, and some time to kill? That’s a perfect recipe to stave off boredom for at least a few months (or days, if you’re Vardan). One-man doom metal, though? That requires some serious time, dedication, and at least a decent knowledge of every instrument possible. Yet, Nate Garrett, guitarist for Arizona’s sludge machine Take Over and Destroy, is looking to prove us naysayers wrong as Spirit Adrift. With his debut full-length, Chained to Oblivion, Garrett proved his point spectacularly.
With a lumbering beat and some nice basslines, “Psychic Tide” lurches forth with all the Black Sabbath worship fit to choke a warhorse. When not worshiping at the Altar of Iommi, Garrett’s riffing pulls equally from The Order of Israfel‘s heft and Pallbearer‘s glimmer of melodic optimism. In fact, The Order of Israfel is a good reference point to make, as this is what that band would sound like with a better vocalist. Garrett possesses a haunting mid-range, but is not afraid to utilize Pallbearer-style harmonies in his delivery. With a beautiful dual lead guitar melody, the song plays itself out just under ten minutes later. Already, Chained to Oblivion impresses.
The other four songs stride like mammoths across a barren tundra. “Form and Force” plods gracefully, featuring some of Garrett’s best vocal performance and some exquisite lead work near the end. “Marzanna” marches like a funeral dirge, never showing any light or hope. But it’s closer “Hum of Our Existence” that leaves the deepest impression of all. Starting off with a programmed tribal beat before it fades out to his High on Fire-esque pummeling, Garrett saved all of his best tricks for last, incorporating enough riff changes, driving basslines, and incredible leads to keep your attention front and center. By the time the song ends with a solemn guitar melody and a vocal harmony that would make Pallbearer just a teensy-bit jealous, you can’t help but feel a bit drained yet satisfied. And that’s how doom metal should make you feel.
Of course, I can’t praise an album without a few criticisms, but thankfully they’re few but noteworthy. While all the instruments sound hefty and chewable, the lack of dynamics is noticeable. Also noticeable is the sheer length of the album. At five songs and 47 minutes, that’s a lot to digest, and a bit of self-editing would help significantly down the road. Some of the songs could lose a couple of minutes in spots, and the overall impact of Chained to Oblivion wouldn’t be hurt.
Nitpicking aside, Spirit Adrift joined the ranks of Pallbearer and Crypt Sermon among American doom metal bands to look out for. Garrett should be proud of his accomplishments here. Writing and performing solo on an impressive debut album, especially in a saturated genre like doom, is no easy feat, and he pulled it off flawlessly. Hunt this one down.