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Spirit Adrift - Curse of Conception

Spirit Adrift
Curse of Conception
by James Peterson at 25 November 2017, 9:43 AM

Having recently become a fan of the death metal act GATECREEPER, and being excited for their upcoming show in my home city opening for the titans CANNIBAL CORPSE alongside POWER TRIP, I couldn’t help but become even more excited to find out that a couple members of GATECREEPER (in particular Nate Garrett, as this is his solo project. Chase Mason also of that death metal band only plays bass live for this project) have a traditional doom metal project on the side of that with SPIRIT ADRIFT and its new album “Curse of Conception."

Musically, "Curse of Conception” by SPIRIT ADRIFT doesn’t hesitate to offer nice things to the listener as he or she presses play. Opener “Earthbound” effectively hearkens back in its acoustic opening evolving into building harmonic layers to the iconic “Battery” from METALLICA’s universally worshipped as the “best metal album of all time” “Master of Puppets,” whereas the title track opens with my favorite riff on the whole record. Teetering on the edge of confusion with a really dark odd-time shuffle which is immediately followed by a throwback to some of the heaviest, darkest and most classic BLACK SABBATH material. Comparisons to that classic pioneer of this entire genre we’ve all come to love are also warranted in the epic “Spectral Savior” found on the back half of the album. Particularly the opening, and backing guitar harmonies found under one of the guitar solos offering purely bleak dread. This is contrasted, however, with very melodic moments like the outro to the song, which is probably the most uniquely uplifting passage on here.

All that being said, if I’m being honest about my impressions, there’s a sizable chunk of the album that doesn't seem to vary too much from a lot of doom metal on the market already. But with music that doesn’t offer primarily new things to the table, quality then all boils down to execution, and even just simple enjoyment. Nate nails both of these departments for this project, with tight and emotive songwriting, with a few moments that really stick with you compared to the bulk of the album. The cleaner verses in “Starless Age (Enshrined)” actually remind of the musical expression in more modern doom acts like AHAB with the pure sorrow and desolation they’re able to master in their albums “The Giant” and “The Boats of Glenn Carrig.” The SPIRIT ADRIFT track manages to further this melancholy with a rather impactful lead guitar line, and contrasts it in the second half with increasingly heavier and more aggressive riffage, which continues on the absolutely killer opening to the following song “Graveside Invocation,” (though that song is still very melodic, chordy and groovy in large part) showing that Nate is not only able to structure songs well, but contextualize them onto a record with thoughtful flow between songs.

In addition to crafting the music, the performance of it by Nate on all the different instruments is solid as well. You don’t have to be a virtuoso to play doom metal, but even some degree of knowledge of how to play your instrument in a way that heightens the feeling of the parts you play can go a long way, and that’s present here. It’s always impressive when one person is at least competent on every instrument needed in a whole band. There’s dynamics in the drumming performance, tasteful use of bends in the guitar lines, a general sense he really sat down and practiced enough on every instrument (including his vocals in particular which just fit great here) as well as dialing in a great bass guitar tone.

Speaking of tones and timbres, the sound engineering here is on the hissy and treble-heavy side, but the raw and un-perfectly polished sound across the record has something of a charm to it as well. It’s certainly not a particularly great mix and master, or even one that hearkens back wholly accurately to many classic metal albums, but it fits. The instruments are all at least discernable on here: it’s not a terribly muddy mix. If anything I would have to say that it sounds like a slightly rawer version of the “Ride the Lightning” album sound.

The back half of the instrumental interlude “Wakien” reminds musically of that particular METALLICA record as well, and the front half offers a genuinely original approach to a more middle eastern acoustic sound. Hearing a quick interjection of a more southern/bluesy guitar lick come in at a minute and 16 seconds blending with this vibe was also a very pleasant surprise. After this, album closer "Onward, Inward” returns to the more trudging and doomy side of things, but is eons heavier than any of the other songs with the low tuning riffs, borderline screamed on pitches vocals and a chaotic guitar climax before calming instantly into a truly beautiful conclusion section to this record.

I definitely have to recommend this to fans of both traditional and modern doom metal as well as to people who like metal but maybe have a hard time getting into more extreme or niche genres. “Curse of Conception” is another keeper for this already great-for-music year, especially with songs as great as the title track (included below), “Spectral Savior” and the closer song.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Memorability: 7
Production: 6

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Earthbound
2. Curse of Conception
3. To Fly On Broken Wings
4. Starless Age (Enshrined)
5. Graveside Invocation
6. Spectral Savior
7. Wakien
8. Onward, Inward
Lineup:
Nate Garrett - Everything
Record Label: 20 Buck Spin
     


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Edited 17 December 2017
 

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