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What an album to hear in the summer!
Reading the other reviews, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one for whom this album causes flashbacks to a younger age. Every song on Another Night conveys an empowering nostalgia in both the conversational lyrics and the hard rocking metal vibe. You'll hear echoes of Riot, Saxon, Krokus, Scorpions, UFO and more than enough classic hard rock and metal bands to fill an entire paragraph. You already know where it's going and how it ends, but it feels new because it hits you on such an emotional level.
Another Night begins working its magic from the opening strains of the first track. The feeling you get is exactly what the lyrics describe. It's quiet, but there's an electricity building like the anticipation to leave the comfort of your place and take on whatever excitement or danger awaits beyond the door. Then the chorus hits and you know there's no hiding in the dark tonight. Chris Black's enthusiasm is as infectious as those guitar hooks and you'll want to sing along with every word. Woo! It's another night to be alive and to make more history. That quick lead at 1:55 is oh so sweet and is another reason I cannot get enough of this song. Within days of first hearing this, it became a song I have to hear before going out. This is on my playlist for life.
"Do You Remember" feels like a re-imagining of "Diamonds and Rust." The lyrics are almost clairvoyant in their poignance and you'll feel like you're being catapulted back to every pivotal moment in that special relationship as you relive first noticing her, the deepening of rapport, the first night where she was yours, the sunrise together, and eventually the sad drifting apart because of circumstances. However, Chris Black's impassioned vocals reassure you that if you're lucky enough to have even one memory like that and if that memory is all you keep with you until the end of your time, then that's a lot better than nothing because you sir have been a lucky man.
Even if the music of "Full Power" isn't as harsh as you would expect from a current metal anthem, the lyrics are as obvious as a fist to the face. It's about fighting 'til death though not in such extreme language. It's about never losing that (high) spirit that makes you do everything you aspire to do. It's knowing that everything Fates Warning said at the end of "The Ivory Gate of Dreams" is true! It reminds me of people I know or have known who began to feel self-conscious about their ambitions or about listening to metal because they felt that's what society expected, so they slowly convinced themselves to lose interest. Who exactly is society? Unless one or more specific people are just being assholes and ridiculing your interests to your face, then it's only you putting pressure on yourself to... to do what? Settle for a banal lifestyle so you can be just as miserable as people desperate to give others a hard time? Don't you think some of them wish they had kept living at full power? Only you can choose to quit liking what you know you like. Just look at Ozzy. When was the last time you could call him a young man and how many times has he tried to walk away from metal only to realize he loves it too much to stop? It's not like he, Sharon and the kids are strapped for cash, so what keeps him coming back? Wasn't No More Tears supposed to be his last album at around age 43? No More Tours, remember? You could wonder the same about Iron Maiden, Metallica, Rush and so many other bands who are still in the game after decades. Money can't be the sole reason they're still following their dreams. Look at enduring, but less financially-successful bands like Anvil, Candlemass, Marduk and, again, so many others. If they're not proof that you can never grow out of something you love, then what more proof do you need?
Just like "Drifter" ends Killers on a positive note, "Going Up" is where all past mistakes are forgiven as you absorb their lessons to fully appreciate every part of your life so far. A problem you will encounter when listening to this album is that your reaction to the silence that follows "Going Up" will be something like "No! That's the whole album?!?!!" Do not panic. I have found that pressing play will quickly remedy this issue. Please follow my example.
On Another Night, High Spirits channel a feeling that must be experienced. The lyrics feel genuine and are devoid of the tongue-in-cheek irony that plagues other retro metal bands like Holy Grail, Cauldron and Hammerfall. You'll be disarmed by the uplifting nature of the music and you'll feel the story either as an adult taking stock of his life to date or as a teen listening to the words of an older brother explaining what's to come. You'll realize that some goals don't take long to achieve while others end up being your life's work, but deep down you know you have the will to persevere. It may take longer than you estimated when you were 16, but what was all that angst for anyway? That was the battery being charged, my friend! You can't kill the battery! Battery is found in all and it's meant to run at full power. Always full power.
Until a few months ago, I had never heard of this band. I knew of Chris Black's other bands ala Dawnbringer and knew of his collaboration with Nachtmystium, but no knowledge of this band. I guess you COULD call me a follower of whatever he does seeing how I religiously followed every word he wrote for Metal Maniacs Magazine (R.I.P.) as a young teenager in the 90's when Metal was a dirty word. He was indeed a professor and I was a mere student of the black arts. Chris Black is a multi-talented tour de force with not just words but music as well. And the last point in putting him up on a metallic podium is that he is the type of metalhead that you know you would want as a friend just because he loves it solely for the music and he does it based outside of fads, trends, etc.
High Spirits...holy shit. This is undiluted Heavy Metal. And it comes in the form of a by gone era when Metal meant something more than chest-beating tuff guys horseshit. Something more than giving the devil his duel. Something more than another angry doe-eyed group of neurotic youth. It comes from when Metal had a raging innocence and youth to it. A time when it didn't take itself seriously, and when it gave you that special feeling. Whatever that feeling may be. That special spark igniting the gunpowder to the keg of imagination. Again, whatever that feeling was, you know it. You knew it then and it kinda comes and goes in your older (hopefully more mature) years. That yearning to make you feel like that kid again. But this time there is a sad and somber tone to it because the lyrics here are somewhat saddening. Not depressing.....let me go into it a bit more. You knew that feeling of 16-21. Young. Lean. And for guys that difference starts to widen between 21 and 31. As you age, things change. Things aren't the same. And it's very easy to say fuck everything and become nostalgic even today with the advent of Youtube when and where we can literally watch all our old favorite Saturday morning cartoons and reminiscent of all things we grew up on. And in that looking in the past with rose-tainted glasses there's that sadness because you know it's not coming back as much as you would want more than anything in the world. That youth, energy, happiness, etc. It's a different world. That's where High Spirits comes to you and provides you with a helping hand. That spark you felt was may be missing. HS brings it back and tells you it's OK and carry on solider of steel. High Spirits is more or less a soundtrack for that guy in his 30's giving life one last middle finger in trying to basically having good times in a world of smart phones, bills, recession, shitty fucking economy, and everything changing so damn rapidly. Again High Spirits reignites that trail of gun-powder to the keg.
Past the philosophical aspect I find in this CD....High Spirits, again, plays undiluted Heavy Metal. There's bits (as the previous review mentioned) Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, Maiden, Jaguar, Motorhead, Dio-era Sabbath, even so far as 70's Hard Rock in the form of Cheap Trick/Y&T!!! Y&T of all bands. Yeah at first you may think to yourself "Oh great....another retro band. Pfft. I'm already sick and tired of people bragging about Sword and Ghost."......hold it right there. High Spirits doesn't copy the past in order to provide them with an easy access to what is currently the retro Metal fad nowadays. High Spirits does it in a way where it's highly original. Very authentic. Very organic as well. You can hear it in Chris Black's vocals. He's a man on a mission and that is to preach the gospel of Heavy Metal to the world. Going back to what I previously said about the philosophical aspect of High Spirits; just look at the titles: "Nights In Black", "Where Did I Go Wrong", "Demons At the Door". Lyrically speaking from a soon-to-be 30 year old male, I relate more to these lyrical themes than say blasting out to the satanic royalty of "Under The Sign of The Black Mark" or "Transylvania Hunger" in my teens and early 20's. Even more so than the epic Sci-Fi/Fantasy universal world of "Nothingface" or the angry young male lyrics of "Beneath The Remains." Again different periods of life with different albums, and now it's High Spirits' turn to not only tell me to start seeing the world through this "Catcher In The Rye" view and start accepting that things will change and continue to change and that I should accept it as a part of life. I also think Iron Maiden said it best in the song "Wasted Years" with the chorus lyrics "So understand, don't waste your time always searching for those wasted years. Face up, make your stand and realize you're living in the golden years."
"Another Night In the City" is an album that I know in my heart of hearts that will be there for me in the future. It's already taken it's effect in making my heart feel warm and vibrant rather than the stone cold misery of other acts. It's an album that every song is a sing-along in a way of telling yourself to stop living in the past and forge ahead admist the certain fears of the unknown. My favorite songs off this would definitely "Where Did I Go Wrong", "Nights In Black," "Demons At the Door," and the title track. I can damn near already sing-along to this album without missing a beat. True it may not be over-the-top. It may not be extreme. It may not be creating a fucking "industry buzz". It may not even go so far as say may be a handful of people in the world knowing about this album. But what it does to me it that it hits me hard. It touches a special place in my heart that every so often an album will do and will go on to it being recommended by me for years to come. It becomes one of those albums that I could easily say "That was the soundtrack to my younger years" when I am old and telling kids to get the fuck off my lawn. It's an album that makes me proud to be a life-long fan of Heavy Metal. And that's something you can't duplicate very often. Thank you Professor Black, I finally understand the lessons you have taught me today in Metal Class 101.
There's something about this album that just feels refreshing to me, on a deep down, spiritual level. There's no shortage of bands taking the traditional approach these days, and a lot of them are doing the style justice. High Spirits have managed to separate themselves from the pack by keeping an extremely low profile and letting the straight-forward, driving heavy metal speak for itself.
The bands greatest strength is their ability to pair up incredibly crisp, NWOBHM-infused riffing with ridiculously catchy hooks. Each song is able to stand alone as a monument to the bands penchant for writing concise, rocking heavy metal. You could literally choose any song to be the "single". I catch some Fire Down Under vibes in that respect. So we aren't dealing with some modern day NWOBHM clone here. Their influences appear to reach back even further with overt references to Thin Lizzy and Rainbow rearing their beautiful heads. You definitely get the impression that the sole writer behind High Spirits has excellent taste if nothing else.
The riffing itself falls to the more propulsive side of NWOBHM. Easy points of reference would be a Raven or Jaguar sort of energy, although tempered with a sleeker production. There is a tangible element of sleaze to this album. Just as the name and striking album cover would suggest, this thing reeks of the nightlife. There's booze and broads, to be sure, but not every song has a happy ending. Do You Remember juxtaposes snappy, driving riffs with a nostalgic tale of that one night you got to spend alone with the woman of your dreams. You Make Love Impossible is another number with sappy lyrics that somehow just work because they seem so genuine, and also because the riffing is that good. Full Power, as the name might suggest, is the token speed metal track and it damn sure smokes.
The vocals don't try to impress with any histrionics or pyrotechnics. The lyrics are sung honestly and openly, which is fitting as they seem quite personal. The music is played in much the same way. There are great riffs, expressive solos, and plenty of well crafted hooks imbedded into each song. Put it on and close your eyes. You can practically feel the cold Chicago sidewalk beneath your feet as you stumble to the next bar, looking for something to get into. Just another night...