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I Am Hunter... With My Wolfpack I Hunt Till the Dawn of Sunrise - 100%

ChoujuX, February 11th, 2019

Favorite albums, part 1 of 3.

Spirit Black is the album that got me into Jorn Lande, having discovered him through the "Song For Ronnie James" video on YouTube. While the Dio tribute was a bit cheesy, I enjoyed the performances, especially Jørn Lande and Tore Moren's. This lead to a bit of research and voila, I was introduced to Spirit Black. Heavy, driving, with killer riffs and powerful vocals, the album was just perfect. Really this album is why Jorn is one of my top three bands, along with Theocracy and DragonForce. As a mix of Dio-era Black Sabbath and Whitesnake, two bands I quite enjoy, Jorn quickly rose to a favored spot in my collection.

Really I would say that there are no bad songs on this album. The only one that I consider truly mediocre is "Burn Your Flame," thanks to the lyrics... "Burn your flame, burn your flame, burn your flaming fire, come on and burn!" Thankfully it's the shortest track at 2:42, and it does have some nice lead guitar parts. On the other hand, "Road of the Cross," "City Inbetween," and "World Gone Mad" are especially fantastic and stand-out tracks. The lyrics are mostly typical for Jorn songs, nothing spectacular and with a few cheesy moments, but decent writing and some great lines. Special mention goes to the first verse of "The Last Revolution." It's one of my favorite parts of the album, along with the part where the main riff kicks in on "Road of the Cross."

Now my favorite parts of Spirit Black are the riffs courtesy of Tore Moren and Jimmy Iversen, backed with guest musicians Jon Berg and Igor Gianola on a handful of tracks. The riffs are the best parts of Jørn's albums (next to his vocals), and Spirit Black has some of the heaviest and almost doomiest. Much of the rhythm work has a Sabbathian feel, not unlike Tony Iommi's riffs on Dehumanizer or The Devil You Know. Dark and thick, songs like "Road of the Cross" and the title track pound on relentlessly, while "Below" and "The Last Revolution" are more upbeat and sound not unlike a heavier take on classic rock. "Below" has the most blues influence and reminds me more of Whitesnake than Dio, though that's in no way a bad thing. Now I'm no bassist, but the bass fits well with the guitars and gives them a nice groove. Sid Ringsby, while not my favorite Jorn bassist (that'd be Nic Angileri - check out his performance on Live in Black), puts together some good lines and is very solid.

Now back to guitar. Compared to Jorn's other works, the solos are slower and bluesier to fit with the general tone of the album. Compared to "Sunset Station" (off Worldchanger), for example, the lead guitar parts are less "shreddy," despite both being performed by Tore Moren. While I generally prefer faster, flashier solos, the ones on here are very effective. I guess laid back would be a good way to describe them? Either way, the guys here play circles around me. "Road of the Cross" has my favorite solo on here, a very cool bit starting at 3:04 and lasting till 4:15, all the while played over a pounding rhythm guitar.

Lastly, there are several cover tracks on Spirit Black, two on most editions and a bonus with the early pressings/iTunes/Amazon/etc. versions. First is "City Inbetween," a song written by Jorn's former band Vagabond. I've only been able to find a live version of the original from 1995, but wow... this version destroys it. The Spirit Black version is heavier, his vocals are stronger, it's just... so much better. Next up is "I Walk Alone," originally by Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish, as if she needs any introduction). I found this cover before I ever listened to Nightwish or Tarja's solo stuff, so I prefer this one as well, although the original is one of the few songs Tarja sings on that I enjoy (Anette Olzon ftw!). It's got a more prominent guitar than Tarja's, and makes her version feel weak. Admittedly, the lyrics are a little weird at times ("I left a thorn under your bed"), but that's not any fault of Jørn Lande's. Finally there is the Thin Lizzy cover, "The Sun Goes Down." This song is really cool, though it sounds pretty much like the original but with Lande instead of Lynott. Jørn's singing is a bit more forceful, but it's just as good.

So in all, Spirit Black is just a great album. It's a major influence on my guitar playing, and it holds a special place next to As the World Bleeds (Theocracy) and The Power Within (DragonForce). Really I can't recommend it enough, though it is a bit different than the other Jorn albums. The closest I can think of is the Dio tribute, aptly titled Dio... hmm, I sense a review for that one will be in the works... it is my second favorite Jorn album, after all...