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Remember my name - 85%

gasmask_colostomy, October 19th, 2019

The feeling that you know Spirit Adrift’s music intensely familiarly may well wash over you as you listen to Divided by Darkness. Proper, depthy heavy metal is the order of the day on songs like ‘Born Into Fire’, with elated vocals and soaring leads crowning slow melodic or quicker, triplet-based riffing in a manner that has seen Argus and Visigoth reaping major rewards of late. Though this kind of heavy metal is all about power - what with most of the instrumentation pushed to 11 - it also relies on feelings, which is where the doomy pacing and heartfelt vocals come into the equation.

However, the Arizona quartet really have no business sounding as NWOBHM as they do during the later stages of ‘Angel and Abyss’, dry bluesy guitars creaking out rambunctious fills to an up-tempo rocking rhythm. That’s because the album as a whole excels in its smoothness and modern use of chops and balance. The crystalline lead guitar tone sounds physically flawless, while the other instruments are smoothed down without taking the knock totally out of the drums, plus Nate Garrett’s voice sticks to its upper registers, trading between ethereal lightness and impassioned struggle not a million miles from Pallbearer’s latest. However, ‘Angel and Abyss’ proves to be an all-round anomaly, leading in with clean balladic verses, over which Garrett wails poignantly. ‘We Will Not Die’ represents the opposite extreme, riffs gathering pace to crash into a gallop of heavy/power hooves and thunder.

In abandoning some of the stricter doom tropes of past work, Spirit Adrift will certainly open up the passage to a wider audience. If they don’t come to feel the poignant tension of the vocals, they may well be ushered inside by the crisp riffing and catchy arrangements of concise songs like ‘Hear Her’ and the title track. A delightful sense of momentum and ease of movement attends much of the progress through Divided by Darkness, at first lending it a familiar sheen and eventually ensuring that it sticks with the listener as its surprising depth starts to show. Spirit Adrift may be about to become the next major word in pure heavy metal.

Originally written for Metalegion #5 -

Dreaming, repeating cosmic threads. - 90%

GrizzlyButts, June 8th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, 20 Buck Spin

When a loved one changes before you in the space of a just a few years, whether their health dissolves to pieces or their dreams are realized in their prime, to see beyond yourself and your own space in the world and to understand (and celebrate) them is perhaps the only meaningful definition of love anyone could universally appreciate. The artist is particularly flawed in this sense as they’re often pits of insatiable doubt, obsessive folks who’re only ever comfortable cloaked in their own thoughts and the worlds they’d create. It is easily forgotten how vital they are when pomp and eccentricities clip their social wings but, to assuage that discomfort and celebrate them can drive a struggling mess towards a masterpiece with great potential to enrich and salvage other lives. To be sure I’m attempting to champion to the watchtowers that’d lift and nourish Spirit Adrift‘s founder and Nate Garrett (Gatecreeper) as he’d pull himself up through his cathartic psychedelic ‘epic’ doom metal one man show towards the celebrated and fiercely earnest heights of ‘Curse of Conception’ in 2017. What a peak it was for so many that year, it’d even landed as number six on my own top fifty releases, as it was graced with references to peak Candlemass, classic thrash and Pallbearer. If you could agree that breakthrough moment was ‘club-sized arena metal’ in 2017 then I’d suggest that ‘Divided by Darkness’ is no less intimate but head-on arena metal in 2019 and that Spirit Adrift adeptly aim for the nosebleed seats with this third full-length.

Performed in full by Garrett and drummer Marcus Bryant ‘Divided by Darkness’ is band-produced with the same engineering and mastering team for ‘Curse of Conception’ in Sanford Parker and Collin Jordan. That is to say that it sounds entirely related to the previous album in terms of glossy guitar tones and warming depth though there are some very key points of growth and change within that stretch beyond the prior established spark of the project. The first and perhaps most ludicrously specific point I noticed was the very late 90’s/early 00’s choice of a baritone tuning, taking that extra step down broadens Spirit Adrift‘s range somewhat but, for some this’ll read quite close to albums like ‘Odd Fellows Rest’ by Crowbar. Any chance I get to be flung back to my teenage years by a modern heavy metal album I’m typically less than eager to be ‘pandered to’ but, the title track strikes the right chord without any such specific intent. ‘Divided by Darkness’ does appear to holistically take a trip further back to the core of what ‘holds up’ best in Garrett‘s own history of heavy music exposure with unmistakable nods to the classics that bridged hard rock and heavy metal, the most obvious being the inspiring Randy Rhoads-era Ozzy Osbourne guitar references on “Angels & Abyss”. I’d drag you through those specific points only for the sake of appreciating that ‘Divided by Darkness’ is not ‘Curse of Conception Part II’ and instead an almost entirely different mood with performances that’ll register as entirely different until you’ve been warmed through by its often jogging and impassioned hard rock pacing.

Fans of guitar harmony the metal world over should study closely what Spirit Adrift comes first and foremost with on ‘Divided by Darkness’ as the major emotive forces of the album aren’t so equally shared between Garrett‘s higher registered, slightly nasal vocal and the soaring dual guitar work that dominates the album. This heavily differentiates the experience from ‘Curse of Conception’ which was a different kind of ‘epic’ doom metal album. The prose he’d deliver, as often harmonized as the lead guitars within, reads as the same philosophe who’d seen his own character rise from strife prior now struggling to stomach the unenlightened world writhing around him in various states of defeat and revision. That same level of cosmic frustration will be familiar but it falls most often from the mouth of a centered place or, from a wailing guitar solo. You might still consider Spirit Adrift a doom metal band for thier affect and heaviness but I’d suggest they’ve done something a bit bigger than a ‘genre’ record for the second time in a row; Garrett deserves some extra credit for a pushing for a sound that continues to be unmistakably Spirit Adrift‘s own as comparisons to Pallbearer and Khemmis make far, far less sense with each release.

Stomping heavy metal numbers (“We Will Not Die”, “Born Into Fire”, “Hear Her”), sweeping modern doom hits (“Tortured by Time”, “Divided by Darkness”), evolved 80’s showmanship and balladry (“Angels & Abyss”, “The Way of Return”) and an almost progressive sludge/rock kick (“Living Light”) express in evenly distributed high-quality across the full length of the listen but reach a clear peak in the transition from Side A to Side B. Though so many bands are content to put their craftsmanship into a guitar sound or a certain level of composition Spirit Adrift appear to consistently consider the entire experience in creation of a record worthy of their own enjoyment. From the track arrangement to the tonal journey from song-to-song and the stunning second piece from artist Joe Petagno on the cover there is sense of ease and professionalism that is outrageously classic in my hands and ears and indicative of some well-considered level of taste. So, does that mean I loved it? No, not at first.

To say that I fell in love with ‘Curse of Conception’ is almost an understatement as it came just at the right time with the right sound and hell, I bought the damn t-shirt. It still moves me and perhaps even more than it did back in 2017 and as such I’d initially felt ‘Divided by Darkness’ was distant, performative, and though it took some consideration and a few casual listens I’d eventually find several songs extremely memorable. It is a more measured and variable set of songs less a pouring of catharsis and more a ‘here’s everything, my absolute best’ and I’d be a dickhead to not realize and accept a piece so driven and confidently bare-naked in its reach. The songwriting growth on display and obsessive passion put into these songs is easy to recognize and worthy of celebration as Garrett‘s goals and abilities lift up Spirit Adrift into something nearly transcendent of underground niche and referential sound. Very high recommendation, it’ll be a grower for some and an immediate sonic hug for others. For preview I’d say they’ve already curated the middle of the album well enough with preview tracks but you have to watch the video for “Angels & Abyss” at the very least, then give the title track a few extra spins as it really stuck with me as their “Planets Collide” moment.


Metal for metal's sake - 79%

CarcassBOMB, June 8th, 2019

It's stated Spirit Adrift are doom but there's a lighter melodic metal approach to it that's very nice. A lot of older inspirations from early doom/heavy metal and early melodeath in the vocals and build ups. It's not the typical expectation from the genre tag and I enjoy that, it's refreshing and uses some forgotten styles of the early 2000's. It's not associated with modern doom in any way that I can see, so it feels a little out of place among the current wave of bands, it's more vintage.

It's a blender of experiences, I particularly love the inclusion of the doom ballad in the middle of the album, the track Angel & Abyss, it really calls back to the days of Iced Earth and Witchfinder General. But even that ballad gives way completely to an Ozzy Osbourne fueled rhythm guitar under a series of soaring lead licks. There's a compulsion to show off that mostly works due to talent but can interrupt some of the slower moments. The vocalist is clearly very good, with a varied singing background but never takes it deep or dark, basically choir singing when not doing the old heavy metal wide singing. I would have liked to have heard a darker side even on just one track because sometimes it feels like the instruments are setting up for that level of heavy payoff but ultimately doesn't, instead choosing to bleed off into a different melodic direction.
They certainly end the album nicely with a longer track that spent more time on each progression and new sound introduced, building up into a flurry of battling guitars. There's a lot to enjoy overall as a metal fan but in terms of releases this year, Divided By Darkness is lacking in an engaging theme. The lyrics are quite basic and call to mind most of power metal, even Demons & Wizards. It's pretty formula driven or at least mixed for mainstream consideration. Something that's clearly working for their current popularity and for relisting, but doesn't speak to me much. If there is a concept here I just wasn't able to access it. it's at least an easy listen.

I got onto this one on Bandcamp because of the album cover. It's pretty awesome and something I noticed is that there's the artist signature at the bottom, there's a good idea for you cover artists frustrated by bands or labels not giving credit on promo and bandcamp. This one is done by Joe Petagno. He's done other Spirit Adrift records as well. This artwork brings to mind Dark Souls but most things do, it's a condition. I like how he's filled wherever space would be with some kind of dangerous creature or symbol. There's a lot going.

It's a bit vapid but it should service the average headbanger well.

From current metal reviews and artwork.

Is This The End or the Beginning? - 90%

Twisted_Psychology, May 10th, 2019

In a move that feels inevitable with their rising trajectory, Spirit Adrift has greatly streamlined their sound on Divided by Darkness. After subsisting on a hybrid of doom and classic metal for their first two efforts, their third sees the latter style winning out. The tempos are still rather middle of the road and the atmosphere is as somber as ever, but the structures are more straightforward with tighter performances to match. Superficial comparisons could still be made to Pallbearer or Khemmis, but I find myself drawing far more parallels to groups like Visigoth or Grand Magus.

This stylistic alteration is best demonstrated by the shifts in musicianship. While the guitar retains the crystalline tone seen on 2017’s Curse of Conception, the actual playing is far more intricate with the leads indulging in plenty of opportunities to shred and harmonize while the riffs work with the fat bass and hard-hitting drums to showcase bouncy rhythms. In addition, bandleader Nate Garrett’s vocal lines are delivered almost exclusively in the highest reaches of his range though he thankfully maintains the confessional tone that defined past efforts. The watery, distant production job also reinforces this movement as a natural evolution.

And though the songwriting is more compact here, the results may be among Spirit Adrift’s most diverse thus far. The more ballad-oriented tracks, “Angel & Abyss” and “The Way of Return,” arguably show the most growth as the former wallows in soft sadness before easing into a faster climax while the latter is a sweeping instrumental that closes things out in uplifting fashion. In addition, the bulldozing melancholy on “Tortured by Time” makes for a great link to the past and I can appreciate the more direct muscle on songs like “We Will Not Die” and “Hear Her.”

I wouldn’t expect Divided by Darkness to be a major commercial breakthrough but it is a great example of artistic evolution through greater accessibility. The tempo shifts aren’t so drastic as to alienate doom fans and the mournful aesthetic gives the band a unique edge compared to most traditional metal fare. It also seems to yield more substance with multiple listens, which keeps its leaner approach from feeling too dumbed down. I think this Spirit may still be drifting toward their magnum opus, but this could very well be their strongest offering so far.

“Angel & Abyss”
“Tortured by Time”
“Hear Her”
“The Way of Return”

Originally published at