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What a Bargain! - 92%

CaravanoftheBizarre, July 8th, 2010

Ah, Scott "Wino" Weinrich. Can he do any wrong? Well, taking a quick look at his impressive repertoire, it would be quite a claim to say he hasn't released anything worthwhile. Fronting acts that include the legendary Saint Vitus, the pioneering 70's doom outfit The Obsessed, the new all-star band Shrinebuilder and many other respected musical ensembles, he has built himself quite a large body of work and a cult following to boot; however, I can't help but feel that his--debatably--greatest project has been overlooked. This project is Spirit Caravan.

With only two full lengths and one EP in their brief existence, one may think that a best of compilation is somewhat useless and merely a cash grab. After all, you can just buy the two releases and get all of the songs instead of some random highlights put together, although the price may be a bit higher. Then why is The Last Embrace such a great deal? Well, the compilation includes every song on both The Jug Fulla Sun and Elusive Truth full lengths, and it also includes three excellent bonus tracks previously unreleased by the band; all in a two-disc case for about twenty dollars. Quite a deal, no? It's especially conveniant considering that the Jug Fulla Sun album is nearly impossible to acquire without shelling out fifty bucks. The only complaints I have about this compilation is one, it does not include the Dreamwheel EP and two, it does not have the original Jug Fulla Sun recordings for the songs Courage, Powertime and Lost Sun Dance, and instead, uses a 7" version with a less than steller production job compared to the Jug Fulla Sun versions; It just would've been nice if they included both versions of the songs instead of only these lesser versions.

Aside from those two minor negatives, there is virtually nothing to complain about with this release. As mentioned before, it includes their two full lengths-- Jug Fulla Sun and Elusive Truth-- and three previously unreleased tracks. The music on the two full lengths actually differ substantially. Jug Fulla Sun has more of a hard rock meets doom sound that is a bit more lighthearted and catchy than its counterpart Elusive Truth. The aforementioned Elusive Truth tends to have a much heavier doom tone and more songs that have a slowed down tempo; Wino even experiments with harsh vocals on Undone Mind and Retroman and, in a way, sounds a bit like High on Fire's Matt Pike. However, the music is just as catchy and the riffs are just as memorable as the songs with cleaner vocals.

Apart from those differences, there are many recurring themes on the two full lengths. For instance, the lyrics on both releases deal mostly with spirituallity, the beauty of our natural world, and politics --every theme delivered with excellent penmanship from Wino. The songs are mostly structured around the guitar riffs and vocals of Wino. And there is a good deal of diversity between the songs in both albums; ranging from driving, fast-paced rockers (Kill Ugly Naked, Healing Tongue, Lifer City) to mid paced, southern-tinged ballads (The Last Embrace, No Hope Goat Farm) and slowed down stoner hymns (Sea Legs, The Departure).

As always, the vocals and guitar work of Wino is great; they are very consistant throughout both discs, and as pointed out before, they are the main focus of the songs. Maybe too much focus actually. What I mean by that is, the bass is almost completely inaudible. Which, for a stoner metal album, is pretty strange. The drums, on the other hand, can be heard very well and are performed in a simplistic yet demanding manner. Besides the lack of bass guitar, I really don't have a problem with the production, and when listening to a song like Cosmic Artifact, I'm usually to busy being wowed by the great songwriting and riffs to care much about the production.

All in all, if you're a fan of stoner metal, I recommend this compilation to you. It is filled with great riffs, vocals and songwriting from Wino. Also, if you're looking to get into Spirit Caravan, look no further, for this is just for you. As mentioned before, it contains the two rare full lengths and three great unreleased songs (around two hours of material) for twenty dollars.

The only Spirit Caravan release you'll ever need! - 100%

Lucifffer, June 5th, 2008

It’s a pity Spirit Caravan were such a short lived band, lasting only 3 short years. Scott “Wino” Weinrich (formerly of “The Obsessed” and “Saint Vitus”) and his kin produced some of the greatest doom/stoner metal since Black Sabbath invented the genre. However, as if it were a gift to apologize for breaking up, they left us with one last release; “The Last Embrace”.


“The Last Embrace” is basically a “greatest hits” if you will, but is different in the fact that it rolls pretty much their entire short lived discography (“Jug Fulla Sun” and “The Elusive Truth”), minus a few songs from demo albums, into 2 CD’s of pure doom metal heaven. As an added bonus, we receive some brilliant, previously unreleased tracks such as the southern-tinged, bass-heavy, title track “The Last Embrace” and “Dove Tongued Aggressor” which was featured on the sound track to the video game “Tony Hawks American Wasteland”. Also included are tracks only previously released on 7” vinyl.


The first disc comprises of the album “Jug Fulla Sun”, with bonus tracks “The Last Embrace” and “Brainwashed” serving as a kind of introduction. Despite the bonus tracks the album flows together beautifully, marrying each guitar solo and heavy riff with beautiful harmony. After listening to this album a few times, you’ll be able to sing along with the riffs in your head, knowing exactly what the next one will be and what the next track is. After the “Jug Fulla Sun” portion finishes with the amazing southern-tinged “No Hope Goat Farm” we subjected to three more excellent bonus tracks from 7 inch releases, and the “Metal Injection” remix of “Powertime”.


The second and equally brilliant disc features the (very) slightly heavier album “The Elusive Truth”. This disc is slightly more “thrashier” (well, maybe a slow, stoner kind of thrash) than “Jug Fulla Sun”, as can be heard in songs such as “Undone Mind”, “So Mortal Be”, “Retroman” and “Outlaw Wizard”. Also interesting on this disc is that Wino’s vocals sound a tad more husky than usual, which is particularly evident on the songs “So Mortal Be” and “Undone Mind”, which come from the self titled 7”.


If I had to describe this album in one word, I would have to say “perfect” as this 2 CD compilation has everything you could ever want in a stoner/doom metal album. It’s a full 2 hours of stoner riffs, face melting guitar solo’s and heavy bass guitar that’s perfectly complimented by spiritual and politically themed lyrics. This release is to Spirit Caravan as “The Black Box” is to Black Sabbath, a near discography in one handy package.


A must have for any fan of Scott Weinrich and/or doom metal.


10/10


Buy it now.


(Also, check out the song "Kill Ugly Naked" (my personal favorite), it's the closest thing you'll ever get to Black Sabbath doing a Ramones cover!)