October 16, 2020 Spirit Adrift – Enlightened in Eternity (Album Review)
First formed in the blazing Sonoran heat, Spirit Adrift are set to release Enlightened in Eternity on October 16th through 20 Buck Spin/Century Media.
Penned over a year ago, and recorded before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, each track of Enlightened in Eternity is a subtle masterpiece, a dense suite of chord progressions, tempo changes, and ripping solos. Every song is full of heavy, crumbling riffs, heart-wrenching guitar wizardry, and some of the strongest vocal work done by multi-instrumentalist Nate Garrett to date. The relative stability afforded by drummer Marcus Bryant has forged a tight but talented partnership that will yield fruit for decades to come.
In the five years since forming Spirit Adrift, driving force Garrett has managed little more than four crushing full-length albums, two EPs, and a smattering of splits and singles, backed ably by Bryant and, for a stretch of time, a proper band in studio and on the road. Made up most recently by Chase Mason on bass guitar and Eric Wagner on guitar, the lineup for Spirit Adrift overlapped heavily with neighboring outfit Gatecreeper, where Mason and Wagner are the creative minds. Tucked there behind a musty pseudonym (Jack Maniacky), Garrett handled guitar duties.
As his sketches for Spirit Adrift took form, Garrett recruited his Gatecreeper buddies to round out two separate but complete lineups, with the bands intending to pave mutual and parallel paths. Despite a few successful years of coexistence, and not long after each appeared at the Los Angeles edition of the Decibel Metal and Beer Festival in December 2019, the two bands released a statement this past February, noting simply that Garrett had exited Gatecreeper to focus on Spirit Adrift with Bryant, while Mason and Wagner were simultaneously leaving Spirit Adrift to make Gatecreeper their main task.
As with most of the band’s catalog, Garrett handled the majority of instruments on tape for Enlightened in Eternity, with Bryant supplying drums and percussion. The final product was engineered and mixed by Ryan Bram, with production handled by Bram, Bryant, and Garrett. Mixing was handled by Howie Weinberg and Will Borza, largely at the suggestion of Century Media. Additionally, cover artwork was done by Adam Burke, and the finished work includes tributes to Lizzy and Dawkins, dogs owned by Garrett and Bryant, respectively, who died ahead of the album’s recording.
Where predecessor 2019’s Divided by Darkness attempted to reach a bony arm across the aisle and shine light on the broken state of the world, Enlightened in Eternity refuses to take “no” for an answer, demanding improvement and positivity in a universe that seems to be lacking for both. The one-two punch of the opening tracks hit the ground immediately to make this point; “Ride into the Night” proclaims, “If we make it through the night/ we will ride into the light,” while the second track, “Astral Levitation,” offers, “There is nowhere that can’t be seen/ if you let yourself be free/ there is nothing that can’t be done/ if you let it come to be.” Reinforcing the theme later, “Stronger Than Your Pain” reminds listeners, and humanity as a whole, “You remain/ stronger than your pain.”
Debut single “Harmony of the Spheres,” released this past August, takes its name from the ancient concept of musica universalis. Here, the sun, moon and planets (the “spheres”) are in harmony across mathematics, religion, and music, forming an all-knowing, all-center philosophy. The lyrics intone, “Harmony showing us the way/ every vibration is the same“; again, the lyrics here leave absolutely no room for division; much like the figures on the album cover, we ride together with a common purpose or simply do not ride at all.
Crisscrossing genres (perhaps even destroying them), Spirit Adrift supply and deliver Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, full stop, leaving all hyphens and subgenres at the door. (It is not unusual to hear Garrett proclaim at the beginning of a show, “We are Spirit Adrift and we play Heavy Metal.” Monster riffs are absolutely everywhere on this album, drenched in technical proficiency yet catchy to the casual listener; thick yet sparse enough to infect every inch of listeners’ brains. “Astral Levitation” starts as a slow, head-banging late-Seventies Metal anthem, takes a break midway through to pepper dueling electric guitar with some off-temp bass underneath, breaks off into a dead run toward an imaginary finish line (with the guitar work suitably turned to eleven), before settling back into the anthemic drive that opened the track. “Battle Cry” offers a sauntering Eighties vibe that opens with a thumping bass/drum rhythm combination that fits within some of the gaudiest Glam Metal that decade had to offer, but with all of the staggering chops and solos one would expect from Spirit Adrift.
Garrett is no stranger to paying homage to his many influences, and while his camouflage work is as impressive as it is original, there are moments where even the best writers leave obvious nods. Divided by Darkness had moments that glanced toward a few separate Black Sabbath eras, and here on Enlightened in Eternity, other influences have plugged in to join the fray: “Screaming from Beyond” starts with an easy, effortless nod to AC/DC, subtle enough that it needs to be repeated to be caught entirely, while “Cosmic Quest” is absolutely dripping with Trouble references, from the runaround guitar work, to the driving bass, to the vocal techniques used on the choral progressions. The alphabetical progression of album titles could also be a wink toward the catalog of Morbid Angel, though, knowing the attention to detail this band employs, the use of only the first six letters to cover all release titles (album, EP, or otherwise) could also be a not-so-subtle reference to the musical keys within.
Later, “Reunited in the Void” starts as a dripping Sabbath dirge, before moving on to make some deep, dark stabs at Type O Negative, namely the high skyscraping chorus of “Love will never die!” over the obvious fuzz used on the guitar at the halfway point. (Earlier, on “Screaming from Beyond,” there is a short but marked guitar “scrape” that also nods to the legendary Drab Four.) Garrett may be singing to and of separate topics, but he almost cannot help employing his friends and influences to finish painting this masterpiece of a final track. There are even nods to his own earlier work, namely some of the guitar sound used on 2017’s Curse of Conception. As far as closing numbers go, it is difficult to top the more recent tracks Spirit Adrift has used, particularly “The Way of Return” on Divided by Darkness, but “Reunited in the Void” serves as a small, but warm consolation, that perhaps the world is not as dark and meaningless as it appears.
In a larger sense, Spirit Adrift have taken their influences from the ’70s, ’80s, and even ’90s, and mixed them into a primordial stew that exists out of space and time. These songs could fit in any of the aforementioned decades and the genres that spanned them, without sounding dated, aped, or imitative; indeed, their original sound comes from the seamless blend the band makes of its predecessors, existing in all times, yet none, as relevant today and tomorrow as they might have been decades prior.
The only disappointing aspect of this album is its relatively terse length; 44 minutes may be standard fare for Spirit Adrift, but as usual, something this trim leaves the listener wanting even more. Luckily, at this current rate of production, fans can hope for another release from Spirit Adrift in the near future. Enlightened in Eternity is being released domestically by 20 Buck Spin, as usual, but international distribution is being handled by new co-label Century Media, and even the founders of 20 Buck Spin, with no animosity, are aware of the massive exposure this band now stands to earn through their years of hard work.
Metal fans old and new alike would be well-served to hold onto their hats and their seats, and to take note of where they were when Enlightened in Eternity first passed their ears and their hi-fi systems. At this point, Spirit Adrift themselves are the only force standing between the band and domination of the music industry. Most bands improve their craft, and their sound, with each album, often due solely to time and age. Spirit Adrift are living entire lifetimes between albums, destroying not just the rest of the genre with each release, but their own catalog. A crushing, rollicking trip from start to finish, Cryptic Rock gives this album 5 out of 5 stars.