Hey, guess what? I’m back with another doom record! This time it’s Arizona-based outfit Spirit Adrift’s sophomore release Curse of Conception, released October 6th by 20 Bucks Spin. The Western US is putting out some fantastic doom metal lately, with Usnea, Pallbearer, King Woman and more pumping out fantastic records in this style in the past few years. It won’t take long before we hear Spirit Adrift mentioned in the same breath as these bands. With only a year since their debut, I was interested to see how things progressed, given how soon the new material has been created. It’s worth pointing out that Spirit Adrift were also on a split released earlier this year (titled Fraught With Peril) with fellow doomsters Khemmis through War Crime Recordings; this split has been one of my favorite releases of the year, so make sure to check that out as well. The point is, this has been one busy project.
The first of the eight songs on the album is “Earthbound”, and it opens up with a rolling acoustic guitar that builds to include the entire ensemble. The whole sound is unmistakable and indelibly doom. Nate Garrett’s wailing vocal style is suited perfectly to this melancholic style of metal that hearkens back to the earlier days of the genre; the familiarity that it creates is comforting, but there’s nothing here that seems like an imitation. It gave me a real sense of warmth, yet didn’t bore me. “Earthbound” is a great start to the album, and bound to be a signature song for the band.
The title track is up next, and its catchy (and slightly nihilistic) title, “Curse of Conception” is a real standout. Lyrically, the song is gloomy and accusatory to the listener, as metal of this style should be, but without striking the deceased steed. Around the four-minute mark, the pace of the track slows down, and harmonizing guitar solos lead into a single guitar, and then back to two. This is a lovely part of the composition that feels classic in all the right ways. We even get a bridge that hits a major chord or two before the song wraps up! I was wondering about the growth of the band earlier, and this is a solid showcase of just how things have progressed and the maturity of the songwriting.
As the record progresses, there is plenty to love; from the slightly chaotic and dissonant, “To Fly on Broken Wings” to the quiet and intimate “Starless Age (Enshrined)”, the pacing of the record stays consistent, without deviating too much from the formula. The riffs are massive, the guitar tone is on point, and the vocals feel as strained and desperate as they should. We get a nice upbeat track in the five-minute “Graveside Invocation”, armed with fantastic lyrics and a beat that will get you bobbing your head in no time. While all these songs are great, it’s the sixth track on Curse of Conception that had me smashing the repeat button like a know-it-all contestant on a quiz show.
“Spectral Savior” is one of the best doom songs that I have heard this year, and maybe even longer than that. With thunderous drums and a guitar tone that fills the room, this song begins separating itself from the pack very quickly. Once the vocals arrive, the rhythm section begins to push the track forward, the riffs getting simpler and letting the song breathe. With some amazingly nihilistic lyrics, delightful guitar solos, and an ending passage that is the most progressive that Spirit Adrift has even recorded, it’s easily my favorite on the album. Just a second, let me listen to it again before wrapping up this review.
I have said it more than once this year, but it bears repeating that this has been a standout year for doom metal. With massive releases from all schools of the genre, there are plenty of bands creating great records that will no doubt end up on a lot of lists at the end of the year. While it’s probably premature to say that Spirit Adrift will surely end up on some of these, I have no doubt that this will be on a list that I will make, even if it’s only in my head. The merging of classic sounds, without resorting to simple worship, shows real confidence and maturity. Great songwriting, nihilistic lyrics that are true to the genre, and pacing that makes for a good listen: Curse of Conception is a must for fans of doom. So while you go get it, I’m going to go listen to “Spectral Savior” again.
Notable Tracks: “Curse of Conception”; “Starless Age (Enshrined)”; “Spectral Savior”
FFO: Khemmis, Candlemass, Pallbearer