Spirit Adrift – 20 Centuries Gone (EP Review)

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A formative past remembered.

Originally entering the metal scene in the mid-2010s as a traditionally-tinged doom metal project after the mold of modern purveyors with a dash of stoner sensibilities such as Khemmis and Pallbearer, Austin Texas’ own Spirit Adrift has since made some interesting inroads into the more epic side of the coin normally reserved for the likes of Candlemass and Cirith Ungol. Having reduced itself to a de facto two-person outfit in a studio capacity under the leadership of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Nate Garrett, one might assume that the direction of the band has taken on a correspondingly narrower stylistic scope given the smaller number of members with a potentially dissenting opinion, but in actuality the combination of sounds and influences at play since 2019’s “Divided By Darkness” has become increasingly nuanced and intricate. The entry of this outfit’s latest EP dubbed “20 Centuries Gone” proves no less expansive in scope or versatile in how it presents itself.

At first glance, this release follows a similar formula to that of last’s years concise EP of original material “Forge Your Future,” with two well-crafted anthems of dank yet melodic agony leading the pack. The lofty and old school metallic vibes of “Sorcerer’s Fate” in all of its early 80s Black Sabbath-influenced glory could find themselves among the track-listings of any Candlemass album during their 80s heyday with Messiah Marcolin at the helm, replete with soaring melodic guitar lines and a sorrowful, keyboard-driven atmosphere to the complement the thick and punchy stomp of the guitars, bass and drums. Granted, Garrett’s vocal approach is far less operatic than that of Marcolin’s and has that sort of gritty, working class edge that frequently sees this band compared to more rustic doom acts like Warning and Pentagram. On the other hand, the dreary blues-rock driven mannerisms and swampy-trudge of “Mass Formation Psychosis” definitely points to a more 70s-tinged psychedelic sound that should sit well with fans of Trouble and The Obsessed, and Garrett plays the role of front man and Iommi-inspired axe-man effectively.

However, when getting past the leading nods to doom metal orthodoxy, what emerges is an album that really gets into the weeds and takes the curious step of showcasing just how the sub-genre took on its current character. The first stop down memory lane is the cynical world of the 1990s, featuring a highly faithful rendition of one of Type O Negative’s most morose yet quirkily humorous odes “Everything Dies” and a similarly by the numbers recap of Pantera’s depressing ballad “Hollow”. Barring a denser drum sound standing in the place of the programmed ones on the former and a meatier guitar tone that mercifully replaces the grating scooped-mids sound Dimebag sported on the latter, the primary point of contrast from the original versions of these songs is the straight up character of Garrett’s vocals. To be fair, he does a fatntastic job of hitting all the low-notes Peter Steele original committed to recording, but his more mid-ranged baritone timbre is just not as husky and colossal as the boisterous bass of the original. Likewise, the slovenly shouts and almost grunge-like snarl of Phil Anselmo’s original performance are met with something a tad less forceful, but also more precise and smooth.

As things progress backward in time, Spirit Adrift’s approach to interpreting the past drifts closer to direct emulation. To his credit, Garrett pulls off the formidable task of emulating Kirk Hammett’s signature lead guitar work, Cliff Burton’s fancy bass high-jinks and Hetfield’s gritty vocal attack all but himself, and if there is any flaw to be found in the resulting cover of the more obscure, heavy metal-tinged Metallica tune “Escape”, it is that ironically it sounds a little too close to the original. Likewise, the transitional heavy metal/hard rock trappings of Thin Lizzy’s 1979 hit “Waiting For An Alibi” sees little attempt by the band to make the song their own apart from the attack of the instruments being heavier, and Garrett’s vocal interpretation matches the nonchalant character of Phil Lynott a little too well at times. But it’s ultimately with the entry of two 70s southern rock staples in ZZ Top’s “Nasty Dogs And Funky Kings” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Poison Whiskey” that Spirit Adrift winds up coming off like a full on cover band trying to all but perfectly copy the originals, though again, the proficiency of both Garrett and newly recruited drummer Mike Arellano in emulating the originals is uncanny.

“20 Centuries Gone” is definitely a great listen, but for those seeking a pure heavy metal or doom metal experience, some skipping around may be required. One of this album’s charms is that it provides a complete line of succession from the days of Black Sabbath’s hard rock contemporaries during the primordial days of proto-metal, leaving little doubt as to how things got from the bluesy swagger of the rocking 70s to the dark and dreary vibes of the ongoing doom craze. Spirit Adritf‘s existing fan-base that want more of what they’ve been getting over the past 3 years will likely gravitate to half of the songs found on here, while the older offerings might prove a bit too light in comparison. It’s something of a conundrum as the only real down-side here is that the otherwise risky format that was attempted would see the band shying away from following through at key points. Taken as a whole, this is a somewhat schizophrenic offering, but ultimately it’s a very well realized one, and those those with a pallet diverse enough to encompass 4 decades of stylistic evolution can surely sink their teeth into.

Order the “20 Centuries Gone” EP HERE,

Released By: Century Medua Records
Release Date: August 19th, 2022
Genre: Heavy / Doom Metal

20 Centuries Gone” Track-listing:

  1. Sorcerer’s Fate
  2. Mass Formation Psychosis
  3. Everything Dies (Type O Negative)
  4. Hollow (Pantera)
  5. Escape (Metallica)
  6. Waiting for an Alibi (Thin Lizzy)
  7. Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings (ZZ Top)
  8. Poison Whiskey (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

SPIRIT ADRIFT are:

  • Nate Garret / Vocals, guitar
  • Sonny DeCarlo / Bass
  • Mike Arellano / Drums

8.5 Excellent

In an auspicious departure from the brevity of 2021’s studio EP “Forge Your Future,” epic doom and traditional metal craftsmen Spirit Adrift unleash a duo of well polished original anthems and a veritable retrospective of where their sound originated via a series of covers.

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 7.5
  • Production 9
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