Review: Spirit Adrift – Chained to Oblivion
There’s not much gloom in this doom, but every moment is perfectly emotive in unexpected ways.
There’s an emerging sub-style of doom that is capturing me in its smoky cloud. It certainly sounds like doom, but as Joe and Randall mentioned in their recent podcast, there’s something cathartic about it, like an ancient holy reverence (“Church Doom,” per Mr. Thor). It also has a lot in common with the stoner variety, with a fuzzed out guitar and saggy stringed bass, but it stops just short of psychedelic. Last year it was Khemmis that took me by surprise with this full-of-feels doom. This year it is Spirit Adrift.
Chained to Oblivion opens with a classic doom riff, full of heavy bass. It acts as a grounding point for the surfacing originality. Once the song opens up, you are greeted by Spirit Adrift’s signature style. Vocals soar above the fuzz and sludge, and every moment is packed full of potential energy. It instills a suspended anxiety that lasts through the whole song. “Psychic Tide” concludes with an interesting and genuinely captivating fade-away solo-of-sorts. There are a few places on the album, including this outro, where Nate Garrett (the mastermind behind Spirit Adrift) takes obvious risks and bends expectations. These risks set Spirit Adrift apart in an overpopulated and often repetitive genre.
“Marzanna” starts slowly and builds to a big chorus and continues to charm with great fuzzed out solos and a reemergence of that cathartic energy. In this song and throughout the album, there are a few points where the vocals go in an awkward and unexpected direction, but the imperfections somehow make it more endearing. It’s a risk that generally pays off as it grants a look deeper into the very human heart behind the downtuned riffs and distraught lyrics. I wouldn’t mind if this aspect was polished up in future releases, but it is also not really a distraction on Chained to Oblivion.
“Form and Force” (which was played on the aforementioned podcast) is an amazing stand-alone jewel and quintessential Spirit Adrift. If you’re looking for a starting point to the band, this track is the perfect introduction. Somewhere around this track, in the middle of the album, I realized that I was taking a lot of mental notes about the emotion but never getting any more specific than that. There’s an emotional spectrum expressed in Garrett’s voice, with anger, regret, sorrow, and hope all intermingling as one as he sings, “Voices permeate, uniting strands of time,” while the drums hammer home some nebulous feeling deep into our hearts. The combined effect is one of sinewy foreboding, as though we’re dangling by a taut rope over the swirling riptide of the human experience. Garrett’s voice is our only guide through the spray and foam, and yet, unexpectedly, we’re being called to leap headlong into the water. Perhaps letting go won’t be so bad, he tells us.
Through most of the album, Garrett’s risks are mostly relegated to voice and timbre, but there’s a surprising left turn at the intro to “Hum of our Existence,” the majestic final track of the album. Tribal drumming leads off into a riff straight from another world. I’ve never heard anything like the opening two minutes of this track, but this unexpected twist pays off as the final release from the long-held cathartic moment, punctuated with a yell of “How many times can one thing die” that makes my hair stand at attention. This moment is the bow on a beautifully wrapped and structured album; it is the song in which all the emotional tension finally finds release and resolution, and it is a beautiful farewell from the emotional journey we just took.
Patience is key when listening to Spirit Adrift. Taking a few notes from some of the post metal greats, the slow building sections are equally as interesting as the exultant highs on Chained to Oblivion. Every time I listen to this album it makes more and more sense that it is the creative product of one man. The emotional complexity is unmatched, and one vision directing all instruments was the key to communicating these feelings effectively. This is an album that will get people through tough times. You can feel the authenticity, which is a very powerful thing in the days of unending sarcasm and ironic creation. As a debut (not counting the also very good EP), this album exceeds the “proof of concept” that I usually expect, and is a dominant footprint in the current state of doom.
4.5 out of 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Be sure to like Spirit Adrift on Facebook, and pre-order the album out this Friday!