Band: Spirit Adrift
Album: Curse of Conception (2017)
Genre: doom metal
Where to buy: Bandcamp
Curse of Conception, Spirit Adrift’s sophomore album, is expansive and versatile, full of tension and release. A depressive emotional tenor is on display here, from despair to reprobation to capitulation, painted in the lyrics and musical crescendos and diminuendos of a band that knows how to be patient. If writing and performing doom were a quest in an RPG, the key quest item would be the potion of patience or something similar. The songs on Curse of Conception aren’t just moderately paced; they’re lessons in slowing your roll for the greater purpose – and here, the greater purpose is excellent songwriting. Across the album’s 47 minutes, progressions build with exacting constriction, condensing the energy like a contracting star, then exploding with satisfying resolution, scattering the elements of the next generative cycle into the doomy oblivion. And for how depressive the tone is, there exists within it a certain amount of catharsis. Providing that closure is one of doom’s best qualities, and Spirit Adrift manages it in serene style.
Spirit Adrift began as the solo project of Nate Garrett, but has grown into a full band with Curse of Conception. Thematically, the album is a treatise on death, disappointment, and inevitability – classic subjects for doom. It doesn’t rush in making its points, either. From the first notes, plucked on acoustic guitars, Curse of Conception demonstrates its patience and establishes the pattern of mounting tension to be released… soon. Even the vocal style asks us to wait, as Garrett sounds like he’s howling at us from the end of a long hallway, and in order to hear him we must bide our time while the echoes reach us.
It’s also clear that the band knows its metal history. The influence of the greats is strong on this album. The first notes of opener “Earthbound” are a riff on the famous bass opening of “My Friend of Misery” by Metallica. The title track’s dual harmonized guitar solo reminds me of the lead guitar attacks of Blue Oyster Cult and Thin Lizzy – but this is not a theft of a riff or line. These similarities are just that: similar, but different enough from their forebears to be influenced by but not derivative of them. Spirit Adrift is very consciously picking up the torch and venturing further into the genre, finding their own way but not forgetting what has come before. The result is that Curse of Conception is an album that could only have been written recently. It does not stagger under the weight of history. Instead, it upholds traditions without merely repeating them. All of this means that the album is enjoyable not just on its own terms, but in relation to Sabbath and Floyd and others, and that having heard those influences will allow an appreciation of Curse of Conception not otherwise accessible.
Some of these invocations of the past come through in production. The guitar tone is noticeably restrained here. Instead of going all-out with the distortion, guitarists Nate Garrett and Jeff Owens resist cranking the gain and letting the distortion fuzz out a bit more naturally than another band might. This produces a warmer distortion, with plenty of comforting mids. Behind the guitars, Chase Mason’s bass is also warm, laying down the low end without punching over the mix. On drums, Marcus Bryant keeps the ensemble from running away. Only a few times does he advance to double time, such as near the end of “Starless Age,” where he ramps up the speed and hits in a classic hard rock style. This is one of the best moments and movements on the album, providing opportunity for an excellent guitar solo, some pregnant grand pauses, and the release of the tension build over the song’s previous four minutes. These elements come together in rushing moments and are precisely as satisfying as we need them to be. After waiting for four or five or more minutes while the pressure grows, a fast-paced exultation is just what we need, and Spirit Adrift delivers us to purgation.