Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Spiritual Beggars – Return To Zero
I’ve been a fan of Michael Amott for a while now. He certainly has all the death metal cred he needs, having formed Arch Enemy back in 1996, after doing a stint with the immortal Carcass, and prior to that forming Swedish death metal OG’s Carnage. So his metal pedigree is about as rock solid as they come, at least in my book.
I kept hearing about this other band of his, Spiritual Beggars, which he started around the same time as Arch Enemy, but was not metal at all. The description I always heard was “stoner rock”. I finally checked them out with the release of their most recent album, “Return To Zero” from 2010. And then beat myself repeatedly about the head and face for taking so long to get into this band.
I don’t know that stoner rock is the right pigeon hole for these guys, at least not on this newest release. I put this CD in and had to take it out about 2 minutes later to see if they had maybe put the wrong CD in the case, because it really sounded like some vintage Deep Purple from the classic “Machine Head”/”Made In Japan” era. If I had to tell someone what this band sounds like, that would be my reference point, although there is definitely stuff that would also be right at home on the “Perfect Strangers” release as well.
But please don’t take that to mean that these guys are just Deep Purple clones. In fact, they are far from it, but they do have that similar riff based groove going. “Return To Zero” opens with the titular intro, just a little synth-y thing that lasts less than a minute, then right into “Lost In Yesterday” we go. It’s a very nice, moderately heavy, moderate tempo song and gets things going. “Star Born” is up next, and it picks up the tempo without losing the groove. Then we have “Chaos Of Rebirth”, which has heavier, slightly ominous feel to it, but maintains that nice groove feeling. A really good quartet of songs to start things off, and they really establish the tone for the balance of the album.
“Spirit Of The Wind”, track 6, is my absolute favorite on this album. I could literally listen to that track on a daily basis. It is more of a ballad, definitely not rooted so much in the riff and groove as the rest of the tracks, and is a really beautiful song. If you only knew Mr. Amott from his death metal stuff, this one will really take you by surprise.
This is a really solid release and I can’t recommend it highly enough. In fact, on the strength of this album I have gone and purchased the rest of the Spiritual Beggars catalog. They really are that good, and listening to the earlier stuff I can see how they were tagged as stoner rock. My only wish is that the releases came along a little more often than every three or four years. Check out this other side of Michael Amott, it is well worth doing.