Listening to modern traditional metal can sometimes be a little like meeting up with a special old flame. It’s a blast until you’re eventually reminded why it didn’t work out for the long haul—you moved on with your life while they seemed to stay suspended in time, and the little things you once adored now feel stale or ridiculously corny. But every so often, a band knock it out of the park so hard that they prove 70s-90s metal sounds to be every bit as timeless and cool as James Dean in a pair of Levis (or insert your own iconic imagery here) even as they expand its language. Which brings us to Enlightened in Eternity, the new fourth album from Spirit Adrift. Launched in Arizona as the solo project of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Nate Garrett in 2015, Spirit Adrift expanded into a full band for a couple of records (including 2017’s Curse of Conception) before paring down to a duo of Garrett and drummer Marcus Bryant. Though much of their early material was soaked in somber, bludgeoning doom, they’ve gradually added influences from throughout metal and rock history, most notably on last year’s Divided by Darkness. But that trajectory couldn’t prepare audiences for Enlightened in Eternity: it arrives like a bolt of lighting in an otherwise clear sky. From triumphant opener “Ride Into the Light” onward, virtually every one of the album’s eight tracks is an impeccable stand-alone banger with swagger for days. I can’t believe it’s possible to sit still through them all without being strapped down or sedated.
Earlier this month, Garrett told Heavy Blog Is Heavy that he wrote these songs during a good place in his life, but his world came crashing down around the time he went into the studio, which made for a more emotional recording process. You don’t have to know the details to feel the urgency that pervades the riotous single “Harmony of Spheres,” and his crushing vocal performance on “Screaming From Beyond” makes him sound like a man exquisitely exorcising some personal demons. Spirit Adrift embrace their doomy roots on album closer “Reunited in the Void,” where Garrett pours his heart and soul into bittersweet lyrics about suffering, loss, and eternal love. But rather than end on a downcast note, Spirit Adrift build to a steadfast rock beat and guitar solo in the outro, with the sounds of rattling chains and a slight western twang lending the dusky ambience of cowboys riding off into the sunset. That’s all to say: You want to slay a dragon? You want to muster up the strength to make it through another day of the most batshit year we’ve collectively experienced as a society? Enlightened in Eternity might just light the fire that’ll power you though the fight. v