As an esteemed colleague pointed out, metal is confounding. It’s a confusing mass of intertwining and opposing ideas and aesthetics that’ll lead you down infinite amounts of bandcamp wormholes. Metal is saturated with so many subgenres with varying degrees of differences that it’s more like a universe in and of itself. Often times, it feels like there’s music and then there’s metal. Despite the genre’s obsessive attempts at classifying everything it comes into contact with, some things are going to slip through the cracks. It seems like we get a fresh crop of genre agnosticism every year. Spirit Adrift are no exception.
There isn’t anything particularly avant-garde about what Spirit Adrift is doing. There’s just so many things happening at once that labeling the project becomes damn near impossible. Actually, if I spent the rest of this intro trying to place them I’d be missing the point entirely. Spirit Adrift are heavy metal, plain and simple. But if you’re looking for more descriptors, the project is most commonly associated with doom. There’s distinguishable traces of classic doom like Candlemass and St. Vitus. But, the ambition on display can’t be contained by doom’s dungeon. The true lineage lays in 80s metal. A time when the upper echelons of thrash and NWOBHM were in their prime and selling out stadiums without compromising their visions or the very foundations of metal.
Along with the doom tag, the moment in metal history that Spirit Adrift is typically compared to is Metallica’s Ride the Lightning. So much so, it would probably drive Nate Garrett, the Spirit Adrift mastermind, justifiably insane. That is, if it wasn’t the highest compliment you can give anyone playing this strand of metal. Truth be told, I don’t think that comparison does Curse of Conception much justice. No, wait! Come back! Ride the Lightning is an untouchable classic and has done more for the genre as whole than its contemporaries and nearly everything that has come before and since. The distinction here is: Ride the Lightning is a document of a young band growing into itself and figuring things out. That’s not the vibe I get from Curse of Conception.
Curse of Conception is coming out only fourteen months after Spirit Adrift’s debut album, Chained to Oblivion. The debut hinted at the grandeur that would come later and we should consider ourselves lucky that it came so soon. Despite the short time between the two releases, Curse of Conception is a fully formed monolith. Garret has already figured out exactly what the project is, what it does well, and how to improve on those qualities further than whatt was expected. There’s a confidence running through these tracks. The kind of confidence that allows for the intricate acoustic intro of “Earthbound”, the ear worm hooks of “Graveside Invocation”, and the title track’s shape-shifting prog. Curse of Conception is a towering achievement of modern metal brought into being with tried and true methods. It’s a testament to the big riffs, arena ready melodicism, and larger than life writing that has and always will have a place in metal.
Nate Garret was gracious enough to provide us with some insight into Curse of Conception.
Blocland: Spirit Adrift is usually labeled as doom, but I hear a lot of different things happening on this record. I’m sure I’m not the only one having trouble classifying you all as anything but just metal. Was it a conscious effort to stay out of any one subgenre?
Nate Garrett: There hasn’t been much conscious effort with anything involving Spirit Adrift. I wrote an EP and a full-length when I was feeling certain things. With this one, I was feeling all the stuff that got me excited about metal in the first place. The only goal was to write the best, most epic metal album I could.
Blocland: There seems to be a sort of doom renaissance going on right now. Bands like Pallbearer, Elder, and you are merging with prog, NWOBHM, and other sounds that aren’t traditionally associated with the genre. What do you suppose is spurring doom’s current ambitions?
Garrett: I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve been playing doom or doom-related music for over a decade. As of the last couple of years, my own personal ambitions are uninhibited for the first time in my life. I got my shit together, basically. All the music I carry with me and everything I’ve learned has finally been able to reach its full expression via Spirit Adrift. The doom renaissance could be something similar to the whole “mutual discovery” thing that happened in England in the late 60s and the Bay Area in the early 80s, who knows.
Blocland: What made you want to turn Spirit Adrift into a full-on band?
Garrett: I was asked to play Roadburn. Because of logistical issues, it didn’t end up working out. But I’m glad I was asked, because putting together a proper band allowed me to overcome some personal hurdles, and I’m very proud of what we’ve done so far and what we’re about to do.
Blocland: There’s a pretty big difference between Chained to Oblivion and Curse of Conception. The new album has a much larger sound and the compositions feel more complex. It’s kind of baffling that your debut album came just a year ago. How did that evolution come about?
Garrett: I wrote Chained To Oblivion in a few months, off and on. It just took a while for it to be released. I spent a year writing and refining Curse of Conception. I worked on it every day.
Blocland: The songs on Curse of Conception all are comprised of riffs upon riffs and they end somewhere completely different from where they began. On top of that, these songs are absolutely stacked with memorable vocal melodies. How do all of those parts come together? What’s the writing process like for a Spirit Adrift song?
Garrett: The genesis of a song will be a single riff. I demo one song at a time and re-record each demo over and over and over. I don’t stop refining the songs until they’re recorded in the studio. And actually, most songs will continue to evolve even after that. On the previous album, I was inspired by that Uncle Acid album Blood Lust at the last minute, and decided to harmonize nearly every word. On Curse of Conception, I decided to make the vocal way more of a “lead singer” performance with very select moments of vocal harmonies. That freed me up to pursue some more soulful, challenging melodies. I had a focused goal as far as what to aspire to on this album, and that goal gave me a lot of helpful guidelines and inspiration. But I want people to figure out the specifics of that on their own.
Blocland: There’s a lyric on “To Fly On Broken Wings” that stands out to me: “Fall endlessly/ love everything”. I honestly can’t recall the last time I heard a sentiment like that in metal song. Where does that lyric come from?
Garrett: The lyric is actually “lose everything,” but you have no idea how fitting your lyric is. Either one could work. That song is about pouring your entire being into something and failing perpetually, to the point that it enrages you so much that you refuse to ever give up.
Blocland: A lot the lyrics on the album seem to come from a personal place and seem somewhat vulnerable. Can you give us a little insight on what this record is about?
Garrett: I’m never going to specifically discuss what this album is actually about at its deepest level. People who know my full story can maybe figure out some of it. Some of the metaphorical themes involve the end of the world, wishing you had never been born, overcoming humanity’s inexplicable desire to destroy itself. That sort of stuff.
Blocland: The track “Wakien” doesn’t sound like any of the other tracks. During the first half I pick up on what could possibly be middle eastern vibes, though I’m sure you can identify it much better than I can. What inspired that instrumental?
Garrett: The first half is a tribute to Arkansas, actually. So you’re getting middle southern vibes. I learned so much from bands like Deadbird and Rwake, and my time in Arkansas heavily influenced the entire new album. The idea for an instrumental ties in with the goal I set for myself for the album, which I mentioned earlier. Again, I’ll let people figure that out on their own.
Blocland: I can hear influences all of the album ranging from the likes of Candlemass to Baroness. As I’m sure everyone has told you already, there’s also a lot of moments that would fit right in on Ride the Lightening and Piece of Mind. Yet, Spirit Adrift really just sounds like Spirit Adrift. How do you suppose you’re all able to maintain your own musical identity?
Garrett: That’s great to hear, and I agree. I have no qualms about celebrating my influences, but I believe that this album is something unique and special. I’ve been playing music seriously since I was four years old, playing in heavy bands since I was thirteen. If you do something long enough, you’re bound to find your own voice and identity as an artist. I’ve found mine and I’m finally 100% comfortable with it.
Blocland: In Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, he weaves the tale of Odysseus as he attempts to make it back to the island of Ithaca after the ten-year Trojan War. After fighting sirens, the mighty cyclops and a number of other obstacles, Odysseus makes it back to find a very different Ithaca. Thus prompting the question: can you ever truly go back home? Your thoughts?
Garrett: Oh man. There’s a song on the new Pallbearer album about that. The answer is no, and that’s a tragedy that haunts me frequently.
Curse of Conception is out 10/6 on 20 Buck Spin.