„This album features so many memorable guitar harmonies and rivals Inter Arma for doom(ish) album of the year.“ – high praise from Khemmis, who talk about Chained to Obivion, Sprit Adrift’s debut album. An impressive premiere nobody even mildly interested in all things doom should’ve ignore (mea culpa!), and one that even was projected a few months early by the similarly impressive Behind – Beyond. Even more impressive: Spirit Adrift is the brainchild of sole member Nate Garrett, who expressly underlines his capability here with stellar songwriting, crushing instrumental skills and an sheer excellent vocal performance. So thanks a thousand times for the hint, Khemmis! And while you let the 5 songs on Chained to Oblivion majestically creep under your skin, take some time to reflect on Sprit Adrift’s final account of 2016.
1. Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows
It’s rare these days for a band to be totally pure of intention, pursuing their own unique vision with hyper focus. Inter Arma is doing just that, and it’s cool to see them getting such accolades this year. Everything about this album is stunning. Instead of becoming progressively more streamlined or easier to swallow (as many bands do), Inter Arma only continue to expand the scope of their ambition. Yet all the while, they have forged a distinct personality and vibe all their own. Their hard work and refusal to limit themselves has resulted in an uncompromising, truly progressive piece of work.
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2. Vektor – Terminal Redux
This album is similar to Paradise Gallows, in that it’s meant to be experienced as a whole. The level of musicianship on this is astounding, not just because all four of these guys are shredding at a level few will ever reach, but because every guy’s performance is so damn tasteful. It’s one thing to shred scales, sweep pick, or play blast beats with reckless abandon. It’s another thing altogether to be technically extraordinary and also emotionally moving. The performances are stunning, the songwriting is mature, and when combined with an overarching vibe of sci-fi dread and wonder, we’re left with a memorable, exciting classic.
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3. Khemmis – Hunted
I’m so proud of these guys for everything they’ve achieved in the last couple of years. Hunted, as many have said, sees a really good band becoming a really great band by honing their sound into a unique voice. These guys put a ton of work into the entire process and it shows. The songs are engaging, catchy, and downright fun at times. Khemmis is carving their own path across the landscape of metal, and I’m thrilled to be able to witness it.
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4. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth
Some might be surprised to see this on my list, but this album has more in common with the bands above than is obvious. Sturgill could have easily made another album that sounded like his previous release, which was highly acclaimed. Instead, he made a record strictly for himself and his family, and it’s quite different. In other words, he didn’t play it safe. He approached the writing and recording of this album from a radically different angle, which allowed him to reinvent himself but also maintain his signature appeal. Generally speaking, old-school country is quite possibly my favorite genre of music. The subtlety of the performances, the sincerity of the heartbreak and self-loathing in the lyrics, the earnestness of the singing… it all has an influence on Spirit Adrift. Sturgill Simpson means every word he sings and feels every note he plays, and that comes across to the listener, whether they know it or not. I’m currently making a lot of progress on the next Spirit Adrift album, and the pure but unexpected approach that Sturgill took with his album has definitely influenced the whole process.
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5. Youth Code – Commitment to Complication
This last spot was a toss-up between this album and Wider Than The Sky by 40 Watt Sun. These were probably my two most-listened to albums on tour this year. I first heard this Youth Code album when I was driving Pallbearer through a trippy lightning storm on the East Coast. Hearing these overwhelming sounds in the middle of that nearly-psychedelic wall of constant lightning is an experience that will stick with me forever. Instead of attempting to describe this album, I’ll just repeat what someone on Youth Code’s Bandcamp page said. This is „Napalm Death meets the Blade Runner soundtrack.“