Album Review: SPIRIT ADRIFT Ghost At The Gallows

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Led by vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Nate Garrett, Texas-based psychedelic/doom metal troupe Spirit Adrift have only been around since 2015. That’s not stopped them from putting out an impressive amount of rewardingly characteristic records, though, which have placed them at the top of their field. With Ghost at the Gallows, they solidify their standing even more. Building upon what worked so well on 2020’s Enlightened in Eternity LP and 2021’s Forge Your Future EP, the record is an infinitely appealing collection packed with some of the band’s catchiest, trickiest, and most atmospheric material.

Unsurprisingly, the album is inspired by mortality and the ethereal nature of the afterlife. As Garrett explains:

“Death has been an up close and personal part of my life since I was a young child. When I began writing Ghost at the Gallows, the specter of death hung as constant as ever. [It] navigates a world where ghosts are real, and they haunt us in the form of grief, trauma, and loss. . . . And like every entry in the Spirit Adrift catalog, the deepest aim of the lyrics is to find good in the bad, strength in weakness, and hope in darkness. It wasn’t until I finished the record that I realized all the stages of grief are present [here]. Maybe these songs were my subconscious attempt at facilitating my own grieving process. Either way, this record helps me, and I hope it helps whoever else needs it.”

Indeed, he’s dealt with several tragedies in recent years (including the passing of The Black Dahlia Murder‘s Trevor Strnad and Power Trip‘s Riley Gale). “Watching the mental health challenges that my friends couldn’t make it through in that time became infused into the spirit of this record,” Garrett adds. “Growing up without a parent or growing up seeing death up close and personal, you either don’t make it or you take on an attitude to life of: ‘Bring it on motherfucker, is that all you’ve got?’ I’m too fucking stubborn for therapy so I write songs.”

Rounded out by drummer Michael Arellano, bassist Sonny DeCarlo, and lead guitarist Tom Draper, Ghost at the Gallows immediately grabs you and never lets up.

Just listen to “Give Her to the River,” which lures you in with introductory rainfall and gently downtrodden guitarwork before erupting into a lively cavalry of vintage heavy metal riffs and rhythms. Although it’s feisty and intricate, the instrumentation is also immensely hooky, and thankfully, Garrett‘s gruffly empowered declarations are just as investing lyrically and melodically (especially the post-choruses). It’s easily one of Spirit Adrift‘s greatest album openers.

Later, Osbourne-esque epic singles “I Shall Return” and “Death Won’t Stop Me” harness similar energies and sentiments (“If I leave, I shall return / No need to grieve, I shall return”). The former track is particularly notable for its emphasis on hauntingly rustic vocal harmonies (which, to be fair, permeate much of the collection), whereas the comparably coarse latter tune exudes grit and tenacity. Both are alluring testaments to triumphing over adversity and misfortune, and true to Garrett‘s intentions, they’re undoubtedly therapeutic for listeners who’ve gone through similar hardships.

The rest of the LP demonstrates the group’s expanding stylistic diversity. Sure, there’s the old-school sludge riffs of “Barn Burner” and early ‘80s thrash vehemence of “Hanged Man’s Revenge” to uphold the quartet’s prevailing roughness. Yet, there’s also the beautifully folkish acoustic introspection at the heart of “These Two Hands,” as well as the progressive metal tendencies of “Siren of the South” and the multifaceted culminations of the closing title track. While some similarities exist across the sequence, each piece of the puzzle has its own irresistible identity.

Ghost at the Gallows is an essential entry into Spirit Adrift‘s already absorbing discography. Embodying the best of what the genre(s) can do musically and emotionally, it’s a terrific illustration of mastermind Garrett‘s ability to maintain quality and ambition despite being astonishingly prolific. In other words, Spirit Adrift never sacrifices quality for quantity, and with its heartfelt songwriting and dynamic arrangements, Ghost at the Gallows is likely the best example yet of that achievement.

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