In a move that feels inevitable with their rising trajectory, Spirit Adrift has greatly streamlined their sound on Divided by Darkness. After subsisting on a hybrid of doom and classic metal for their first two efforts, their third sees the latter style winning out. The tempos are still rather middle of the road and the atmosphere is as somber as ever, but the structures are more straightforward with tighter performances to match. Superficial comparisons could still be made to Pallbearer or Khemmis, but I find myself drawing far more parallels to groups like Visigoth or Grand Magus.
This stylistic alteration is best demonstrated by the shifts in musicianship. While the guitar retains the crystalline tone seen on 2017’s Curse of Conception, the actual playing is far more intricate with the leads indulging in plenty of opportunities to shred and harmonize while the riffs work with the fat bass and hard-hitting drums to showcase bouncy rhythms. In addition, bandleader Nate Garrett’s vocal lines are delivered almost exclusively in the highest reaches of his range though he thankfully maintains the confessional tone that defined past efforts. The watery, distant production job also reinforces this movement as a natural evolution.
And though the songwriting is more compact here, the results may be among Spirit Adrift’s most diverse thus far. The more ballad-oriented tracks, “Angel & Abyss” and “The Way of Return,” arguably show the most growth as the former wallows in soft sadness before easing into a faster climax while the latter is a sweeping instrumental that closes things out in uplifting fashion. In addition, the bulldozing melancholy on “Tortured by Time” makes for a great link to the past and I can appreciate the more direct muscle on songs like “We Will Not Die” and “Hear Her.”
I wouldn’t expect Divided by Darkness to be a major commercial breakthrough but it is a great example of artistic evolution through greater accessibility. The tempo shifts aren’t so drastic as to alienate doom fans and the mournful aesthetic gives the band a unique edge compared to most traditional metal fare. It also seems to yield more substance with multiple listens, which keeps its leaner approach from feeling too dumbed down. I think this Spirit may still be drifting toward their magnum opus, but this could very well be their strongest offering so far.
“Angel & Abyss”
“Tortured by Time”
“The Way of Return”