Monday 1 July 2013

Spiritual Beggars - Earth Blues (Album Review)

Album Type : Full Length
Date Released : 15/4/2013
Label : InsideOut

Eath Blues, track listing:
1. Wise As A Serpent (2:35)
2. Turn The Tide (3:25)
3. Sweet Magic Pain (4:45)
4. Hello Sorrow (4:29)
5. One Man's Curse (4:34)
6. Dreamer (5:09)
7. Too Old To Die Young (6:15)
8. Kingmaker (3:54)
9. Road To Madness (3:05)
10. Dead End Town (2:31)
11. Freedom Song (3:36)
12. Legends Collapse (5:50)

Sweden’s classic rock heavyweights SPIRITUAL BEGGARS are back in action with their new, 8th
studio album release, ”Earth Blues”, just in time to celebrate the band’s 20th anniversary in

”Earth Blues” is the follow-up to 2010’s highly acclaimed “Return To Zero” and doesn’t only
showcase the group’s trademark sound elements, gathering the best of the Classic Rock, melodic
Stoner/Doom Metal and 70’s Hardrock genres, but also stresses the untamed joy and positive
energy everpresent throughout the creation of this album. SPIRITUAL BEGGARS’ extremely tight
instrumental interaction is delivered by the same recording line-up as on the predecessor studio
album, featuring bandleader Michael Amott (Arch Enemy, ex Carcass) on guitars, Ludwig Witt
(Grand Magus, ex Firebird) on drums, Per Wiberg (ex Opeth) on keyboards, Sharlee D’Angelo
(Arch Enemy, Witchery) on bass and Apollo Papathanasio (ex Firewind) on vocals. Next to the
solidification of the band’s line up, ”Earth Blues” strong character and musical depth is also
supported by the fact the the sessions for this album mark a return to the band recording the
song’s basic parts in a ”live situation”, almost like in a gigantic jam. Guitarist and main
songwriter Michael Amott further explains: ”We started the recording process of ”Earth Blues”
with an eight day long session at ”Fat Guitar Studios” (Sweden) with knob twiddler Roberth
Ekholm, a truly great dude who really knows how to capture a band jamming live, sadly a rare
quality in recording engineers nowadays! We continued with some overdubs at various studios in
Sweden, and it’s all come together super easy this time. We finished up the mixes with Staffan
Karlsson (Spiritual Beggars, Shining, etc.) at his studio in Halmstad, Sweden. Sonically, I think this
might be our finest hour yet. It’s a raw, heavy and honest record.”

Michael Amott - Guitars
Apollo Papathanasio - Vocals
Per Wiberg - Keyboards
Sharlee D' Angelo - Bass
Ludwig Witt - Drums, Percussion

Spiritual Beggars are back. Earth Blues is their second record with Apollo Papathanasio (who replaced JB of Grand Magus fame) on vocals. The change seemed to reinvigorate the band on “Return To Zero” and “Earth Blues” progresses on from there. Indeed, as opener “Wise as A Serpent” kicks in, you will feel like the band has resurrected the spirit of Deep Purple (specifically the “Machine Head” era). The groove rocks along nicely, with a warm sound and “Rising” era Dio-esque inflections to the vocals. The Purple worship continues with “Turn The Tide”- some very Paice like hi-hat work features at the start (that is a compliment of the highest order).

Sweet Magic Pain” has a Sabbath riff, but the rest is pure Purple/Tull/Rainbow like whimsy. Piano features, as does a very live drum sound and excellent guitar work (no surprise) from Amott.
Hello Sorrow”features a melodic lead intro, backed by a swirling Hammond before breaking into a choppy groove. Apollo keeps the vocals low to start then brings on the histrionics as the track builds. Again, the rhythms are very Purple and very 70's.  One Man's Curse” starts like Stevie Wonder, what with its clavinet and groove drum beat, but then gets down and dirty as if Coverdale has unexpectedly popped round your house thirty years ago. Lovely bridge section with some good percussive overdubs, too.

“Dreamer” brings down the pace and makes for a less bombastic track, full of subtle groove and instrumental prudence. The band works deftly here. Naturally, the pace and attack picks up not too far from the end and a superb solo builds up the tension nicely as Apollo takes the vocals upwards accordingly.  “Too Old To Die Young” Brings percussion, groove and a funky riff along with the Hammond before the vocal is given space to stress the lyrics and melody. The middle section is a treat before things rev up for the close. “Kingmaker” stamps its (purple clad) foot down hard with an irresistible groove and brings a vocal worth of RJD himself.  Road to madness” features a riff that is fleet of foot and resembles perhaps BOC in places. “Dead End Townis the record's shortest track but packs in a syncopated riff, a memorable hook, a breakdown and a solo into its two and a half minutes.

Freedom Song” is a straight up rocker that is not as grandiose as its title implies. The sentiment is simple and universal, again proving that Spiritual Beggars write songs- and appealing ones at that. The Rolling Stones' trick of overdubbing an acoustic to brighten the chorus is employed here to good effect, adding more colour.  Conversely, “Legends Collapse” is the longest track on the record. It is also the most sombre, bringing an insistent, creeping riff that acts as a counterpart for the verse lines. Dio is definitely recalled here, as is Rainbow and even Dio era Sabbath.

Do not let all the reference points put you off. It would be ludicrous to suggest that Spiritual Beggars (or almost all bands, for that matter) are doing anything overtly original, but nor are they a pastiche. They wear their influences on their sleeves, certainly, but in an affectionate and sincere way. If you like 70's hard rock you will find a great deal to enjoy here. To look at it another way: Dio is dead, Blackmore no longer interested, Sabbath sadly breathing their last and Led Zeppelin are a distant memory of a band that most of us never saw.  I can perhaps thus sum up Earth Blues by saying “Be thankful that at least one band is still doing this kind of stuff and... LONG LIVE ROCK 'N' ROLL!”

Words by : Richard Maw

As ever, show your support to the band by checking them out at the various links.  You can buy the record here. This record is available now. Thanks to Freddie @ InsideOut for hooking us up