Friday 12 June 2015

Spiritual Beggars - 'Another Way To Shine // Mantra III // Ad Astra // On Fire LP Reissues' (Review)

Album Type: Reissues
Date Released: 29/6/2015
Label:  Music for Nations

Spiritual Beggars :

Michael Ammot | Guitars
Ludwig Witt | Drums, percussion
Christian Sjostrand | Vocals, Bass (‘Another Way to Shine’, ‘Mantra III’ ‘Ad Astra’)
Per Wiberg | Keyboards (‘Ad Astra’ ‘On Fire’)
JB | Vocals (‘On Fire’)
Roger Nilsson | Bass (‘On Fire’)


Spiritual Beggars were certainly viewed as a left turn after Amott's involvement with Carcass and they remain idiosyncratic to this day- ‘Earth Blues’ was very blatant in its Deep Purple worship, but the band have gone through many guises and three vocalists. Naturally, being a huge Grand Magus fan, I favour the record with JB at the mic- ‘On Fire’ being a good example. As well as traditional hard rock (complete with Hammond Organ) that album boasts some very doomy passages (arguably reminiscent of the direction that Magus were taking at the time- see “Young Man, Old Soul” for proof.

Certainly, the spectre of Blackmore's former bands looms large- there is some Rainbow worship here in the synth intros and the general vibe which is dark without necessarily taking on the really evil feel of heavier metal. The band plays tight and compliments JB's voice well on the likes of “Dance of The Dragon King.” Indeed, over the course of the twelve tracks the energy level does not drop and the record is still a very worthwhile listen.

The songs don't quite have the sticking power of the later ‘Demons’ opus or, indeed of the excellent ‘AD Astra’. Indeed, although JB is absent from that release (dating as it does to 2000- where does the time go?!?!) it is as fine a slab of retro rock as you could find from that or any era. ‘Left Brain Ambassadors’ tell you everything you need to know about the album- it's bombastic, weighty and very hard rocking indeed. The production is also excellent and has not dated at all. The remastering job seems fine- nice and bright (the guitars can be a little murky on albums here and there) and the live drum sound is rather joyous, I have to say.

‘Another Way To Shine’ features Christian Sjostrand (as does ‘AD Astra’) on vocals and he is a capable singer- he doesn't have the depth that JB has but delivers an enthusiastic performance over songs of hard rock of high quality. The fact that anyone was making this kind of music back in 1996 is quite incredible- I certainly was not aware of the band back then, even though I was a Carcass fan, but then again quality metal was very hard to come by in that era (the era of very questionable albums from even some of metal's biggest names). If you like the idea of a kind of revved up Cathedral, then this could have been your band then and still could be now. The songs have groove and massive guitars while driving away at mid pace or thereabouts.

‘Mantra III’ from 1998 has a rather odd intro in the form of ‘Superbossanova’ and then settles back into familiar territory of groovng hard rock mixed with trad doom and some proto metal. Spiritual Beggars have been remarkably consistent over the years and have certainly stuck to their guns. Each album is certainly different- some more energised, some have a little more doom, some sound more Black than Purple and so on, but really the band has a winning formula: big riffs, big bombastic vocals and  enough instruments to offer light and shade.

I would probably pick ‘AD Astra’ as the pick of the bunch of these reissues, but you could not go wrong with any of them; they are damn fine hard rock records from an era when nobody was doing that. They are also much, much better than the majority of bands that are peddling “Occult Rock” these days as well. These guys have got it, have always had it and continue to make records that deal it out in spades. Check out any of these reissues, their last album, ‘Demons’ or anything else they have put their name to... you won't be disappointed.

Words by: Richard Maw

‘Reissues’ are available here

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