Review Summary: Flows like a serpent, bites like a wolf
The resurgence of 70’s hard rock and metal is pretty evident in recent times by quite a few bands, though be it under the guise of labels such as ''stoner rock’’ and ''doom metal’’. Spiritual Beggars is such a kind of band, formed in Sweden in 1993 (!) and Earth Blues is their 8th studio album. What? They’ve been around for 22 years and you never heard of them? Well, get ready because this album is going to rock your socks off!
Formed by Michael Amott (Arch Enemy, Carcass), the band’s sound is focused around 70's hard rock with a touch of psychedelia and classic heavy metal riffs. Taken from their webpage’s PR: ''gathering the best of the classic rock, melodic stoner/doom metal and 70's hard rock genres, but also stressing the untamed joy and positive energy present throughout the creation of this album’’. This album’s line-up (they’ve changed a bit in their 22-year career) is quite astonishing with names such as Per Wilberg (Opeth) on keyboards, Sharlee D’Angelo (Mercyful Fate, Arch Enemy) on bass and Apollo Papathanasio (Firewind). But this isn’t another supergroup who got excited at some concert backstage and decided to write an album and continue to play the style they’re accustomed to. This band seems to have come together from a mutual desire to lay down some hard old-school grooves and Earth Blues is one of the best they’ve come up with yet.
Will you hear sounds similar to Black Sabbath, Budgie, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and even some vocal spins similar to Dio's Rainbow era? Oh yes you will. But they don’t just copy and paste these sounds; they put their own touch and modern spin to them. The opener ''Wise as a serpent’’ is reminiscent of Deep Purple’s Machinehead era as is ''Turn the tide’’ with its drum patterns. ''Sweet magic pain’’ has a Sabbathesque intro riff and continues with some excellent guitar work from Amott. ''Hello sorrow’’ is another very cool rocker with some amazing keyboard work whilst ''Dreamer’’ comes to remind the listener once again about the big influence of Deep Purple on the band – it could very well be the follow-up of ''Sweet child in time’’ in anyone’s playlist. Also worth mentioning are ''Too old to die young’’ for its grooveness, reminding a bit of Budgie and the break in tempo mid-song, and ''Kingmaker’’ for its tribute to Jon Lord (Per Wilberg does an excellent job on this one) and Apollo’s vocals which are reminiscent of the style of the great Dio. A personal favourite is ''Dead end town’’ because of its beautiful solo and also because, as the lyrics say, `…winter is coming’ – isn’t it Jon Snow? (see what I did there?)
All in all this is an awesome piece of work from Spiritual Beggars. Great guitar with beautiful and musical solos, not just ups and downs in the blues scales, and some amazing keyboard/organ work. Apollo’s voice does not disappoint, not even for a moment, and the percussions are spot on – simple and energetic with a loose natural swing that gives songs a more rock`n`roll feeling instead of a metal one. Give it a couple of spins and if you were not a fan of Spiritual Beggars already, you will find a good reason to become one!