Review Summary: Spiritual Beggars still going strong albeit more melodic.
It feels like yesterday when 20 years ago, Spiritual Beggars were the next best thing in heavy rock along with Kyuss, Monster Magnet and Cathedral. In an era where rock was practically dead, with declining sales and limited interest from young audiences, those four bands provided hope and inspiration. For a kid who was jamming Deep Purple and Black Sabbath 24/7, these guys were received as saviors and in a bizarre way, pioneers; bear in mind, that most acts back then aspired to be the next Paradise Lost, Sepultura or Dream Theater rather than Motorhead or Thin Lizzy. Fast forward two decades and revival bands pop up like thirsty snails after the rain. However, clutter, or its lack thereof, was one of the reasons that the aforementioned acts enjoyed success early in their careers and lasted for so long.
It would be a lie to suggest that Spiritual Beggars have remained the same throughout their careers; changes in personnel and style have impacted the music they play. For those who have checked the band’s previous effort, Sunrise to Sundown
will probably feel like a natural evolution. In regards to their older material, Amott and Co. seem to be heading towards a sound that is less influenced by the likes of Black Sabbath, Hawkwind and Jimi Hendrix and based more in post-In Rock
Deep Purple. The result is an LP that is focused more on melody rather than groove; it’s less gritty and more polished. This is not to say that Spiritual Beggars have followed a more commercial approach because, either way, the outcome reeks of character. For example, “Diamond Under Pressure” might sound like a cross between Deep Purple’s “Might Just Take Your Life” (verses) and “Woman from Tokyo” (chorus), but still has Amott’s characteristic guitar playing.
What makes Sunrise to Sundown
such a fun listen though, is its variety. On one hand, “What Doesn’t Kill You” features a guitar riff that reminds Sacrifice
-era Motorhead and on the other, on “I Turn to Stone” the band goes into a psychedelic a la Cream mode with drumming that brings to mind Ginger Baker. What’s more, Per Wiberg’s performance on Hammond organ gives the album the necessary hippy touches while Apollo Papathanasio sounds like he has fully settled to the band; the vocalist’s tone and style is very reminiscent of David Coverdale and fits the music perfectly. There are also a couple of surprises, such as the proggy passage in the middle of “No Man’s Land” that brings to mind The Beatles or the Lynyrd Skynyrd-esque “Southern Star” that also includes piano. Of course, there are nods to the Beggars’ past such as “Dark Light Child” and album standout “Lonely Freedom” with the fuzzy guitar and its dreamlike nature that is similar to Kyuss.
Despite all the positives, Sunrise to Sundown
could do with a few more well-thought guitar solos. In the past, where the music was more riff-based, solos could have taken a backseat but in this melodic approach, a couple of flashier moments would have improved the final outcome. In addition, those who prefer the band’s sound on albums like Another Way to Shine
or Mantra III
might have trouble digesting the change in style.
However, as a whole the Beggars’ latest effort sounds fresh and vibrant regardless of its retro nature. Recorded with the whole band in the studio, in 5 days, this LP along with Earth Blues
, are more of a collaborative effort compared to older material and that shows. And combined with the incredible cover art, it’s bound to be enjoyed by heavy rock enthusiasts.