Review Summary: A big splash in this secret garden.
It almost feels as if we’ve been waiting the best part of the year for Eternal Blue
. After all, first glimpses into the band’s debut came via the singles released late April and May. These singles, much like the collection of tracks Spiritbox has released over the last couple years, sent shockwaves through mainstream metal, creating anticipation and speculation as to what kind of music Spiritbox would offer in a complete studio format. Largely, there were questions as to whether they’d continue with their take on Tesseract worship a la the self-titled EP
; leaning into some strong progressive tendencies while Courtney LaPlante carried the group’s instrumental efforts with some well-placed harmonies or whether they’d conform to the mainstream metalcore style of stand-alone tracks like “Rule Of Nines” and “Blessed Be”. With this in mind it became apparent that Eternal Blue
would marry both aspects of the band’s existence moving forward, but still manage to sit on the less progressive side of the fence—predictable, not unwelcome.
The biggest fear Eternal Blue
would face within its release cycle is the fact we’ve been listening to its singles for a better part of half the year. Personally speaking I was sure there’d be some unintentional ear fatigue, especially in regards to “Secret Garden” and “Holy Roller”. Of all Spiritbox’s newest tracks, it’s these that share the greatest mileage and yet any fatigue is so small it’s hardly measurable. Why bring this up? Because against all odds, Eternal Blue
is already showcasing longevity
; through catchy song-writing, through vocal hooks, through cliche, through dime-a-fuc
king-dozen djent-y groove riffs and it is ridiculous to disagree—belligerence in the face of unwavering greatness. That’s not to say we as listeners had a perfect run. Individually, “Hurt You” is merely acceptable
, and while Courtney tells Apple Music the track deals with “the ups and downs of a toxic relationship”, the music itself runs the same copy/paste ideals imprinted throughout the metalcore genre. “Halcyon” has a similar existential effect. While I’ve tried to avoid the term, it’s almost pointless to skip on terms like ‘filler’. Circling back to “Hurt You” if you take this instrumentation, record another vocalist over the top and you’re probably on the fast track for a Kerrang!
column. I digress, there’s nothing offensively bad here, in fact it’s quite the opposite. We’re not comparing apples
. No, we’re comparing “Hurt You” to “Circle With Me”, “Constance”, “Holy Roller”, “Sun Killer, and “Silk In The Strings” and among such peers, something had to get the shorter measure—even if it’s a minor gripe under an even larger scale.
As such, Eternal Blue
’s introduction makes way for it’s more poignant and celebrated ending. “Sun Killer” is a cinematic launch pad to the rest of the record. Electronic twinklings appear like distant stars on a blackened canvas. It’s true that Courtney’s vocals take up much of the limelight, but there’s a build here that culminates in what will become the band’s signature; big, bombastic breakdowns in the track’s final minutes. Instrumentally speaking, there’s not a great deal of flamboyant moments here past big riffs and an underlying cushioning for clean vocal croons, but “Sun Killer’s” approach is closer to ‘less is more’ than a stripped back version of their more proggier singles. The restraint couples well with the okay
“Hurt You”, but it’s the Sam Carter (of Architects fame) that is going to cause some contention. At face value, “Yellow Jacket'' is more of the same from the Spiritbox end. Courtney’s growls and shouts couple well with the industrialism that peeks out of the djent-riff framework, but Sam’s inclusion here is less the home-run it should be and caters too much to the yin and yang between the two featured acts. Had Sam shared a few lines with Courtney, or provided a screaming contrast to her cleans, “Yellow Jacket” would be lauded as one of the year’s better metalcore tracks...instead, it simply exists as a ‘meh’ moment wrapped in the potential greatness of Eternal Blue
been so much more.
As much as I don’t want to give you a play-by-play of Spiritbox’s debut, it’s hard to skip past the melodicism of “The Summit”, or the fact that “Silk In The Strings” is the heaviest three minutes Spiritbox has put together. Caustic riffing compliments some fierce growls, while the octane chorus simply holds a no barred approach. Courtney forgets to caress the track’s verses and simply slips into a guttural, pissed off version of herself. It’s just one of those tracks that’s bound to set a mosh off. “Holy Roller” is also a banger set for a live audience. Whilst being one of the album’s leading singles, the track itself is still as visceral amongst its fellow tracks as it is as a stand alone (there’s also a version featuring Ryo Kino***a of Crystal Lake).
Even as we head into the record’s latter half and the title track it’s pretty clear that even with Eternal Blue
’s simpler instrumental soundscapes, Spiritbox are onto something special with this formula. Synth backs the track and holds everything together while near-pop melodies and vocal phrasings provide breathing room for amply simple riffs to bolster the solidness of the group’s sound. While most of the record so far has brought bombast to the front, “Eternal Blue” epitomises restraint, both musically and within Courtney’s lyricism. Often we hear Courtney sing “slow down
”, a message as contextual as it is literal for the music it soars over it. Sure, there’s a chugged rhythm that blends well into the album’s larger style but it’s an afterthought, or a bracing for that rare guitar solo that bleeds through the speakers. Yet, the title track isn’t the only time we hear the group’s more poppier climes. “We Live In A Strange World” almost begs for a collaboration from one of modern pop’s stalwarts; whether that’s the likes of Swift or Demi Lovato that remains to be seen. If nothing else, Spiritbox dismiss the ideas that they’re a one-trick pony.
Arguably, Eternal Blue
saves its best for last. The one-two punch of “Circle With Me” and “Constance” may signify the best of metalcore this year. Don’t be dismayed at the hyperbole in that statement; but as we travel through even paced metalcore tropes citing hooks galore and Courtney’s lush vocal groupings these tracks just get stuck in their listeners’ heads. “Constance” is a defining moment for a band that should
go on to achieve great things. Notably slower in comparison to the rest of the record’s more up-paced rhythms, the track relies on a lyrical story carried by Courtney’s more gentle, clean vocals, but that’s a too simple summary of the track. Even as we get carried away by the vocals, the song’s instrumentation lifts equally. Instead of going balls out on the climax, the band simply build and build and...release, circling back to the restraint I mentioned earlier. It would have been all too easy to throw huge riffs and a screamed breakdown at the end of the track, robbing the catharsis that had built within the track’s atmosphere. Instead Spiritbox take the high road and leave us in the mood we’re in.
As easy as it would be to simply lump on the praise for Spiritbox’s debut and ignore those minor missteps mentioned above, it wouldn’t do any good for those who read this. You see, Spiritbox have more yet to offer, more growth, more great tracks and, if we’re lucky...they might even hit all that growth on a sophomore release. Flowers
will wilt, but the blue