Released: 2013, Inside Out
It is hard to believe that EARTH BLUES is Spiritual Beggars 8th album. The band is still led by the incredibly versatile guitarist Michael Amott, who surrounds himself with equally capable musicians to pursue his love of doom and stoner metal. The current lineup is like an all-star metal team consisting of 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. EARTH BLUES continues the trend of the band’s strong albums helping them to remain at the top of the doom metal heap.
EARTH BLUES continues the direction of 2010’s RETURN TO ZERO by infusing a massive dose of 70s inspired hard rock into the band’s own take on stoner metal. “One Man’s Curse” showcases this retro styled attack, with elements of funk, piano, and Hammond organs. Only the crunching, heavily detuned sound of the guitar lends a sense of modernity to the tune. “Turn The Tide” is the riff monster, combining the best elements of COC and Down while singer Apollo Papathanasio channels Chris Cornell, as the bass and drums interlock for a hypnotic thump complete with cowbell. The riffs and hooks are plentiful, and producer Roberth Ekholm has much to do with the success of the album, capturing the band live in the studio. There is an unmistakable presence of raw energy that is thankfully not over processed and blends perfectly with the retro nature of the music. Only “Dreamer” , a cover of a Bobby Bland’s 1974 song, slows down and unplugs somewhat, dipping deep into nostalgia with traces of Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple written all over this one. It also features an emotional and ripping solo from Amott. Digging further into the Think Lizzy bag of tricks, the band offers “Hello Dreamer” with its main riff being an obvious homage to Lizzy’s tour de force, “Jailbreak.”
One of the most impressive things about EARTH BLUES is the obvious enthusiasm and band chemistry that comes through on the album. These guys are veterans that could have just gone through the motions, but instead they continue to evolve and improve upon their formula. With literally scores of stoner metal and doom metal bands waving the retro flag, Spiritual Beggars is distinguished from the pack by the fact that they stared doing this in the early 90s, when the retro movement was still over a decade away. Fans of more modern and heavier metal might be put off by the 70s hard rock/metal stamp that Spiritual Beggars employs, but fans of stoner metal and doom that have not already discovered the band, EARTH BLUES is as fine a place to start as any. The limited edition version of the album also includes the 2010 RETURN TO LIVE, with 8 songs recorded live in Japan.