Reviewed: [April 2022]
Released [2022 AOP Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
German duo The Spirit are back with a third batch of their so-called “Stellar Blackened Death Metal” after COVID cut short most of the opportunity they might have had to promote their previous album, 2020’s Cosmic Terror. And with Of Clarity And Galactic Structures, it seems like the pair spent some time waxing a bit nostalgic during all their time at home, at least when it came to what they might have been listening to.
The new album is studded with old-school progressive flourishes and Iron Maiden-like guitar harmonies that break up the more straight-forward melodic blackened metal that was The Spirit’s primary delivery system on their first two albums. Sure, there’s still plenty of black/death metal to go around here, recalling the likes of Necrophobic or Dark Fortress – whose guitarist V. Santura serves as producer – but there’s more depth, complexity and nuance to the overall presentation.
Sections of “Arcane Wanderer” echo Farewell To Kings-era Rush with their atmospheric shimmer and sprawl – though guitarist/bassist Matthias Trautes’ feral roar is a far cry from Geddy Lee’s nasal warble when things get more, well, spirited. And while the pair have never shied away from somewhat expansive arrangements, with many of their earlier tunes approaching six minutes per, “Arcane” is one of three tracks here that straddles seven minutes as they pile on even more layers – something they’re going to need obvious help with when playing live.
The Spirit are generally careful to keep from going too overboard, so even the longer songs don’t wear out their welcome, at least for the most part. Oddly enough, the instrumental “Laniakea” that closes the album is probably the most restrained number here, with “Stranger Things”-like synth blurps throughout, and is a bit of a letdown, despite its ample harmonized lead work.
And there is an abundance of twin guitar interplay here, which offers a Maiden/Priest/Thin Lizzy-like traditional metal flavor that nicely accents the full-on moments driven by the drum clatter of Manuel Steitz and Trautes’ furious trems, and adds some character when things get jammier, especially over the album’s back half. Indeed, the songs build in intensity and grow more concentrated as the “Side A,” so to speak, of Clarity moves on, reaching their peak on the bracing “Celestial Fire.”
The 50-second, aptly titled instrumental “Transition” then signals just that, and the album loses some of its steam as things grow much proggier “Side B.” Still, Clarity’s interesting take on the usual black metal histrionics and sense of daring makes for a more than worthwhile listen, even if it at times leaves one wanting for a bit more of the, well, usual black metal histrionics.