20 Centuries Gone, the newest release from SPIRIT ADRIFT, feels like two unevenly-sized records in one; the first comprising a pair of original songs, and the second being made up of covers. It’s a disjointed and uneven release and has the unmistakeable whiff of filler. Even if you enjoyed their most recent album, 2020’s excellent Enlightened In Eternity, this one is easy to skip.
The two new songs kick things off and they’re the most appealing part of 20 Centuries Gone. Sorcerer’s Fate is a galloping slice of traditional heavy metal, while the more mid-paced Mass Formation Psychosis sees them embracing doom. It has the kind of lethargic, ominous riff that CANDLEMASS would envy and is a big old piece of smoky, atmospheric metal.
Things take a weird turn when the covers arrive. Here, SPIRIT ADRIFT take six of their favourite bands and reimagine their material in an impressive, if unambitious way. All the songs are faithful interpretations of old classics and stick rigidly to the set templates. SPIRIT ADRIFT don’t alter the tempos or add any flourishes of their own, and that’s fine. You don’t need to shoehorn drum ‘n’ bass beats into a ZZ TOP song to make it interesting and playing it exactly as the tab book suggests isn’t a problem. But they’ve made some odd selections.
They begin with TYPE O NEGATIVE’s Everything Dies. The late Pete Steele and his misery merchants weren’t exactly known for upbeat party anthems, but this is still one of their most achingly sad songs. It focuses on the appalling reality that everyone you love will eventually die and you are powerless to stop it. In some respects, it’s a beautiful song, and SPIRIT ADRIFT’s version is great. The music is spot-on and singer Nate Garrett does a tremendous job at matching Steele’s vocals without impersonating him, but lord almighty it’s depressing.
The good news is they follow it up with a PANTERA cover. That’s bound to make the energy levels soar, right? Well no, they’ve gone with Hollow. Again, they sound terrific and this is a damn fine cover. But like its predecessor, it’s overly bleak. Having two dark tracks running back-to-back is a serious mood killer. 20 Centuries Gone is only half done and it feels like you’ve had a syringe plunged into your heart and the adrenaline siphoned off. A bit like that scene in Pulp Fiction, but in reverse.
Things do kick up a gear with a lively rendition of METALLICA’s Escape, but it’s another offbeat selection. Escape is decent but it’s not one of METALLICA’s best and including the main riff for Creeping Death at the end offers a tantalising glimpse of a more crowd-pleasing option. The THIN LIZZY and ZZ TOP numbers that follow aren’t anything exceptional either; it’s only the closing Poison Whiskey that’s really enticing. SPIRIT ADRIFT’s traditional metal stylings fit the LYNYRD SKYNYRD anthem remarkably well, and it matches the original for good ol’ boy swagger.
Realistically though, 20 Centuries Gone was never meant to be a game changer. It’s extremely unlikely that SPIRIT ADRIFT approached this intending to redefine the covers album and it’s no more than an intriguing glimpse at their record collections. There’s nothing offensive about this, it’s just a bit unremarkable. For what it is, it’s perfectly acceptable, but it’s also the least essential thing they’ve ever made. Ninety percent of listeners will likely play it once, then stick Enlightened In Eternity on again.
20 Centuries Gone is set for release on August 19th via Century Media Records.
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