Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown – Album Review

Press_cover

Artist: Spiritual Beggars

Album Title: Sunrise To Sundown

Label: Inside Out Records

Date of Release: 18 March 2016

If you’re looking for a musical experience to surprise you and offer something completely different from what has gone before, I wouldn’t recommend Spiritual Beggars to you. Theirs is not a blueprint that seeks to challenge listeners or toy too much with the status quo. However, it is almost certainly for these very reasons that Spiritual Beggars are so popular and enjoy an ever-growing cult-like fan base. That and the musicians involved, of course. Oh, and the consistent quality of the music doesn’t do any harm either.

Spiritual Beggars were formed over 20 years ago by Arch Enemy six-stringer Michael Amott and in 2016 is joined by an impressive cast, namely vocalist Apollo Papathanasio (ex-Firewind), bassist Sharlee D’Angelo (Arch Enemy), keyboardist Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth) and drummer Ludwig Witt (Grand Magus). It is a pretty stable line-up too, with only D’Angelo and Apollo joining since the turn of the milennium. And even for newest member Apollo, ‘Sunrise To Sundown’ represents his third outing behind the mic.

In those 20-plus years, Spiritual Beggars have managed to put out eight records, with ‘Sunrise To Sundown’ being the ninth. Not a bad feat when you consider that Spiritual Beggars is not the main day job for Amott. It clearly speaks volumes for the love and affection the guitarist, and indeed all the musicians, have for this band and the music that Spiritual Beggars produces.

On that score, what you get with Spiritual Beggars is an undeniable homage to the 70s, albeit with a nod or two to the modern day. The order of the day here is therefore another hefty slice of vintage heavy stoner rock with plenty of blues and psychedelic overtones. On paper, this kind of music isn’t something that I’d normally gravitate towards but ever since developing a soft spot for fourth album ‘Ad Astra’ several years ago, I always like to delve into what Spiritual Beggars have to offer.

Photo credit: Masa Noda

Photo credit: Masa Noda

I must admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the altogether more sludgy sound of this album’s predecessor, ‘Earth Blues’ but with ‘Sunrise To Sundown’, the band appear to be back on track somewhat and I really enjoy the output of this record.

Those familiar with Arch Enemy will instantly recognize the tones of Michael Amott’s guitar, even in this setting as opposed to the more melodeath trappings of Arch Enemy. As you might expect, Spiritual Beggars is not the vehicle for his blistering lead breaks and intense shredding. However, it is the perfect place for some great mid-tempo, chunky riffs and some soulful and melodic lead embellishments. On that score, ‘Sunrise To Sundown’ scores highly with several tracks offering something tasty in those departments. ‘Hard Road’ instantly springs to mind as the natural example, as it features a wonderfully satisfying central riff and some really rich lead guitar work including one of the more self-indulgent lead solos on the album.

To these ears, this record also ups the ante in terms of the choruses, with several offering huge hooks and powerful melodies to get the aural party started. The opening title track is utterly addictive for example, as is ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’, which underlines the power and rich tones of vocalist Apollo, without doubt the ideal fit for this band.

Having opened this review by suggesting that Spiritual Beggars thrives on familiarity, I will suggest somewhat perversely that ‘Sunrise To Sundown’ actually offers listeners a little more than normal in terms of inter-record variety. This could, in part, be down to the stop-start nature of the recording in between other priorities and the fact that more members of the band stepped up to write the material on the album, most notably drummer Witt.

Whatever the reason, the result is that ‘Lonely Freedom’ has a much more dreamlike, ethereal feel, ‘Still Hunter’ really hones in on the blues influences and the mid-section to ‘No Man’s Land’ is pure 70s prog where the guitars take a back seat to allow the keyboards and effect-laden vocals to take centre stage. ‘I Turn To Stone’, however, is one of the more ear-catching tracks as it has a more pronounced rhythmic spine dominated by the drums, exuding with it an altogether darker tone.

Fundamentally, I enjoy ‘Sunrise To Sundown’ a lot more than I was expecting, to the point where I am returning to it much more frequently than I ever anticipated. In short, Spiritual Beggars have created an album that harks back to a classic era of rock music but at the same time have blended it with a modern richness and vibrancy which is a pleasure to listen to.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.0

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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