By Greg Maki
Here’s a situation music critics of years past never had to deal with: reviewing an album when nearly half of it already has been set loose into the world prior to the full release.
Spiritbox started rolling out singles from what would become the full-length “Eternal Blue” in July 2020, when “Holy Roller” set the metal world afire. The band, led by vocalist Courtney LaPlante and guitarist Mike Stringer, both formerly of iwrestedabearonce, then fed fans a steady diet of varied material over the next 14 months, the hype growing louder with each new song and making “Eternal Blue” the most anticipated metal debut in recent memory.
While the release strategy can’t help but make the final product feel a touch anticlimactic, the 12 songs of “Eternal Blue” absolutely justify the hype. Alternately crushingly heavy and sweetly melodic, pulverizing and hypnotic, this collection is remarkably diverse with all sorts of flavors. You want heavy? Train your ears to “Silk in the Strings” or “Holy Roller.” Looking for something primed and ready for rock radio? Take a listen to “Secret Garden” or “Circle with Me.” A little of both? I direct your attention to “Hurt You.” Want something moodier and more atmospheric? Try “Sun Killer,” “Constance” or the title track on for size. Are you more into pop music? “We Live in a Strange World” might be up your alley. A fan of the metalcore stylings of Architects, you say? Check out the searing “Yellowjacket,” featuring that band’s vocalist, Sam Carter.
There’s something for almost every kind of metal fan and beyond here, yet it all sounds coherent and focused—nothing out of place or forced. It’s also an incredibly rich album sonically, with the production and mix, both somehow simultaneously dense and airy, featuring layers upon layers of sounds beyond the standard guitars, drums, bass and vocals. A silver lining of the pandemic is that with no tours imminent, it gave bands the luxury of time to work on new material. It’s clear Spiritbox took full advantage of that, and to fully appreciate everything that went into this recording, a listen with headphones is a must.
I’ll admit I’m a bit old school, preferring a little more mystery and surprise when I spin an album for the first time. But hearing the previously released tracks from “Eternal Blue” in the context of the full record only makes them more powerful and impressive. You can’t get everything Spiritbox has to offer from just one song—or even five songs. “Eternal Blue” clearly was meant to be experienced in its entirety, and there hasn’t been a more rewarding listening experience this year.
Rise Records – Sept. 17, 2021