Curse of Conception
Born for Burning
This planet is a grave, and Spirit Adrift’s sophomore LP is the eulogy we all deserve
Record Label: 20 Buck Spin
Release Date: October 6, 2017
Back in June, Arizonan project Spirit Adrift released Fraught with Peril with Rocky Mountain doom-brewers Khemmis. The 7-inch split featured earth-splitting covers of Americana folk classics, blasted through beer-soaked amplifiers. Spirit Adrift shaped fatalistic ballad “Man of Constant Sorrow” into a grim dirge, bridging the gap between blind fiddler Dick Burnett and Solitude Aeturnus. Curse of Conception—Spirit Adrift’s sophomore record—carries that song’s thematic weight, where birth is an introduction to pain, and life’s only guarantee is loss. But that doesn’t mean life’s without beauty before our last collective breath.
Spirit Adrift is ultimately Nate Garrett, who currently conjures old-school death with Sonoran desert-devils Gatecreeper. As guitarist of Take Over and Destroy, his occult sludge riffs were the closest hint of what he’d later achieve as the omni-instrumentalist of his own group. In 2016, Spirit Adrift released debut EP Behind-Beyond and the Chained to Oblivion LP soon after, spiking dusty-denim doom with sun-bleached psychedelia in lengthy arrangements. With eight songs in 48 minutes, Garrett has sharpened his approach on Curse of Conception and embraced relative brevity, compared to his debut EP’s 12+ minute bruisers.
Like Behind-Beyond’s “Specter of Ruin,” Curse of Conception opens with acoustic guitar erupting into a crash of distortion and melancholic introspection. But the star-crossed sadness of “Earthbound” subverts angst with a bruising heaviness that teeters on triumph via catharsis. Later, in “Starless Age (Enshrined),” Garrett’s lyrics claim “this planet is a grave.” However, this declaration isn’t tucked into a sepulchral crawl, it’s exclaimed during one of the album’s most vibrant passages. Every sky-flung solo and irate bellow shreds the notion that Spirit Adrift is defeatist doom for weeping alone by candlelight. Following instrumental interlude “Wakien,” that’s demonstrated further by standout closer “Onward, Inward.” After riding the album’s most primal pummel, the song relents with clean notes that producer Sanford Parker provides room to shimmer. Meanwhile, Garrett’s vocals transform from the record’s raspiest snarl to radiant harmonies. Picture Robert Lowe performing the Beatles’ “Sun King” with Neil Young distantly nodding with approval.
In the title track, Garrett mourns “running out of days.” Depending who you ask, time is a construct, time is an illusion, or time is our most precious commodity. Similar to other slow ’n’ heavy contemporaries mentioned in the same breath as Spirit Adrift—Yob, Pallbearer and the aforementioned Khemmis—even though the songs are about to death, they’re still an impassioned expression of life. Sure, there’s a running theme of hopelessness and futility in Curse of Conception. But like the polished mahogany of a new casket, Spirit Adrift’s songs can be pitch-black on the surface and still reflect the warmth of the Arizonan sun.