Spiritbox has been the talk of the Metal Community for the past two years, slowly releasing singles and making some great music videos. We finally get the long-promised full-length album. Spoiler Alert: It’s Amazing!
Spiritbox Finally Releases Their First Masterpiece
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two years, you have probably come across Spiritbox once or twice. The Vancouver, Canada band has been releasing singles for a couple of years now, usually with a music video. The band comes from the demise of another band: Iwrestledabearonce.
Iwrestledabearonce was campy, and often humorous until their last album. The album “Hail Mary” was much more mature and darker, while still being chaotic and heavy. Unfortunately, it would be their only release, as Warner Brothers took over right as the band was peaking with a solid sound and occult-leaning themes. Due to the record label change, they dissolved.
Iwrestledabearonce had elements of what Spiritbox would eventually become. You could tell that the band was on to…something. It just wasn’t perfected and polished yet. After taking a couple of years off from being a band, vocalist Courtney LaPlante and Mike Stringer (now husband and wife) turned to woodshedding ideas for a while. Developing a unique sound for Spiritbox.
The name “Spiritbox” comes from the devices that ghost hunters use to measure paranormal activity in haunted locations. The boxes detect where there is a tear in the veil of reality, where dark and light mix. I cannot think of a better name for the sound that Courtney and Mike have crafted.
That new sound mixed progressive metal with electronic ambience. It was exactly what my ears needed to cleanse my palate the first time I heard Spiritbox. The last few years have seen literally everyone taking a stab at prog metal. To the point of ad nauseum. I am literally sick to my stomach whenever I see 7 string guitars and hear a polyrhythm, it triggers my gag reflex…it makes my brain completely shut down these days. Because it’s not special anymore, when everyone is doing it.
So how do you approach prog metal after bands like Architects and Periphery have already perfected it?
You do what Spiritbox has done. Add a pop music sensibility, while remaining extremely brutal. The result is a highly emotional experience that takes you through peaks and valleys. Beauty and the beast. It has taken years to finally reach the apex of their sound, and it was worth the wait. But if there is one thing that the Metal community usually dislikes, it’s change. Spiritbox had a vision, but it wasn’t always easy being the step-child outlier of the Metal world. Courtney explains it to us:
“There’s a lot of freedom of being an outsider or not being the metalcore sweetheart for your whole life. Because then you don’t really care about those people’s validation, because they didn’t accept you to begin with… It’s kind of like when you’re the nerd kid that finally gets to sit at the cool kid table, if you feel like you’re a nerd and that you don’t belong there, you might feel really self-conscious sitting there.”Courtney LaPlante
Courtney and the band are definitely sitting at the cool kid’s table these days… hell, they ARE the cool kid’s table. There’s been a lot of attention surrounding the band, and especially the release of this album. Today we are going to talk about the standout tracks, and the evolution of this amazing band that deserve all the fuss and attention they are currently getting.
Eternal Blue: All Killer, No Filler
The album opens with an absolute banger that highlights everything this band is about. The track “Sun Killer” kicks off the album with a brooding electronic pulse, that gives way to Courtney’s ethereal vocals. The slow pace and plodding tempo reflect something big is coming. Courtney’s lyrics reflect this as well:
Tell me the waves won’t rise ,
And monsters will fade with time,
To temper the blaze with the twist of a knife,
A sun killer lullaby
And for most of the song, it sounds like a lullaby, the track is very soothing, but you know something sinister is right around the corner. What we get at the end of “Sun Killer” is one of the heaviest breakdowns I have heard in a while, with Courtney finally changing up from her beautiful tenor voice, straight into guttural screams. What a way to start an album!
The next song is their latest single, “Hurt You”. This one almost lost me, and it took a few listens for me to really appreciate the simplicity of the track. It follows typical song structure with the verse/chorus/verse scaffolding. But sometimes, simple is good. The chorus is infectious, and has a beautiful melancholy feel to it.
To me, it is one of the weaker tracks on the album. But that’s not saying much, since the rest of the album sets the bar so high. I can see why they released it as a single, as it’s a little more…accessible than the remaining first half of this album.
“Yellowjacket” is just straight brutality, starting with a menacing synth pattern and spoken word. But when the song kicks in, we get a swirling minor key guitar riff and double bass drum beats that kick you in the teeth. This track features Sam Carter from Architects on the chorus parts, and he is giving 110%. I have rarely heard Sam hit the low notes that he does in this track, and it is nice hearing him do something a little different.
I compared Spiritbox to Architects earlier for a reason, and it only seems natural that these two bands would work together. The result is everything you think it should be!
There have been a lot of crossover, guest appearances in the Metal community these days, as previously it was usually something you would only see in hip-hop and rap. This is a great concept and I hope we continue to see this. I often wondered what Sam would sound like with Spiritbox, and here we get to hear it!
“Holy Roller” has been out for over a year now, so I suppose this is technically the first single from Eternal Blue. It had been a few months since I listened to this track, and the moment it hit my earbuds…I had the same feelings I did last year.
I wanted to mosh in my car.
This is Spiritbox at their heaviest, and the lyrics to the song are pure venom, attacking religion and the societal expectations of others. The song kicks off with a throwback Drum and Bass beat right out of the 90’s, that seems completely out of place. With Courtney laying down a scathing spoken word, with spooky octave effects on her voice.
Holy Roller sits in the garden we fled
Blood into wine, take my body instead
Holy Roller sits in the garden we fled
Blood into wine, take my body instead
The rest of the song has absolutely no clean vocals, it’s full dark: no visible light. The guitars are bouncy and change tempo several times to dramatic effect. This is the shortest track on the album, and I find myself hitting “replay” every damn time. The video was obviously inspired by the film “Midsommar” by Ari Aster, and it is terrifying.
This track beats you over the head, over and over. It’s relentless, and rare form for Spiritbox.
The second half of the album shows what could be considered as the polar opposite of “Holy Roller”. I think this is on purpose, as the second half of the album has a much different vibe. It’s not like the entire sound changes, but there is a noticeable difference in tone. The album still flows, just not where you would expect it to.
There is less screaming, and more melody. Less prog, and more traditional song writing. Less anger, more lament. Almost like the claustrophobic and oppressive aura of the first half is cleansed at the altar after the white-hot “Holy Roller”. The album takes on a totally different feel.
The title track, “Eternal Blue” is a mid-tempo ballad that highlights just how good of a singer Courtney is. Like most of the band’s lighter songs, “Eternal Blue” feels almost dream-like. There are huge synth strings in the background, that swell and rise with the vocals. There is almost a shoe-gaze vibe to Spiritbox sometimes and I wonder if that genre was ever an influence on the band.
This mood continues on with the next track, “We Live In A Strange World”. The entire basis of this song is a glitched-out Trap beat, that seems like another band… at first. Spiritbox is the master of catching you by surprise, though. Once the guitars kick in, we get one of the prettiest vocal performances on the album, with an almost triumphant sounding chord progression. The song tells us not to give up, never let “those bastards get you down”.
“Halcyon” keeps the same ballad vibe, until the very end of the track. The hard palm mutes and staccato rhythm over Courtney’s screams, closes out the otherwise melodic song. “Halcyon” bleeds right into the next track, “Circle With Me”.
“Circle With Me” starts with a filtered synth and vocal line, with an 80’s vibe to it. The song then kicks in on all cylinders, with Mike’s heavy guitars playing counterpoint to wailing synths. Keeping up with the theme of the second half of the album, this song is still more melodic than dirty. That is, until the breakdown. And my, what a breakdown it is!
I guess it could be up to interpretation as to what “Circle With Me” is about, but my personal take is this is a shot fired at the modern music industry. Something I know from first-hand experience. When you’re in a band and working professionally, there is usually pressure from all sides: from record labels, managers, executives, and sometimes even your own damn fans. Circling like vultures, as the song suggests. This song explores all of that, and gives the entire situation a big middle finger.
The album closes with “Constance”. For many people, this video and song was a very emotional experience (myself included, there were tears). The song deals with the unfortunate loss of Courtney’s grandmother Phyllis, and the director of the music video; Dylan Hryciuk’s grandmother, who is battling dementia. This is the perfect closer for the album, and I knew before the album’s release that it would probably be the last track.
There is no screaming in “Constance”, and the song moves at a glacial pace. It slowly trods along, giving you time to experience what Courtney is saying. It’s deeply emotional and sounds almost desperate. This is something we rarely experience in the world of Metal. Spiritbox have a knack for grabbing your heart-strings, and “Constance” is the best example.
As the song fades out, you’re left with a full journey of an album. It’s rare these days that a band puts out material that is so consistently good.
Eternal Blue: Wrapping Up
Was it worth the wait? Absolutely!
As a Metal fan, I constantly check Spotify for new music. Nine times out of ten, I am disappointed with what I hear. There are tons of bands out there, that have become homogenized. They all seem to sound the same to me, and use the same production techniques. For a fair weather fan, or someone who is not a musician…I suppose these saccharine tinted bands are just fine.
Being a musician and producer though, puts me into a weird predicament. I need to hear something NEW. I like to listen to music that catches me off guard, and makes me wonder how it was made. Something…striking. Most modern Metal just doesn’t have that anymore, to my ears.
Spiritbox is an anomaly, as they have delivered song after song that not only holds my interest, but makes me wonder what they will do next. How far will they push that concept? “Eternal Blue” gives you some answers to how far they are willing to go, and just how multi-faceted the entire band is.
Spiritbox is still the outlier, looking in on the cool kid’s table, in some ways. But in terms of pure creative quality, they are at their own table. And no one else is allowed to sit with them.
Eternal Blue is out this weekend on all platforms. Go to the official website for exclusive album packages and merch!