1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 89

Spiritbox, by Spiritbox
Suggested by Dylan Smith

When I was fifteen, I learnt to play the drums.

My folks bought me a kit for Christmas, a patterned mahogany red. Single bass drum, snare, two toms, high-hat, crash. No stool, for some reason, so I used a kitchen chair.

The second-hand kit was ramshackle, and threadbare, but it was mine, and it served me through school and university. I’d add bits here and update parts there, stretching my student budget, never quite going full Trigger’s Broom but running it close. I played in a few bands, made some excellent friends, and had a lot of fun.

I sold it at the age of 22, to buy a TV licence.

One of the unforeseen consequences of learning the drums, and I presume of learning any instrument, is that whenever you listen to music from that moment forward, you get an unwitting peek at the Man Behind The Curtain. Your instrument of choice seems to swell in importance, to take front and centre stage of whatever’s on the radio. You find yourself nodding sagely at each beat and bar and paradiddle, appreciating the artistry but also losing that sense of innocent immersion that music can offer.

It’s actually quite sad. The cogs are bared, the machinery visible, and the engine is somewhat diminished because of it.

When I listened to Spiritbox, the drums stood out for me. Not in a technical sense, although they are rather good. More in their sound, their level in the mix. At first I thought this was the usual Drummer’s Curse, that I’d been forced to process them above all. On further inspection, though, I feel that no, that’s not the case. The drums are just too damn loud.

It’s a shame, because I quite like Spiritbox. It’s a dose of alternative metal with a pair of duelling male / female vocalists that I can lazily compare to Evanescence. The music is intricate, verging on Prog, and the flip-flap between different time signatures is jarring at times but doesn’t quite stray into the indulgent.

But those drums, man.

They do their worst on the necessarily slower sections, behind Courtney LaPlante’s emotional and vulnerable vocal. When her husband brings his menacing death-growl into the fray, the balance seems more natural, but the songs are much less interesting because of it. As with all growly vocals, they are much better served when used as a side dish to the main meal, and Spiritbox is no exception. The EP ends with two tracks which Michael takes the lead, and they are the weakest of the lot. The best, I feel, is the opener: The Mara Effect, Part 1.

If those damn drums were a little less intense, I’d be championing Spiritbox with gusto. Overall, I give Spiritbox 6/10. It’s an interesting listen, walking a tightrope between excellence and indulgence, and only just keeping balance.

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