posted on 2/2012 By:
Hmmmm… What have we here? An album cover that looks straight out of 1983, like a still shot from some Chicago-based cop show I forgot about… If not for the metal-fonted logo, this could be a Billy Ocean album… [presses play]
Oh, hell, yes. Yes, yes, yes… Hell, yes. This is definitely not Billy Ocean…
Since he’s also a member of Pharaoh and Dawnbringer, there should be little doubt that Chris Black certainly knows his traditional metal – witness the former band’s absolute mastery of the power-trad scene and the latter’s top-notch Nucleus in 2010. (Black is the drummer in Pharaoh and a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist in both Dawnbringer and High Spirits.) Of the two, High Spirits is closest to Dawnbringer, though the Spirits are neither as dark nor as aggressive in style and the difference is marked. Another Night tends towards the more commercial side of the classic days; it’s filled with Maiden-esque guitar harmonies and simple-yet-effective NWOBHM-styled riffs that give non-stop driving propulsion to the instantly memorable vocal melodies – imagine something not unlike a combo of early Saxon, the Scorpions and Dokken c. 1985.
And that combination is, quite simply put, a good thing… In fact, it’s a great thing. [Author’s note: Let it be known that any Dokken comparisons herein are intended as complimentary – this reviewer maintains that Dokken’s heyday is worthy, despite George Lynch’s ridiculous two-tone hair and the whole “Dream Warriors” moment.]
Opening with the pseudo-title track “Another Night In The City,” the album establishes its formula immediately, a down-tempo verse lures in the listener before the song kicks into a driving chorus at roughly the half-minute mark and never lets up. From top to bottom, these songs move with a killer kinetic energy – in the spirit of the best of the golden years, this is music made for fist-pumping, for toe-tapping, for head-banging and air-guitar-ing in the front row of your local arena. Second track “Do You Remember” rides a Rudolf Schenker-worthy riff into vintage metal heaven, sounding like an outtake from somewhere between Breaking The Chains and Blackout. The driving bass riff of “Nights In Black” pushes that track brilliantly, a rare standout bass riff and one so good that it serves as both verse and chorus. All in, these nine tunes are of the same mold, and all are of such a top-notch quality that Another Night begs a repeat play as soon as it stops. And therein lies High Spirits’ greatest strength – they’ve managed (or rather, he’s managed) to capture the true spirit and feeling of yesteryear without sounding pandering or contrived or misguided, and they’ve managed to make a record so insanely catchy and energetic that it’s damn near irresistible.
Sonically, all is equally well done. The production is solid, especially so for a self-released affair – the guitars are sharp and not over-processed, and the drums sound crisp and punchy. Like those of Dokken, Black’s vocals in High Spirits are higher-pitched and clear, often harmonized, and it’s in those sweet falsetto vocal harmonies and ear-worm melodies that High Spirits mostly differentiates itself from Dawnbringer.
As a reviewer, we’re asked to contribute our Top Twenty lists at the end of each year, and I somehow missed out on Another Night in 2011. Thus, it didn’t make my list last year. I regret that I waited this long to dive into this one -- there is absolutely no doubt that this record would’ve made my list, and it would’ve been easily ensconced within my Top Five. As much as I can say this now with any real certainty, I’d be willing to bet that, had I heard it back when I first started on this journey into metal fandom some twenty-five years ago, I’d likely have loved it then, too. Treading the line between hard rock and NWOBHM, Another Night plays right into my notion of what truly “classic” classic metal should sound like, and it does so with expert grace. So, yes, you see the 9 up there -- it’s that good, and I’m late to the party, but I’m glad I made it and hopefully there’s still a few beers left in the fridge ‘cause I’m gonna need them while I listen to this for the next few months. If you like traditional metal, you need this record, without question. Purchase immediately.
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