Since starting SPIRIT ADRIFT as a solo project in 2015, after a stint with Phoenix goth-metallers TAKE OVER AND DESTROY, vocalist/guitarist/bassist Nate Garrett has gradually evolved the project from an exercise in melodic doom-metal to a well-oiled heavy metal powerhouse, all while maintaining the sense of beautiful melancholy that drove his initial works. The latest record released under the SPIRIT ADRIFT name, "Enlightened in Eternity", sees Garrett once again performing as a mostly one-man show, with drumming duties filled by Marcus Bryant on his third outing with Garrett. Through 2017's "Curse of Conception" and 2019's "Divided By Darkness", Garrett has shifted more and more into a traditional heavy metal direction. "Enlighted in Eternity" is perhaps Garrett's purest statement of heavy metal intention so far, but the head-on embrace of thrashy riffs and fast-paced energy has come at a price, as SPIRIT ADRIFT simply no longer feels as special as it did on previous albums.
During an era where there are literally dozens of bands adequately replicating traditional metal sounds, and numerous more mining melancholic doom for their musical inspirations, SPIRIT ADRIFT had become cult favorites due to their expert juggling of these two forces, to the point where each of their last two records were featured prominently on many year-end lists. Garrett's foray into a more straightforwardly metallic direction here is still executed well. The new record launches with "Ride Into The Light", an anthemic ripper with plenty of energetic rushes, hearty bellows from Garrett, and a big-arena feel that is playing to the front row and the cheap seats. The first half of "Astral Levitation" is a power-driven stomper that seems to mine BLACK SABBATH's Ronnie James Dio-era, down to a thumping bass line that shares similarity with the one that helped make "Heaven and Hell" a classic song. The second half of the track sees Garrett excelling at harmonized guitar solos from the IRON MAIDEN playbook. The majority of "Enlighted in Eternity" from this point forward abounds with hard-driving riffs and arena-sized anthems, as well as the warm guitar tones that have been one of SPIRIT ADRIFT's most endearing characteristics, which so far remain intact.
That said, if you have already been a dedicated converted fan of SPIRIT ADRIFT thanks to their previous efforts, the dynamic ebbs-and-flows of those records are lost in their current quest for heavy metal glory. The only moment on "Enlightened in Eternity" that evokes past successes is the closing track, a ten-minute journey called "Reunited In The Void". The melodic trudge that Garrett has shown to be a master of on previous records is hypnotic once again here, and he soars with atmospheric vocals and the record's most beautiful guitar tones, before the metallic crunch roars back in for the final minutes of the track with a captivating display of bluesy shred-guitar.
It's that mix of the trudge and the power that SPIRIT ADRIFT excelled at so much on previous records. The turn towards faster-paced metal endeavors on "Enlightened in Eternity" are still done well, but the final moments of the record just make it clearer that the more eclectic approach is missed throughout the previous seven tracks.