Spirit Adrift’s new album Divided by Darkness is my favourite album yet by this superlative band. Filled with rousing songs, engrossing melodies, infectious riffs, and quality writing, Divided by Darkness is sure to make an impact on many best of 2019 lists I’m sure.
I quizzed band mastermind Nate Garrett about the band’s latest release, and found out a few interesting things…
Introduce us to Spirit Adrift
Spirit Adrift started as my solo project and is now a touring band. Live, it’s me on guitar and vocals, Marcus Bryant on drums, Jeff Owens on guitar, and Chase Mason on bass.
Put simply, why does Spirit Adrift exist?
After too many years of grinding away, fruitless touring, and self-abuse, I almost died in a slow and agonising process. That lead to me making some serious life changes. When I made those changes, the music that would become Spirit Adrift was there. It just appeared.
Name five things you’ve listened to recently that you’d recommend
Ralph Stanley – Cry from the Cross
Emmylou Harris – Elite Hotel
Free – Fire and Water
Savatage – In the Hall of the Mountain King
How would you describe the music on Divided by Darkness
It’s the best music that I am capable of making, after having thrown my life away to study the art of heavy metal and how to make great music. At this point that’s about 18 years worth of studying. I’m proud of it.
What are some of the lyrical themes the songs have?
The album is about a lot of things, but mainly human beings’ tendency to take the easiest path, letting our weaknesses take over and allowing our thoughts, words, and actions to be dominated by negativity and hatred rather than positivity and love. This is not a passive condition. There are forces at work that benefit from the common working person fighting each other. We need to recognise those forces and destroy them, not fight with our neighbour. Love your neighbour, destroy your oppressor.
How were the songs written?
I wrote the album the same way I’ve written the other stuff. I demo everything at home and then the rest of the guys help me make tweaks here and there. The main difference with this one is that Marcus and I wrote the drum parts together after I finished the initial demos.
How has it felt to transition from essentially a solo concern into more of a full band situation?
It feels good to not be in it alone. I’m super excited to play these songs for people. We just keep getting better.
What’s your favourite song on the album and why?
Angel & Abyss is my favourite song I’ve ever written. Jeff wrote a riff in there too so shout out to him. I just think it’s a classic sounding, sincere song. The lyrics came from a place of intense truth and sincerity, and the music is smoking. The guitar solos on there are the craziest solos I’ve ever played, and the main fast riff at the end is one of my favourites I’ve written.
How did you decide on the order of the tracks?
From the beginning, I wanted the sequencing to feel similar to Diary of a Madman and Ride the Lightning. The flow of those albums is very similar and I was working within a similar vibe.
What are some of your reflections about the album and how it has turned out?
I’m proud of it. I worked as hard on it as anyone has ever worked on an album, I can say that for sure. I’ll be able to look back on it for the rest of my life and feel proud of the work I put into it. I’m thrilled with how it came out.
If you had to do it over again, would you change anything?
No. A record is just that…a record of that time and place in the lives of those involved. Once you start changing things it fucks up the whole vibe.
I’d argue that overall this album contains much more of a traditional heavy metal influence, and less of a doom metal one – would you agree, and if so, was this deliberate or did it naturally occur?
I agree. This naturally occurred, probably because Spirit Adrift became a live band. Balls to the wall heavy metal songs are way more fun to play live than 12-minute slow doom songs. When I write a record, I know that I’m going to have to play those songs a lot. The next year or two of my life, I’m going to have to go out and play those songs on a nightly basis for weeks on end. So I think maybe subconsciously I just wanted to make my life more enjoyable and write songs that are fun as hell to play. I also like to test myself, and these songs are definitely way more complex and difficult. But more fun also. It’s the best of both worlds.
Your discography definitely sounds like a musical journey has occurred, (and still is). What kind of journey has this been for you, and where do you potentially see it going in the future?
I went from basically being dead to being a mostly happy, healthy, confident person and that journey is reflected in Spirit Adrift’s music. Spirit Adrift itself also helped me get to a better place in life so it’s become a never-ending cycle of positivity. I already have an album’s worth of material demoed and I’m so happy with what I’ve got so far. It’s probably the best, most ridiculously over the top metal riffs I’ve ever written. It’s a lot more fun sounding than Divided by Darkness, which is intentional. But then one of the songs is a 10.5 minute doom type song. So who knows. I’m going to keep writing. I’ll never stop writing. I have no idea what’s going to happen stylistically but I promise you’re only ever going to hear the absolute best material I’m capable of creating.
Do you have any upcoming live shows you want to mention?
Yeah, we’re touring North America for 6 weeks then we’re coming to Europe in September.
What’s your favourite thing about playing live, and what would your ideal kind of show look like?
My favourite thing about playing live is connecting with people on a level that is far superior to verbal communication. Whether that means my bandmates or the crowd, that depends on the vibe. I love when it’s obvious that people appreciate the music and the message, rather than just showing up because they think it’s the cool thing to do. I would be dead without music, and I want to use music and my experiences to help other people. My ideal show would probably be us and Metallica. Or Judas Priest. Both, I guess.
What’s the global metal scene like from your point of view?
I have no idea. I think metal in general is probably at a super low point or maybe that’s just music in general. Nobody seems to give a fuck about anything cool nowadays. The biggest rock bands in the world all used to be really good in the 70s, even in the 80s. Look at the biggest rock/metal bands now and they all suck. Like, really bad. Where is the Black Sabbath of today? Where is the Slayer of today or the Pantera of today? In my book, Power Trip is that band. Mastodon is cool too. Those are real bands with real musicians. But if you compare their level of success to the aforementioned bands, it’s not even close. It’s because people are fucking checked out. We’re more connected than ever but more apathetic and lazy than ever. So I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like it’s impossible to be a really good band and also be appreciated on a large scale. Like, do you have to suck at least a little bit to be super successful? I don’t know. It’s fascinating to ponder, but the bottom line is I don’t actually give a fuck. I’ll never stop making the music I want to make. At the end of the day I do this for me and the people who need to hear it, no one else.
What are the next steps for Spirit Adrift?
This answer is the same today as it’ll be every day that I’m alive. Make the best possible music I’m capable of making and keep trying to tour with Metallica or Priest. Or Iron Maiden.
Any final words?
Thank you so much to everyone who has shown us love and support. Be kind to yourselves and to each other and we’ll see you soon.