Spiritbox - Self Titled EP 2019 - (9/10)
Published on June 26, 2019
Spiritbox is a progressive metal / djent / metalcore band founded by vocalist Courtney LaPlante and guitarist Mike Stringer, members of iwrestledabearonce. And this one was a big surprise for me. This release very cleverly titled “Self-Titled EP 2019”, also going by the name of “Singles Collection”, came to being step by step through a few single releases which were then compiled into an EP. But the music is far more inspired than the release title. It’s probably one of the most insane cocktail of influences ever. If I’d have to sum it up in once sentence, I’d say it feels like Animals as Leaders, Tesseract, Intervals and Architects smoked some weed, shared some rather questionable mushrooms and then jumped in the studio together. It’s djent, it’s core, it’s progressive and it’s seriously psychotic!
After my first time streaming these songs I was loaded with serotonin but also incredibly confused. There are a lot of stuff in here that really hook you but at the same time, the composition is very complex and you constantly find yourself switching between full headbang mode and trying to comprehend what on Earth you’re hearing. But after a few spins it really comes together. I particularly like how much contrast is in their music. There’s a lot of dissonance but also a lot of clear melody. The sound is very djent oriented, especially the guitar tone sounding a lot like Tesseract (both the driven guitar and the clean delay effect). It’s filled with challenging progressive touches like syncopated riffs and odd times, almost bordering on weird fusion jazz territory but at the same time it hits hard on breakdowns, infectious grooves and catchy choruses. It’s difficult and gratifying at the same time. I have to give a mention to the crazy bass lines (see the intro on Electric Cross) and especially to the drums, which gave me a throwback to the first couple of releases from Intervals.
Is that a lot to take in? Well hold on to your butts because I didn’t even get into the feels yet. This music has a lot of energy, atmosphere and a really unique vibe overall. It gets quite sick and disturbing on a number of occasions, giving an eerie, almost horror-like feel (especially in Belcarra). And yet it can also feel quite simply emotional (see Perennial). A lot of this comes through the vocals. The screams are very high-pitched, intense and aggressive, and they build up even more momentum when accompanied by a sick breakdown (The one towards the end of Bleach Bath will rip your face off). And then the cleans are all about genuine feels. In fact, I think a lot of the vocal lines, especially in the choruses, sound a lot like modern pop music. As a dedicated metalhead, I’d normally consider that an insult to my intelligence but in this weird context it works and it really makes sense. Contrasting with the other vocal styles and even layering one on top of the other makes it feel a lot like switching between personalities.
It gets a bit hectic and all over the place but thanks to a very interesting mix that feels both clean and slightly muffled depending on what the song calls for, it’s actually held together quite well. Another binding element is the constant use of backing vocals that seems to create a layer of consistency over which the whole soundscape can develop. The creativity and vibe that Spiritbox put in these five songs is really something else. If you’re into the whole djent thing you should really give it a go.