Up to this album, SPIRITUAL BEGGARS have been on fire. With wicked releases like "Another Way To Shine" and "Mantra III," and of course, their best so far, "Ad Astra," they've established themselves as a pretty solid band. But a new singer and a few other changes seem to have simmered them down.
The material on "On Fire" is only mildly interesting while the most enjoyable feature from past albums, Michael Amott's guitar solos, have been minimized - or at least have become less memorable than usual. Maybe he got lazy while writing this stuff and didn't want to play too much lead guitar. In case you're not familiar with this band, it's Michael Amott's other band aside from the great ARCH ENEMY. It's kind of like a 70's Hard Rock/Stoner Metal flashback, far from the exceptional Death Metal that ARCH ENEMY have perfected. Anyway, after listening to this album, I'm hoping he concentrated more on writing the material for the new ARCH ENEMY and less time on this disappointment.
Most of the songs lack the jump and energy that its predecessor, "Ad Astra" was full of. Some of the songs on this can get pretty energetic and fast, but the slower songs bring down the overall energy of the album. The new singer also adds to the negativity I'm already feeling with this album. His voice is just too clean for my liking. This music needs the scruffy and rough voice to make everything fit. And to make things worse, the decent production leans towards showcasing the vocals rather than the guitars. In previous albums, the guitars come first and nothing rivals that.
The second half of "On Fire" is stronger, starting with the best song, "Beneath The Skin." The beginning riffs remind me one of my favourite song of theirs, "Monster Astronauts" from their "Mantra III" album. It's one of the livelier and straightforward songs on the entire album. Another one to listen to is the guitar-oriented "Tall Tales." Like the first song I mentioned, it's lively and straightforward, and heavier than many of the other songs. And it's got the best lead guitar solo too!
Apart from their self-titled debut album, "On Fire" is the least enjoyable SPIRITUAL BEGGARS album I've heard. Hopefully it doesn't get any lower than this. (Online May 29, 2003)