Hard to believe that this year sees Spiritual Beggars celebrating 20 years as a band. Formed after guitarist Michael Amott left death/grind legends Carcass, the band took a more relaxed approach to their metal, playing 70’s-inspired hard rock with psychedelic and stoner influences, with “Earth Blues” being the band’s eighth studio album.
It doesn’t take long for opener ‘Wise as a Serpent’ to give directions on where this album draws its main influences from, with an intro that sounds like Deep Purple’s ‘Space Truckin’’ and singer Apollo Papathanasio’s bluesy drawl echoing prime David Coverdale. And it’s a comparison that raises its head on more than one occasion, as the funky-blues keyboard intro of ‘One Man’s Curse’ and the “Stormbringer”-ish ‘Kingmaker’ all reek of classic Deep Purple, but it’s a comparison that isn’t made as a derogatory comment as the band are only too aware of the appeal of 70s hard rock and how to play it properly.
But it isn’t all Deep Purple worship as the band have a strong enough identity of their own, and songs like ‘Too Old to Die Young’ and the harder-edged ‘Turn the Tide’ have enough of a modern spin to let you know that this is music made today. The unfussy production gives each member of the band a place to have their moment, with Amott’s quite remarkable soloing taking the centre stage when appropriate, but credit must go to keyboard player Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth) for being equally as commanding when the song calls for it, like during the piano-led passages on ‘Sweet Magic Pain’.
More than just emulating their heroes, Spiritual Beggars walk it like most bands talk it. Many bands fall under the banner of ‘retro’ for various reasons but Spiritual Beggars are more convincing than most when it comes to actually playing quality hard rock that hits you in the gut, just like in the good old days. So yes, “Earth Blues” does sound like all your favourite classic rock albums in one but isn’t that a wonderful thing?