Heavy-metal medicine: How SPIRIT ADRIFT are trying to pay it forward | Revolver

Heavy-metal medicine: How SPIRIT ADRIFT are trying to pay it forward

Nate Garrett's hard road to triumphant new trad-metal opus 'Ghost at the Gallows'
Spirit Adrift live 2022 1600x900 Menzer, Rob Menzer
Spirit Adrift, Saint Vitus Bar, Brooklyn, NY, 2022
photograph by Rob Menzer

Revolver has teamed with Spirit Adrift for a limited-edition colored vinyl variant of Ghost at the Gallows, limited to 300. Order yours now.

Nate Garrett feels alright today. This is a positive development.

He and his trad-metal band, Spirit Adrift, have just returned from a festival run in the U.K. and Europe. Before that, they did a three-week tour through the South and midwest with Cleveland speed kings Midnight. Before that, Garrett couldn't feel his legs.

"It was pretty scary," he tells Revolver. "It had me questioning my whole future because I was borderline paralyzed from the waist down. It felt like when your foot falls asleep and starts to come back, like pins and needles, but it was both of my legs, all the way down to my feet, and it was radiating constantly. It was insane, dude. I've never felt anything like it."

The problem was with the L5-S1 disc in his lower back. It was slipping out of place. It's a fairly common malady, but that doesn't make it any less terrifying. "I did all these hip-mobility exercises, got on medication and hit the inversion table as much as I could," he says. "The day the Midnight tour started, I was like, 'OK, I can do this.' I got through that tour and the festivals overseas. I've been doing my physical therapy, and it's been helping."

It's another in a long line of adversities that the guitarist and vocalist has endured. He spent much of his twenties in the throes of alcoholism (he's been in recovery for years). On March 1st, 2020, he and his wife moved from Arizona to Texas. Then the pandemic hit.

"We're close to Austin, but it turns out we're not close enough to socialize with people during a pandemic," he says. "We were very isolated. She was working a lot, so I was pretty much home by myself with a couple of new puppies. Our dog had just died in January, which was a really tough experience. There was a lot of death."

This is another thing that Garrett has too much experience with. "My mother passed when I was four months old, so death has been a part of my life from even before I can remember," he says. "But from 2020 to 2022, when I was working on this album, it was just constant — a lot of family, friends and pets dying."

That album is Ghost at the Gallows. It's Spirit Adrift's fifth full-length, an impressive number considering that Garrett founded the band in 2015. It's also a triumph of traditional heavy metal — though the record's exultant chords and sparkling guitar harmonies on "Give Her to the River," "Death Won't Stop Me" and the major-key Ozzy-isms of "I Shall Return" belie their stressful origins.

"When lockdown happened, I was spinning out just like everybody else," Garrett says. "I'm at war with my own anxiety every day anyway, so I had to be extra disciplined. But I realized a few days in, 'Hey, dummy — what have you always done to improve your mental and emotional health? You write music. So, write music.'"

Garrett estimates that he wrote 20 to 30 songs between March and December of 2020. Three of these ended up on Spirit Adrift's 2021 EP, Forge Your Future. Eight comprise Ghost at the Gallows. His tried-and-true process of musical medicine had worked.

"What Spirit Adrift did for me in the beginning was give me an outlet to process a lot of really new and difficult feelings," he says. "I'm in recovery, but I've never done therapy. When I was growing up, Jimi Hendrix was my therapy. Black Sabbath was my therapy. Phil Anselmo was my motivational coach. So, it's always just been music."

He channeled his frustration with the country's political divisions into the ripping, appropriately titled single "Barn Burner."

"There're people who own everything and have had absolute power and wealth for generations upon generations, and they don't want the peons like us to have any of it," he says. "So, they make us argue about stuff that has to do with the amount of melanin in our skin or who you wanna love or who you wanna get married to or what you wanna do with your body. They have us constantly arguing about bullshit so they don't have to worry about us seeing what's really going on. I've written quite a few songs about that, and 'Barn Burner' is one of them."

Elsewhere, "I Shall Return" explores the possibility of reincarnation. "We never truly die," Garrett ventures. "The universe recycles our matter and energy in an infinite cycle. On a long enough timeline, maybe we do return."

He says the song "Hanged Man's Revenge" is a call to arms, "urging the listener to rise up and grab life by the horns in a post-pandemic world of reinvigorated possibilities." It's this type of cyclical recognition — and carpe diem attitude — that informs Garrett's approach toward his music.

"I owe a debt of gratitude to Spirit Adrift, as an entity," he says. "Spirit Adrift is me — it started as a solo thing, but as it became a live band and a touring band, I began to look at it as its own entity. I work for it, and it works for me."