You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the title of Spirit Adrift's new album, Divided By Darkness (coming May 10th on 20 Buck Spin), is a comment on the massive ideological rifts in America today. But for the Phoenix metal squad's vocalist-guitarist and founder Nate Garrett, it also has another, more personal meaning — the culmination of four years of sobriety. "If you pay attention to social media, the world is probably as bleak as it's been in my lifetime, even though most of that perspective is bullshit," he says. "It's ironic because as a person, I feel stronger and more confident and happier in some ways than I've ever been. So I think the new album is reflective of that dichotomy."
Coming less than two years after 2017's widely acclaimed Curse of Conception, Spirit Adrift's latest is a powerful, modern take on classic heavy metal replete with killer twin guitar harmonies and anthemic Eighties-style choruses. Just don't call them a doom band. "When Spirit Adrift started, it was a doom band and I was fine with that classification," says Garrett, who, along with Spirit Adrift bassist Chase Mason, is also a member of highly touted Arizona death dealers Gatecreeper. "So I recognize my role in us being called a doom band, but I don't think it's an accurate way to describe us at this point," he says. "I also don't think it's an accurate way to describe Black Sabbath, so I'm not even sure what that term means anymore. At the end of the day, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who cares less about genre classification. To me, there's only the music you like and the music you don't like."
Check out the premiere of Spirit Adrift's "Angel & Abyss" above, and read our recent interview with Garrett below, in which the musician lays out his mission to turn Spirit Adrift into the "best metal band in the world."
CURSE OF CONCEPTION GOT RAVE REVIEWS. DID YOU FEEL ANY PRESSURE GOING INTO THE WRITING OF DIVIDED BY DARKNESS?
NATE GARRETT Absolutely. I'm hyper-competitive with myself. Putting out an album that is widely praised and appreciated is great, but it's a little bit intimidating to try to follow it up. A song is a subjective thing, but there are certain aspects of making an album that are not subjective. So I pinpointed all of those things and I became relentlessly determined to improve upon all of them.
I knew I could sing better if I worked at it, so I quit smoking — I quit nicotine completely — and I started running. I started doing vocal warm-ups everyday. I knew I could play crazier solos, so I went back to my 13-year old mindset, when I had no friends and spent 12 hours a day playing guitar. I went fucking crazy trying to improve in every possible way that I could as a musician, as a songwriter — and improving my ideas and lyrics. So I did feel a lot of pressure. I refused to allow this album to be anything but better than the last album.
LIKE A LOT OF THE BEST EIGHTIES METAL, THE NEW RECORD HAS TONS OF ANTHEMIC CHORUSES. ARE YOU ON A CONSCIOUS CAMPAIGN TO BRING THOSE BACK?
First of all, I appreciate that, man. [Laughs] That's awesome. When I first started doing Spirit Adrift, I wasn't really sure what I was doing. When I realized that I wanted it to be a real band, I decided that I wanted to be the best. So I only listened to what I consider to be the best metal ever and the best bands ever, period. I only tried to draw inspiration from the all-time greats. It's reflective of my desire to be the best metal band in the world. I'm not saying that Spirit Adrift ever will be the best metal band in the world, but that's what I'm working towards.
WHERE ARE YOU COMING FROM LYRICALLY THIS TIME AROUND?
There's a definite concept, but it's so multilayered that I don't think I could fully explain it without writing a novel. [Laughs] The title is pretty self-explanatory, though. I don't know if this is the feeling worldwide, but it's definitely the feeling in America and a lot of the western countries right now: We're divided. Everyone's screaming at each other. I think we forget that human beings have more similarities than differences.
WE'RE PREMIERING YOUR NEW VIDEO FOR "ANGEL & ABYSS." WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE SONG?
There's a lot of gnarly shit encoded in all of the songs on the album, and especially that one. I was reading a lot of Carl Jung and let's just say another philosopher who was around a little bit before him that Ozzy Osbourne has a song about. And there's a lot of overlap there. Musically, I was going for the classic track four heavy metal ballad move. I was listening to a lot of Tony Martin-era Sabbath, so I think some of that made its way in there. I also really stepped up the guitar soloing on that song. It's actually my favorite song that Spirit Adrift has ever put out.
IT'S GOT THAT HUGE THIN LIZZY TWIN-GUITAR HARMONY SECTION TOWARD THE END. IS IT FAIR TO SAY THEY'RE AN INFLUENCE?
If I write a guitar harmony, it's either gonna be a Thin Lizzy harmony or a Slayer harmony or a Rwake harmony. But I named my little pit bull Lizzy, so that should answer your question. That's actually how my wife convinced me to get a dog. She said, "We can get a little girl dog and you can name her Lizzy." [Laughs] Sold!
THE LOOK OF THE VIDEO IS SIMILAR TO BLACK SABBATH'S OLD "IRON MAN" CLIP FROM THE GERMAN TV SHOW BEAT CLUB. WAS THAT AN INSPIRATION AS WELL?
A hundred percent, yeah. The thing that got me into metal was actually their "Paranoid" video from Beat Club. But we also used a lot of old country videos for references. Then I looked up the font that MTV used for the little corner credits. And we ran it through an actual VHS player to get it to look like that. About three quarters of the way through the video, it switches from VHS to 4k. We didn't want it to be a hundred percent rooted in the vintage nostalgia thing that everyone's doing because I don't think we're a purely retro band. I mean, you can tell what bands I like when you listen to Spirit Adrift, but I think we're doing something new.