Spirit Adrift, Enlightened in Eternity (20 Buck Spin, 2020)

I have often joked that once I start opening articles with "I can't believe it's been that long since —" that it's my time to bow out of writing.

However, "finality" is a concept that 2020 has all but beaten out of me, and I'm trying to live with grander purpose, and not personal limits.

So, I will briefly comment on Spirit Adrift's last album (Divided by Darkness), released a scant 18 months ago, but only because of how different life seemed then! 

Sitting with Enlightened in Eternity, I'm struck with its catchiness. This observation isn't to downplay its overall (heavy metal) majesty because it's everpresent. It's just that, for all the heavenly grandeur ("Astral Levitation," "Screaming from Beyond"), a thunderous hook ("Cosmic Conquest") grounds everything.

This dichotomy makes BÖC an excellent reference in that hiding "pop" in the casserole never diminished their power, only wormed it further in your brain.

"Harmony of the Spheres" is one of my favorite moments of the album as it shows the band's massive range in four solid minutes. Towering doom, commanding (and melodic) vocals, deft riffs, and even a fuckin blast beat. 

The album, the band's fourth, sees a slightly different lineup than the last few, with Chase Mason leaving the band (and subsequent bass duties), putting Nate Garret on vocals, guitar, bass, and piano, and Marcus Bryan on drums.

Still, a leaner roster doesn't translate sonically, and it never has for Spirit Adrift. Garrett was the sole instrumentalist on Spirit Adrift's debut full-length, Chained to Oblivion, the progenitor to the massive metal sound they've achieved here.

So, if you dug Divided by Darkness, you'll love Enlightened in Eternity. Simple. And I could stop the review there. But I will not because I must address something.

On the cover, you'll notice a glorious battle scene, an assortment of knights, warriors, and horses tromping over a breathtaking, slightly otherwordly, battle-scape. You'll also see two gorgeous dogs; their limbs splayed out in mid-gallop as they splash through a reflective stream, their faces bearing the unrepentant joy that only these creatures can.

These dogs are Dawkins and Lizzy, beloved friends and companions to Marcus Bryan and Nate Garrett, respectively, who departed mortality before recording the album.

Immortalized forever by Adam Burke, it's this detail of Enlightened in Eternity's cover almost brings me to tears. If you can't feel somethin' astronomical seeing dogs running on a heavy metal album cover, we are not the same. 

I get a lot of (I guess) closure from this album, particularly the closer "Reunited in the Void." So here's the detail I've been putting off since the beginning: I lost my dog this year, right at the onset of the pandemic.

She was a 16 lb miniature schnauzer named Lemon. Lemon was the of my eye, my partner in crime, and my best friend. A creature with whom I'd shared my darkest, most existentially fraught moments, into whom I'd (literally) WEPT! (She was so god damn soft). She was funny, and she was spiritual, as dogs are, a clumsy, swaying portal to the outer cosmos.

When Lemon's "time" came, she knew long before me. It happened quickly, but to see her compromised, the pained confusion in her own declining body and my inability to stop it still feels, I don't know, lacerative. Jesus, the void that a departed 16-lb schnauzer leaves in my apartment!

I'd liquidate anything I own, anything in my bank account, anything to have her back. I'm not trying to be dramatic. It's all true, and it all sucks. Of course, the sadness fades — but it always sucks.

Photo: Dillon Vaughn

Losing a pet is a unique pain that I rarely feel depicted in metal. There's a notable exception, and it's "A Death in the Family" by Type O Negative, famously about Peter Steele's beloved cat. We hear what we want to hear, I guess, and "Reunited in the Void" kinda (kinda) goes there.

With lyrics about life beyond life, and a ripping guitar solo that (dare I say) "boogies," it's a song that seemed tailor-made for my 2020. Is "Reunited in the Void" about our animal companions who cross over to the other side? I hate trying to figure out the real meaning of a song. Still, I cannot be the only one who hears that Type-O bassline, can I?

There is no activity more enjoyable than time spent with a dog. I miss it, and someday, I will sign up for this idiotic carnival of pain once again. I am not myself without a dog! For now, Enlightened in Eternity satisfies that itch and makes me feel a touch closer to those canine souls beyond our mortal sphere.

To Dawkins, Lizzy, Lem, and every single dog who's made our time on earth better, by merely existing!

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