Release date: September 8th, 2017. Label: Independent/Bandcamp.
I said it then, and I’ll say it again now: Had I run across High Spirits’ 2011 debut, Another Night, in the year it was actually released, it would’ve easily placed in my top five albums of that year, so smitten was I with Chris Black’s giddily infectious take on classic metal / hard rock. Instead, I ran across Another Night in January of 2012, and I missed my window. Subsequent Spirits albums You Are Here and Motivator both found spots on my year end lists of their respective years, although neither quite hit me as hard in the heart as Another Night had.
Now here we are, some five years later, with a new High Spirits EP – or MLP, or whatever they want to call it; it’s four songs long. Call it what you want – it’s all music to me…
And thus, my spirits are high.
The title track opens the proceedings in perfect High Spirits form – it’s the most immediate song on hand, which is likely why it’s the title track, and it rollicks through its run time with those same instantly catchy melodies, harmonized vocals, Maiden-y leads, and arena rock bombast that characterize High Spirits highest spirits. At the end of the day, “Escape” is just straight-ahead trad metal, done damn near as well as High Spirits has ever done such things (which is very well), with a marked sense of energy and Chris Black’s indominable (ahem) spirit.
From there, the remainder follows suit, to good results, but not always to great ones. “Feels Like Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “Stagefright” might easily be some undiscovered 80s metal coulda-beens – the latter almost Motorhead-y in its directness, especially with that Clarke-Campbell-Wurzel classic-rock-quoting guitar solos – but neither is an absolute knockout once you know what this band is capable of. The moody “Lonely Nights” ends things on a slightly slower note, mid-tempo instead of full-out, but still the EP’s (or MLP’s) second-best song, almost custom-made for a critical moment in some 80s rock-film soundtrack. Each of those three is a good High Spirits tune; none is as strong as their best work.
So, really, when it comes down to it, Escape is a stopgap. It’s still a High Spirits EP – it’s good; it’s fun; it’s not their finest hour, but it’ll tide you over ’til the next one comes. If you’re already among the converted, like me, you’ll like it. If you haven’t yet found the calling, then you might still like it, but ultimately, if you asked, I’d suggest starting elsewhere, because there are higher Spirits out there, particularly on the godly Another Night.
Still, regardless of your past, if you’re in the market for a slice of traditional metal by way of classic hard rock, Escape will provide what its title declares: around fifteen minutes of fist-in-the-air, grin-on-the-face glory, that feels enough like rock ‘n’ roll indeed…