Independent, unmercifully tuneful, and delivered without pretense the smoke that’d pour from my speakers when Long Island, New York stoner/doom metal band Restless Spirit begins to play is all I’ve wanted to breathe these last several weeks. The why, the how, and the what couldn’t be less complicated this time around because these ex-Witchtripper and Death Metal Pope fellowes aim for the clouds with some lofty musical ancestors in mind on their debut full-length ‘Lord of the New Depression’. If you’re entrenched in the thunder perfected mindset of classic doom metal and its role in stoner metal across the east coast United States in the mid 1990’s you’ll no doubt hear the soaring-high stoned soul of Maryland/Pennsylvania/D.C. area underground in essence as Restless Spirit yank out their bluesy behemoth sound; Yet, I’d say their songwriting sense isn’t so obscure. As often as you’re going to hear underground doom metal in spirit the influence of hook-heavy popular late 90’s/early 2000’s doom n’ gloom staples such as (mid-to-later) Crowbar and Type-O-Negative likewise inform the down-to-earth and downtrodden push of this powerful, polished and road-tested doom metal band.
For all of the other bands I’ll end up mentioning in the span of this review it bears mention off the bat that I seek to communicate the ease at which Restless Spirit speaks to me, the fan of all of these things that they present. The most clear and present comparison in terms of style and vocal timbre can be spliced between Pale Divine‘s ‘Cemetery Earth’ era and Place of Skulls‘ Wino-infused ‘With Vision’ (alternately The Obsessed‘s ‘The Church Within’). There are certainly more ‘mainstream’ influences in hand such as ‘Lifesblood for the Downtrodden’ era Crowbar and a hint of the gushy T.O.N. tinged tone of Life of Agony‘s more aggressive side (pre-‘Soul Searching Son’) moments but in the midst of ‘Lord of the New Depression’ you’ll feel most spiritually connected to stoney, groove-heavy doom metal that bands like Pentagram birthed above all else. It is an album that leads with big riffs, big hooks and a generally huge sound by way of Taylor Young‘s (Nails, Twitching Tongues) low-strung mix with ample presence provided by Brad Boatright‘s typical crystalline treatment of the master. Whatever twists and turns I’d have to take in description of Restless Spirit doesn’t necessarily translate how ‘easy’ the impassioned full listen is but at its lycanthropic heart ‘Lord of the New Depression’ is a modern, hard-rocking doom metal record.
There are a few surprises along the way and I’d say none are as pronounced as the death metallic hardcore punk unto doom roller coaster of “Miserable Existence / Unrest”. This creates an air of capability and confidence not only in terms of Restless Spirit‘s oeuvre but it shakes up the full listen while strengthening the engagement on its second half. As I dug a bit deeper into their discography it becomes clear that this tracklist was more or less a set of songs they’d been road testing for the last 3-4 years between their ‘1922’ (2016) and ‘Harvest’ (2017) EPs as Death Metal Pope; The variety in motion and confidence in mind surely stem from living most of these songs since that core collaboration began. Even those ‘older tracks’, such as the title track “Lord of the New Depression” and the very Pale Divine-esque “13 Devils” are given a level of polish beyond their original forms that unifies each tightly written piece of the whole. The big “get” here that will sell most folks on this album and the band in general is the two songs that introduce ‘Lord of the New Depression’, “Under Hellish Moon and Wailing Sky” and “Less Than Human”, which appear to represent best where Restless Spirit are today with a sludgier punch to their riffs and some deeper layers to justify the mentions of late 90’s/early 00’s alt-metal and melodically viable sludge; “Dominion” and “Deep Fathom Hours” go a long way to reinforce this notion.
I’m not sure if it was the big late 90’s ‘Odd Fellows Rest’-era Crowbar grooves in the midst of the more immediate resemblance of Pale Divine‘s ‘modern’ take on Pentagram but, I connected with Restless Spirit‘s vibe immediately and ended up adoring ‘Lord of the New Depression’. No doubt they could benefit from some finer art commissions and layout rejiggering but I’ll be damned if this isn’t one of the finest doom-related releases of 2019 so far. It wouldn’t take much more than a painting and a good graphic designer to amp this thing up there with today’s best, such as Spirit Adrift. About a month out from discovering this CD I’m still unable to stop swooning over it and I’d say that is a pretty good sign that it wasn’t a style/genre based honeymoon. Most all of these songs stick their landings and feel well placed on the tracklist, it all gels into a stellar full listen that I can very highly recommend. For preview purposes I’d suggest starting where intended, with the intro track and “Less Than Human” from there I doubt you’ll be able to resist a full listen with the way this damned thing flows together.
Now witness this creature… 4.25/5.0
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