RESTLESS SPIRIT – Blood of the Old Gods (2021)REVIEW

The easy-grooving depress of Long Island-based doomed heavy rock trio Restless Spirit caught my ear quick back in 2019 with their debut album ‘Lord of the New Depression‘, a step beyond their work under a few different names (Death Metal Pope?) for a few years prior. Upon reviewing said debut glowingly that year it’d seem their gig had finally found personal voice and evolved songcraft beyond fluxion of popular 90’s sludge rock influence and nowadays high visibility ‘modern’ doom metal infused stoner rock/metal. The goal’d been clear within one or two songs, to connect with the listener via catharsis and craft, presenting the sort of heavy rock/metal record that stick in ear by way of express of soul. Easily read bluesy/heavy rock hooks and sludge-adjacent southern rock heaviness weren’t modes to display or mindlessly generated ideation but forms that best communicate feeling, a harness of the medium which manifested as it should: Profoundly resilient lament. This key voice of the artist continues to elaborate upon the conversation between the mainstream classicist and the lost underground arts on this second full-length, breaking into song with familiar purpose and doubly amplified resonance.

The intrepid minds behind Restless Spirit have smartly honed their vision with expectedly strong melodic device in hand and a forty minute full-length album in mind, aiming for patient folks with some love for the theatre of classic heavy rock and its broad evolutionary convergence(s) via 90’s sludge, stoner and traditional doom metal. ‘Blood of the Old Gods‘ finds the trio cutting down on the number of songs and focusing all intent upon a set of five ~6-8 minute pieces, this allows the flexing their cathartic sludge rock muscle only for the sake of peak tension, a force buffered by the slack which trundling stoner/doom metal inspiration allows. ‘Blood of the Old Gods‘ features these larger arcs of song as elevation beyond the multitude of self-similar hooks found on their debut, though that doesn’t negate the approachable nature of their songwriting; As their songcraft lightly breaches its threshold for heavier extremes it is less a statement of niche inclusion and more a tool to aid in serving properly exaggerative gesture typically reserved for ultra-modern transcendental stoner/sludge acts, or, 90’s popular metal acts (see: Keenan-fronted Corrosion of Conformity, Down). Restless Spirit ultimately catch their own drift somewhere between doom-fused southern/alt-metal ease and more tuneful impassioned waltz of traditional doom metal bands, such as Pale Divine.

That’ll be all the focus on style needed as the major reason to pick up ‘Blood of the Old Gods‘ beyond its implied fusion of accessibility and earthen niche is the experience itself. The substantive value of sitting back and being graced by a neatly crafted, finely detailed heavy rock record which aims for a conversational listen should not be shirked, or, reduced to style points and semblances — The buy-in is the ride itself and seeing what comes of it beyond a good time. The first hill to climb is likely a piece to present an immerse-or-drown ultimatum for most listeners as “Judgement and Exile” presents a complete ~9 minute thesis statement up front. It is inarguably going to be a big album seller for those who’d skipped the pre-release tracks, which’ve largely focused on the righteous depth of Side B, not only for its hard kicking beat but the psychedelic doom metal breaks and Soundgarden-meets-Mastodon-esque bending of vocal melody into what some will consider a slight progressive or 70’s sized composition, simple in some respects but “big” in statement nonetheless.

Side A sports a total of about thirteen minutes of meat in terms of its two major pieces but the bookending provided by “The Betrayer” and “The Reclaimer” serves as vital ramping up towards “Judgement and Exile” and the first digital single/music video from ‘Blood of the Old Gods‘, “Cascade Immolator” respectively. These ~2 minute pieces could’ve easily been cut though I’d found the momentum generated by “The Reclaimer” provided a huge push into the somewhat dense second half of the album and “The Betrayer” serves to reset the stage when the album is left on repeat. “Cascade Immolator” is the only reasonable choice on the running order for a best foot forward single with its quick stab into ‘Remission’-esque vibe as its opening string of riffs begins to fire off, great big doom metal riffs these folks should be proud of piecing together. Beyond its opening salvo this song sports one of the stronger early Pale Divine-esque moments on the album thanks to vocalist/guitarist Paul Aloisio‘s performance, this is where these decidedly “stoner metal meets sludge rock” stylistic details begin to sum into dimensional craft as the song not only provides a strong single to generate interest (I bought the vinyl after hearing just this piece) but also serves key energetic centerpiece on repeat listens, the “hinge” of the full listen.

The second preview song/title track smartly upholds the momentum of “Cascade Immolator” by way of an early Baroness tinted sludge/stoner metal lilt and a sort of reprisal of the change-ups and riff breaks we’d found on “Judgement and Exile” previous. Around ~5:10 minutes into “Blood of the Old Gods” the sludgecore breakdown turned main riff works only because they’ve not leaned into it as the main event of the song. We’ve gotten Restless Spirit‘s own voice and style in mind at this point of the tracklist and “Haunted” ensures this language is put to good use on what I’d consider the biggest doom metal piece on the record as the grand finale. The benefit of swinging through the full listen and touching upon thoughts on each of these pieces is the realization that nothing is out of place, cheaply set, or overused. The seven song ~39 minute record in hand cuts back on the overstated or redundant nature of Restless Spirit‘s debut and, despite these songs being quite long on average, this causes the album to breeze past with an energizing, redemptive quality. Awkward as it is to suggest ‘expectations were met’ herein but only because the bar was left high beyond their debut, they needed a next step unto pro-refinement and ‘Blood of the Old Gods‘ is exactly that plus some strong indication of brewing signature. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Blood of the Old Gods
LABEL(S):Lifesblood Records
RELEASE DATE:December 10th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Heavy/Doom Metal,
Stoner Rock/Sludge Metal

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