It’s May this year, and the Black Heart pub in London is jam-packed with rockers awaiting a hotly tipped American band about to make their live debut in the capital.
“They just packed in as many people as they possibly could. It was insane,” enthuses Spirit Adrift founder Nate Garrett. “After the last encore I was crowd-surfed across the venue – not necessarily of my own accord!”
Spirit Adrift had to delay crossing the Atlantic when their May 2020 tour supporting Corrosion Of Conformity was postponed (later cancelled), then again when travel restrictions prevented them supporting Orange Goblin last December. Even the triumphant London debut almost slipped through their fingers when a tanker tipped on the M4, the band making it to the gig by the skin of their teeth.
Heavy metal is all about persevering, however, and Spirit Adrift did just that when they enthralled the audience with the kind of trad-metal tunes that would have ruled the airwaves circa 1983. Plying a stylistic through-line running from Black Sabbath to Metallica via Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, Spirit Adrift clearly owe a sizeable debt to the metal gods of the late 70s and early 80s, but they don’t share the same appetite for excess. In fact, Garrett started the band while going through recovery for alcoholism.
Freshly sober but without a band to channel his creative energies, he began recording his ideas, ultimately singing and playing everything himself on Spirit Adrift’s debut EP and album. An offer from Roadburn festival founder Walter Hoeijmakers prompted Garrett to seek out other musicians, resulting not only in Spirit Adrift becoming a touring entity, but also an evolution in the band’s sound.
“I want to arrive and kick the shit out of people, but you can’t do that with sprawling, epic twelve-minute doom songs,” he says. “So I started writing songs specifically for live performances, based on the arena metal bands I loved.”
Although the likes of Metallica and Pantera are obvious reference points, the decision to include covers of ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd deep cuts on recent release 20 Centuries Gone is a reflection of how expansive Spirit Adrift’s sound is. But the way Garrett sees it, the timing couldn’t be better for classic-style heavy metal to make a comeback. Especially after Metallica’s pop-culture revival after appearing in Stranger Things.
“I think it’s cool as shit!” Garrett says excitedly. “I got into music through the Forrest Gump soundtrack; I didn’t have a cool older sibling or parent that could help me discover that stuff. So when I saw the scene of the guy playing Master Of Puppets, all I could think was: ‘I can’t wait to see what bands come five, ten years from now.’”