High Spirits – Hard to Stop (High Roller Records)

Wednesday, 5th August 2020
Rating: 9/10

High energy rock mastermind Chris Black returns for a fourth-full length with High Spirits and Hard to Stop. Continually striving to deliver tracks that are addictive, catchy as all get up, and memorable with influences from the 70’s/80’s melodic hard rock/metal community, the man has an intuitive knack for placing himself in the right accord. This record allows long-time followers to gain even more appreciation for the small, incremental gains Chris has made especially in his guitar licks, riffs, and phrasing – while hopefully introducing newcomers to the fold to the good-time, all encompassing fun atmosphere that is present in this band.

Right away on the longest track “Since You’ve Been Gone” at 5:16, you’ll hear some circular guitar melodies and penetrating double kick activities that accelerate the boundaries for High Spirits – pushing Thin Lizzy and Accept/Motörhead-like movements into a wonderful opener. The mid-tempo musical hook for “Face to Face” has a bit of that “Lights Out”/UFO texture, while the follow-up “Hearts Will Burn” nicks a bit of “Transylvania” charm before going into its uplifting measures. All of the songs are new save for “Midnight Sun” which previously appeared in demo form, given a bit of a thicker presence in terms of the guitar tones and Chris’ vocal harmonies. Chris also showcases a bit more of his lower register during the verses of “Voice in the Wind” – a highway cruising soundtrack effort with elements of W.A.S.P. in some of the clean guitar supplementation. The songs are designed for live consumption – simple but effective choruses and larger than life melodic hooks that make metalheads sing along, shout, and headbang with glee. Farming out the mixing duties to Dan Swanö may be a first for High Spirits, but the man’s ear gives this record a warmer, vibrant feeling that endures through successive playbacks.

Favorites change by the day, but the instrumental mid-section “Massacre”-like jam spot for “All Night Long” fires this scribe up every time, as do the nine songs as a collective. When it comes to heavy rock, heavy metal, or classic 70’s/80’s influences – High Spirits keep rising to the top and Hard to Stop is proof positive of their value.

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