High Spirits – Motivator (High Roller Records)

Wednesday, 14th September 2016
Rating: 8.5/10

“Authentic” and “old-school” are mutually exclusive terms. We’ve been inundated the last ten years with a slew of bands proclaiming to be the genuine article, only for their songs to fall short, which in turn leads everyone back to the originals. High Spirits, though, are the firm, unbowed, unbent (unbroken?) definition of authentic old-school metal, which makes them so incredibly appealing. Their 2014 You Are Here was denim-thrusting look into sterling songcraft that was a true game-changer for Chris Black and team (it may not get any better than “I Need Your Love”). Motivator goes over the top.

Black (of Dawbringer, Pharaoh, Superchrist, etc.) understands the ideal traits of songwriting. And while that sounds awfully fundamental and a bit broad, the songs on Motivator are superiorly taut, each fronted with a genuine hook in the vocal department, a well-placed lead, and more often than not, a memorable chorus. Black’s easy-on-the-ears vocals cut through effortlessly on rousing jams like “This is the Night” or “Do You Wanna Be Famous,” the latter as anthemic as they come. Graceful, Thin Lizzy harmonies pop up frequently, while the straight-and-narrow “Haunted by Love” is an exercise in air-tight dynamics.

Whereas “I Need Your Love” was the obvious standout on You Are Here, “Thank You” gets the nod here. Harnessing a bulldozing Motorhead riff with a classic chorus line of “Thank you for being my friend,” “Thank You” is unabashedly honest without tipping the cheese scales. And that’s the catch with High Spirits—there’s no piss taking of classic metal, just one man and his vast understanding of the genre looking to write simple, but timeless songs. Motivator is a clinic on how to write good songs. Nothing more than that.

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