High Spirits – Safe On the Other Side (High Roller Records)Monday, 13th November 2023
When it comes to high energy heavy rock or good time old-fashioned heavy metal, one source listeners can rely upon for quality is the discography of High Spirits. Since arriving on the scene in 2009, Chris Black has issued a vast discography of demos, singles, EP’s and albums that showcase a sound that instantly provides infectious hooks, easy to retain melodies, plus this knowledgeable sense of where to take the sound, style, and compositions to that next anthem level so that when played at peak volumes, smiles abound. Safe On the Other Side as the fifth and latest effort contains nine more original tracks and an early Europe cover that keeps the ship steady in accordance with previous records like Motivator and 2020’s Hard to Stop.
Unafraid to explore previously released songs to see where they may evolve years down the road, “Lonely Nights” returns (originally heard on the Escape! EP from 2017). A mid-tempo affair that features swirling rhythm guitar harmonies as well as Chris’ lower/mid-register voicing that is reflective in sadness to build in emotional intensity through the bridge to a big chorus payoff, the thick bass groove and swift fills ideal to add dynamic shape to the thrilling main components. Elsewhere aspects of older W.A.S.P. factor in to specific chord/clean supplement combinations during the early moments for “Til the End of Time”, while the throwback 50’s meets Motörhead rockin’ feel of “Anything You Need” sits well in the middle of the record. While most of the songs sit in a radio-oriented, focused get in/ get out mode, “(There Will Be) Magic Tonight” illustrates Chris’ longer arrangement abilities, the soaring background harmonies as well as extended, thoughtful lead break (including a bass spotlight) proving the man knows how to lay into a solid groove and add small tweaks to keep listeners engaged as they tap their toes or raise fists high.
The fact that Chris went back and re-recorded his vocals post-tour explains why this is probably his strongest studio performance in that regard for High Spirits to date. You can hear specific tones that have that extra ounce of perspiration, check out opener “In the Moonlight” or “Please Don’t Leave Me Behind” as he pushes his abilities to another gear – the phrasing equally as important as the words conveyed. And for those wondering what Europe song Chris chose to acknowledge – fear not, he went back to the self-titled debut to track “Memories”, a Swedish staple that showcased the band’s early love for NWOBHM, Rainbow, and Deep Purple.
Safe On the Other Side allows High Spirits to add plenty of tracks to that already bursting catalog of favorites to become future set list staples. When you are looking for that energy rush chock full of catchy guitar harmonies, vocal melodies, and sensible songwriting, it’s hard not to return to this act or this album incessantly.